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Steel is one of the most common and, indeed, most useful materials out there. It is used in large-scale construction projects, various pieces of art and sculpture, and even in scientific environments. Similarly, it is commonly used on a smaller scale for things like stainless steel kitchen utensils and cutlery.
But if you’re considering steel, or one of its many metallic relations and variations for your photochemical etching project, you will want to be sure of the material before committing to it. And as such, you’ll need to learn to speak steel; the basics at least.
So let us give you a head start with our brief guide to speaking steel, below.
Crude steel can be either liquid or cast, and the term “crude” refers to these two forms of steel in their unrefined state, before they are worked.
Alloyed steel has improved properties compared to pure carbon steel, because of the presence of additional elements, like manganese and silicon, as well as more specific elements like nickel, boron, cobalt, calcium and chromium.
When steel is annealed, it undergoes a heat treatment process that removes any stresses incurred by previous machining and working. The heat treatment softens the metal, improving its overall structure and making it stronger.
As one of the most common forms of steel available, stainless steels have unique chromium or nickel contents. The presence of these elements makes the metal more resistant to stains and rust, whilst increasing its strength and tolerance.
Galvanised steel is a corrosion-resistant form of steel. The corrosion resistance is achieved by coating the steel in a thin layer of zinc or zinc alloy. The application process can involve either a hot dip or electrolyte based method.
Spring steel is a top material for load-bearing, and it has the added bonus of returning to its original state when the load is removed. Spring steels are usually alloyed with silicon or manganese, which add extra strength and further enhance properties.
Though not quite as strong as other forms of steel, mild steel is one of the most economical and easiest to work with. It can be treated to increase the surface strength, and as such, is a common and popular choice for various purposes.
When steel is worked, formed or exposed to certain conditions (heavy loads, weathering and corrosive environments), it can begin to show signs of stress. This can be in the form of bending, bowing, cracking and other such signs of a weakened state.
Burring is a common defect that appears on metals, including steel, when they undergo certain forms of processing, such as laser cutting, shearing or blanking. The imperfection is subtle but does lessen the quality of the finish because the edges will bend, have unwanted ridges, and in some cases, sharp edges.
This is a term used for the effect oxygen has on metals exposed to the environment. For the most part, oxidation is not too much of a problem, being just a natural part of metal and its life cycle. When metals exposed to or in contact with water, oxygen, strong oxidants (and acids) it becomes oxidised, which leads to rusting. Rust degrades the quality of the metal and, over time, damages it both on the surface, and internally.
Conditioned steel is steel that has been treated to remove all surface defects. There are various conditioning processes, including grinding and machining. By removing these defects from semi-finished steel (and metal) ensures the material is a better quality, ready to be worked.
Of course, depending on how specific your brief is and how important it is that you know the intricacies of the various materials available to you, there is plenty more to learn about steel. So be sure to do your own research, or get in touch with the team here at Qualitetch to discuss the material and your options in more detail.
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