Nickel metal is an element that is malleable, somewhat ferromagnetic, hard, and ductile, as well as a conductor of electricity and heat. The metal is silvery white and can come in a polished or brushed nickel surface. Nickel metal can also be produced in various forms, such as flakes, sheet, spheres, rods, powder, foil, wire, or mesh. It is retrieved from its original ore form by using extractive metallurgy.
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Nickel metal refers to the chemical element abbreviated as Ni and 28th on the periodic table either in its pure state or in a number of alloys for which it is the predominant material. Common in industrial, commercial, and even residential applications, this material is lauded for its many beneficial properties, such as high heat resistance, as well as high corrosion resistance against a broad spectrum of caustic media like chemicals, alkalis, petroleum, and seawater. The silvery-white metal also offers excellent malleability and ductility, allowing for ease of fabrication and machining.
These combined beneficial characteristics make nickel common in many industries, including:
- Material Handling
- Chemical Processing
Foundries and manufacturers most commonly purchase nickel in the form of sheets, bars, plates, rods, foil, powder, flakes, or other stock form.
Nickel can be further processed to produce such varied finished products as:
- Euro Coins
- Electronic Enclosures
- Decorative Components (as polished nickel metal is similar in appearance to chrome).
The processing of nickel metal components should be taken into consideration, as it could have a significant impact on the physical and mechanical properties of a finished piece. Prior to the production of any specific nickel plate, sheet, or other form, the naturally occurring metallic element must first be mined from the earth. Most often, pyrometallurgical extraction or hydrometallurgy is used to yield the nickel ore, which is then refined until the desired purity is reached. The raw material may be used as such or alloyed with a number of other elements at this stage, often through the use of powder metallurgy.
Stock forms, such as bars, rods, and flakes, are produced through casting, molding, flaking, or other such processes while sheets, plates, and foils more often employ either hot or cold roll forming, drawing, or extrusion. Nickel suppliers provide these and other stock pre-forms to be used as the end product or further processed by manufacturers. The malleability of nickel metal allows for easy fabrication and secondary processing both at room temperatures or at its optimal working temperatures between 1,800°F and 2,200°F. Ductility allows the components to be bent and formed as needed without cracking or creasing. Additional processes commonly employed in the production of nickel metal parts may include turning, milling, drilling, stamping, punching, slitting, and cutting among others.
It is important to consider the particular grade or nickel alloy with regard to its intended use, as specific characteristics and behaviors may be significantly impacted by any additives or inclusions. Commercially pure nickel is 99.6% pure, though, in some alloys, as little as 32.5% of the total composition is nickel.