The Many Uses of Steel and Aluminum

The Many Uses of Steel and Aluminum

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For many thousands of years, humanity has mined, refined, and made use of several different types of metals to create tools and weapons. In fact, several periods of human pre-history are named after the common metals used at the time, such as the Copper Age, Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Ever since the Middle Ages, iron has been forged into steel, most often for field plows or for knights’ shields and armor. Starting in the Industrial Revolution, steel was produced in vast quantities, along with other metals such as brass and copper and even combined metals for all sorts of jobs. Thin aluminum strips and thin steel sheets are produced in great numbers in foundries across the world, and many different factories can use those thin aluminum strips and stainless steel sheets to make just about anything. Steel is one of the most universal metals, but it cannot do everything; many factories order thin aluminum strips and sheets wholesale for producing all sorts of goods. And that’s not even counting alloys.

Production of Thin Aluminum Strips and More

The metal production industry is a large one in the United States and abroad. In the United States in particular, some 138,900 Americans were employed in the sheet metal industry in the year 2016, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the metal fabrication industry may grow 9% from 2016 to 2026. That may mean as many as 12,000 new jobs being created to keep up. And around the world, there is a similar trend of growth, and the sheet metal market is due to expand at an average growth rate of 4.09% from 2018 to 2022 at the very least. Today, sheet metal accounts for nearly $30 billion in U.S. revenue, and nearly 40% of the world’s steel production is made from recycled material. In fact, steel is one of the most generously recycled materials in the world, recycled at a 90% rate.

Producing and Using These Metals

Steel is one of the most widely used metals in the world, and the production of steel beams allows for the construction of skyscrapers, a fairly recent innovation. Only steel is strong and light enough to make buildings like these possible, which first appeared in the Industrial Revolution. Stainless steel is also generously used to produce car bodies, surgical tools, and much more, and steel is known for its strong and light composition. Today, the United States, Canada, Germany, China, and Japan are some of the top producers and consumers of steel, often for making buildings. And it is not a coincidence that most of these are among the globe’s top car-producing nations, too.

Steel can be used as a hot rolled material, or cold rolled. When steel is first forged, the resulting steel sheets are always sent through rollers at a high temperature, creating hot rolled steel that has somewhat imprecise dimensions. Such wholesale steel materials are useful for applications such as making railroad tracks, which don’t need precisely-made rolls of steel.

By contrast, such steel sheets may be rolled again, this time at room temperature, creating “cold rolled steel.” This steel is more precise in its dimensions and has a tough, glossy coat, making it ideal for making car parts, appliances, and the like. Such steel is very useful, but care should be taken when packing and transporting it to a wholesale buyer.

Thin aluminum strips and sheets, meanwhile, are often used in a similar application as steel. In many cases, aluminum boasts an even better strength to weight ratio than steel does, and it can be used in the construction, transportation, electrical, and consumer goods sectors. Experts believe that in the coming decades, cars may be built with a higher percentage of aluminum in their bodies, making for lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The same may be true of a high-speed rail train.

In other cases, alloys are required. These are composite metals designed for particular jobs, and may be made up of steel, aluminum, copper, brass, nickel, titanium, and more. Alloys can endure extremes of heat or cold, pressure, or salinity or acidity where other metals would fail. Often, metal bellows and chemical storage tanks are made of alloys designed for the job.

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