Industry Articles From Kaempf and Harris

Explaining the Periodic Table of Fab Shop Metals


There’s no doubt that science is fascinating, especially the periodic table. Did you know that Dmitry Mendeleyev, publisher of the periodic table, didn’t have time to describe all 63 then-known elements due to a looming deadline? That’s why he used atomic weights, which were actually gathered by other scientists.

No matter how many elements (and their subsequently cool facts) there are, we’ll always favor the metals. Here’s a breakdown of our favorite elements in sheet metal fabrication:

Aluminum (AI): This metal was discovered by Hans Christian Ørsted in 1825. Aluminum’s extremely important in sheet metal fabrication because it has a low density and an ability to resist corrosion, thanks to passivation (a natural technique that allows a material to be less affected by the environment).

Carbon (C): Carbon was discovered in 3750 BC, and it’s found in many different bonds called allotropes of carbon. These allotropes of carbon include graphite, which is typically opaque and black, and diamond, which is transparent. When alloyed with iron, it creates 90 percent of steel production in the world.

Copper (Cu): Copper is a soft, malleable metal that has a high thermal and electrical conductivity, making the reddish-orange chemical useful for sheet metal fabrication. A popular metal alloy, which is a combination of two or more metallic elements, in fab shops is brass, which is made of copper and zinc.

Gold (Au): In its purest form, gold is a bright, reddish-yellow. Though one of the least reactive elements, gold won’t corrode or falter under many chemical reactions, excluding mercury. It’s used with alkaline solutions of cyanide in electroplating, a technique used to coat a thin layer of one metal over another. Gold can also easily be minted, smelted, and fabricated.

Iron (Fe): The most common element on Earth by mass, iron is found everywhere from dietary supplements to fab shops. Due to desirable properties like malleability and the ability to fuse with other chemicals, iron is the most common metal for industrial use. It’s used to form steel and other low-carbon alloys.

Nickel (Ni): This chemical is hard, ductile, and rare. The nickel that most people see is actually alloyed with iron. Nickel is one of the only elements that are ferromagnetic, which means its magnetism can be felt. This helps with electroplating in fab shops.

Silver (Ag): This chemical is rarely used in sheet metal fabrication, but when it is, it creates beautiful, sturdy projects. Its polished, brilliant white luster makes silver almost reflective while its malleability makes the metal strong. It’s used for coins, utensils (hence the term “silverware”), solar panels, and more.

Tin (Sn): Tin has a similar chemical composition to its neighboring element lead. It’s ductile, stable, and malleable, and when alloyed with copper, it creates bronze. Because tin is corrosion-resistant, it makes for solid steel plating. This is good for everything from supermarket tin cans to industrial applications.

Here’s an extra tidbit of info: Did you know that when tin is bent, it makes a crackling sound known as the “tin cry?” Listen for it next time you open a can of tuna.

Titanium (Ti): This chemical was discovered in 1791 and is named after the mythological Greek Titans. When alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium, or molybdenum, it produces strong, lightweight metals for hundreds of uses, including space crafts, jets, dental instruments, mobile phones, and more.

Zinc (Zn): Andreas Sigismund Marggraf first discovered this chemical in 1746. Though zinc is of the utmost importance to public health and biological studies, it’s also helpful in sheet metal fabrication. The metal becomes malleable at a fairly low temperature, and it’s a great electrical conductor.

It’s a good thing that most elements are metals because fab shops rely on various chemicals to get the job done, including the ones above. Due to their shine, density, and high melting points, these metals help make our projects strong and beautiful.

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Topics: Metals, Sheet Metal Fabrication

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