Metals are an integral part of any manufacturing process, from forging to welding. But which type of metal should you choose for your project?
In this article, we’ll explore the top 20 types of metal and their applications so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to selecting the best option for your project.
How Many Different Kinds of Metal do We Have?
The periodic table lists 94 metals. One common way to classify metals is by their iron content. For example, pure iron is classified as a metal with a high iron content, while steel – which is an alloy of iron and carbon – is classified as a metal with a lower iron content.
There are also metals with no iron at all, such as aluminum.
Another way to classify metals is by their properties. Some metals are ductile, meaning they can be easily drawn into thin wires. Others are malleable, meaning they can be hammered or pressed into different shapes. Still, others are conductive, meaning they can easily conduct electricity or heat.
And finally, some metals are magnetic, meaning they can be attracted to magnets.
So which metals are suitable for industrial purposes? That depends on what you need the metal for. If you need something strong and durable, you might want to use steel.
If you need something easy to shape and mold, you might want to use aluminum. And if you need something that conducts electricity well, you might want copper or silver.
Steel comes in over 3,500 distinct grades, each with its own unique combination of elements and characteristics.
Because of its composition as an iron-carbon alloy, steel is both durable and adaptable. Steel’s primary component is carbon, and the percentage of carbon in a given steel sample can range from 0.2 percent to 2 percent.
Steel may be made into even stronger alloys by combining it with other metals.
Chromium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, vanadium, and tungsten are the other metals used most frequently in steel.
Steel Alloys and Compositions
Steel has three different varieties according to composition:
Stainless steel is a type of steel that contains a high percentage of chromium, typically at least 10.5%. The chromium in the steel forms a thin layer of oxide on the surface of the steel, which provides excellent corrosion resistance.
Stainless steel is also known for its ability to withstand high temperatures and pressures. Its composition also may include nickel, molybdenum, titanium, and nitrogen which enhance strength, ductility, and other properties.
It is widely used in many industries like construction, medical, automotive, and appliances due to its corrosion resistance properties and ability to be sterilized.
Carbon steel is a kind of steel that contains only carbon as an alloying element. It’s not too expensive and can be used for a lot of different things.
The carbon content of carbon steel can vary, with higher carbon content resulting in increased strength and hardness, but also increased brittleness.
Carbon steel typically contains less than 1.7% carbon, although some grades can contain up to 2%. Other elements that may be present in small amounts include manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, and silicon.
Alloy steel is a type of steel that contains one or more alloying elements other than carbon. These alloying elements are added to give the steel specific properties, such as increased strength or improved corrosion resistance.
The composition of alloy steel can vary widely, depending on the intended application of the steel and the properties desired.
Some common alloying elements that are added to steel include chromium, nickel, molybdenum, tungsten, and vanadium. The composition of alloy steel typically contains 1-5% alloying elements, but it can vary depending on the intended application.
Applications for Steel
- Construction: Steel is widely used in the construction of buildings, bridges, and other structures. It is strong, durable, and has high corrosion resistance.
- Automotive: Steel is used in the manufacture of cars, trucks, and other vehicles. It is used in the body, chassis, and other components of vehicles.
- Appliances: Steel is used in the manufacture of a wide range of household appliances, including refrigerators, washing machines, and ovens.
- Packaging: Steel is used to make cans and other containers for food, drinks, and other products. It is strong, durable, and easy to recycle.
- Medical equipment: Stainless steel is often used in the manufacture of medical equipment, such as surgical instruments, because of its corrosion resistance and ability to be sterilized.
Iron is widely used in industrial applications because of its strength, durability, and low cost. The most common form of iron used in industry is steel, which is made by alloying iron with carbon and other elements.
Other forms of iron, such as wrought iron and cast iron, also have specific industrial uses. Iron is also a component in heavy equipment, machinery, and pipelines.
Iron Alloy and Composition
An alloy of iron that contains a high carbon content (typically more than 2%). It is brittle and hard and is often used in cookware, heavy equipment, and other applications where high strength and wear resistance is required.
It is an alloy of iron that contains a very low carbon content (typically less than 0.15%) and a small amount of slag. It’s hard, but brittle and is often used in decorative and ornamental applications, such as fences and gates.
Applications of Iron
Pure iron, also known as native iron, is relatively rare in nature and is not as widely used as iron alloys such as steel. However, it does have some specific applications in certain industries. Some examples include:
- Jewelry: Pure iron can be used to make jewelry, such as rings, bracelets, and other decorative items. Because of its durability, pure iron can be shaped and formed into intricate designs without breaking or cracking.
- Art and Sculpture: Some artists and sculptors prefer to use pure iron for their works because of its unique visual appeal.
- Electromagnet: Pure iron is used as the core material in many electromagnets, due to its high magnetic permeability. This means that it can be easily magnetized and demagnetized.
- Historical reconstructions: Some historical reconstructions require pure iron materials, because of the authenticity and preservation that they offer.
Aluminum is a lightweight, silvery-white metal that is abundant in the Earth’s crust. It is a chemical element with the symbol Al and its atomic number is 13.
Aluminum has a low density, high strength-to-weight ratio, and excellent thermal and electrical conductivity.
Aluminum Composition and Alloys
Pure aluminum lacks the toughness and tenacity of other metals and is rather malleable. But when alloyed with other substances, it acquires new strengths and characteristics. Aluminum alloys are very prevalent, and they include:
- Aluminium-copper alloy
- Aluminum-magnesium alloy
- Aluminium-zinc alloy
- Aluminium-silicon alloy
Applications of Aluminum
Aluminum is widely used in the manufacturing industry due to its unique combination of properties including lightweight, strength, corrosion resistance, and thermal conductivity. Some specific applications include:
- Transportation: Automotive parts, airplanes, trains, and boats are constructed from aluminum alloys for their lightweight and corrosion resistance properties.
- Construction: Aluminum is used for window frames, siding, and other building components because of its durability and resistance to corrosion.
- Packaging: Many cans for food and drinks are made from aluminum alloys because of its ability to keep food fresh and because it’s easy to recycle.
- Electrical: Aluminum conductors are used in power transmission and distribution because of their high conductivity, lightness, and non-sparking properties.
- Consumer goods: Many household appliances and electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions have aluminum components because of their conductivity, durability, and lightness.
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and its atomic number is 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal, known for its high thermal and electrical conductivity. It has a reddish-orange color and is often found in nature in the form of copper sulfides and other minerals.
Copper Composition and Alloys
Copper, in its purest form, has a reddish-orange hue and is pliable and easy to shape. But when it is mixed with other elements to make alloys, it can gain strength and other useful properties.
Two common alloys of copper are brass and bronze.
Brass is an alloy that consists of copper and zinc. It can also contain small amounts of other elements such as aluminum, lead, or tin. The composition can vary from 30-45% zinc and the rest is Copper.
The properties of brass depend on the composition of the alloy. The addition of zinc to copper enhances its strength, ductility, and corrosion resistance. Because of these properties, brass is often used in the construction of plumbing fixtures, musical instruments, and decorative items.
Bronze is an alloy that consists of copper and tin. The composition can vary from 8-12% tin and the rest is Copper. Occasionally, other elements such as aluminum, zinc, silicon, and phosphorus may be added to the alloy to give it specific properties.
Bronze is known for its strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion. It has a characteristic golden-brown color and is also known for its excellent machinability.
Applications of Copper
Applications of copper in the manufacturing industry include use in electrical wiring, roofing, and plumbing, in the production of electronic devices such as printed circuit boards, in the manufacturing of coins, in the construction industry for architectural elements, and the automotive industry.
Copper is also used in the production of brass and bronze alloys, as well as in heat exchangers, the marine and aerospace industries, and the production of galvanized steel.
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg and its atomic number is 12. It is a light, silvery-white metal that is abundant in the Earth’s crust.
Magnesium is known for its low density, high strength-to-weight ratio, and good thermal and electrical conductivity.
Magnesium Composition and Alloys
Typically magnesium is relatively soft and not as strong as some other metals. However, when combined with other elements to form alloys, it can gain strength and other useful properties. Some common magnesium alloys include:
- Magnesium-aluminum alloy
- Magnesium-zinc alloys.
Applications of Magnesium
It is used in the aerospace and automotive industries to make lightweight structural parts, in the power generation industry for components in power plants, in the production of electronic devices and casting, and as a reducing agent in the production of titanium and other reactive metals.
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and its atomic number is 22. It is a strong, lightweight metal that is known for its excellent corrosion resistance, high strength-to-weight ratio, and biocompatibility.
It has a silver-gray color and is often found in nature in the form of minerals such as rutile, ilmenite, and titanite.
Titanium Composition and Alloy
In its pure form, titanium is relatively strong but not as ductile as other metals. However, when combined with other elements to form alloys, it can gain strength and ductility. Some common titanium alloys include:
- Titanium-aluminum alloy
- Titanium-vanadium alloy
Applications of Titanium
Some common applications of titanium include use in aerospace, marine, and chemical processing industries, in medical implants and prosthetics, in the production of sporting goods such as golf clubs and bicycles, in the construction of oil and gas pipelines, in power generation, and in the automotive industry.
Additionally, it is also used as a pigment and in jewelry-making.
Zinc is a chemical element with the symbol Zn and its atomic number is 30. It is a metallic element that is known for its good corrosion resistance, high thermal conductivity, and bluish-white color.
It is commonly found in nature in the form of mineral sphalerite and is the fourth most commonly used metal worldwide.
Zinc Composition and Alloys
Zinc is not as hard or durable as some other metals. Alloying it with other elements can improve its strength and other qualities. There are many well-known zinc alloys, including
- Zinc-aluminum alloy,
- Zinc-copper alloy,
- Zinc-magnesium alloy,
- Zinc-nickel alloy,
- Zinc-tin alloy.
Applications of Zinc
It is commonly used as a coating on iron and steel to protect against corrosion, in zinc-based alloys such as brass, in the production of zinc die-cast parts, in the galvanization of steel, and in the production of batteries and other electronic devices.
Additionally, it is also used in making coins and in medicine.
Tungsten is a chemical element with the symbol W and its atomic number is 74. It is a grayish-white metal that is known for its extreme hardness, high melting point, and good electrical and thermal conductivity.
It is commonly found in nature as tungstates, such as scheelite and wolframite, and is the heaviest element that can be found in large quantities on Earth.
Tungsten Composition and Alloys
Tungsten is not as ductile as other metals and is quite brittle. However, it can acquire ductility and other desirable qualities when alloyed with other elements. Some of the famous alloys of tungsten are –
- Tungsten-cobalt alloy (WC),
- Tungsten-nickel alloy (WNiFe, WNiCu),
- Tungsten-copper alloy (WCu).
Applications of Tungsten
Tungsten has a high melting point and good strength which makes it suitable for use in cutting tools, aerospace, high-temperature furnace applications, and heavy metal alloys like tungsten carbide.
Additionally, it can be used in radiation shielding, and in the production of jewelry due to its durability and resistance to scratches.
Nickel is a chemical element with the symbol Ni and its atomic number is 28. It is a silvery-white metal that is known for its corrosion resistance, high ductility, and magnetic properties.
It is commonly found in nature and often found combined with other elements such as sulfur, carbon, and arsenic.
Nickel Composition and Alloys
Nickel in its purest form is resistant to corrosion but is weaker than other metals. However, it can develop strength and other beneficial qualities when alloyed with other elements.Some common nickel alloys include:
Applications of Nickel
Nickel has a wide variety of uses in manufacturing, including in the aerospace, chemical processing, marine, and power generating sectors. Besides being a key ingredient in the production of stainless steel and other alloys, nickel is also utilized in the fabrication of coins, batteries, and a wide variety of other everyday items.
Cobalt is a chemical element with the symbol Co and its atomic number 27. It is a hard, silver-gray metal that is known for its high melting point, good corrosion resistance, and ability to maintain a magnetic field.
It is commonly found in nature as a byproduct of mining other metals such as nickel and copper.
Cobalt Composition and Alloys
Cobalt is not as strong as other metals, yet it is hard and resistant to corrosion. Alloying it with other elements can improve its strength and other qualities.
Some common cobalt alloys include:
- Cobalt-chromium alloy
- Cobalt-nickel-chromium-tungsten alloy
Application of Cobalts
Cobalt has many uses in the manufacturing sector, including in aircraft, chemical processing, marine, medicinal, and power generation. It’s also in the parts of jet engines and magnets for high-speed cutting tools.
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and its atomic number is 50. It is a soft, silvery-white metal that is known for its low melting point, good corrosion resistance, and ability to form alloys with other metals.
It is commonly found in nature, mostly in the form of tin ore such as cassiterite.
Tin Composition and Alloys
Tin, in its elemental state, is not as hard or brittle as certain other metals. However, it can develop strength and other beneficial qualities when alloyed with other elements.
Some common tin alloys include:
- Phosphor Bronze
Application of Tin
Tin is used in a variety of manufacturing processes, including electroplating, tinplate fabrication, and tin-based alloys like pewter and solder. It’s also used for things like electronics, jewelry, and building construction in addition to food packing.
Lead is a chemical element with the symbol Pb and its atomic number is 82. It is a dense, soft, malleable, and corrosion-resistant metal that has a bluish-white color when freshly cut but tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed to air.
It is commonly found in nature, mostly in the form of lead ores such as galena and cerussite.
Lead Composition and Alloys
When compared to other metals, lead’s strength falls short, yet it is easily worked and resistant to corrosion. However, it can develop strength and other beneficial qualities when alloyed with other elements.
Some common lead alloys include:
- Antimonial lead
- Calcium lead
- Tin lead
- Copper lead
- Bismuth lead
Application of Lead
Lead is used in a wide variety of products, from batteries to radiation shielding to pigments to concrete. Lead, however, has been phased out of most of its applications and its usage is strictly controlled and regulated because of its toxicity.
Chromium is a chemical element with the symbol Cr and its atomic number is 24. It is a hard, silvery-white metal that is known for its high corrosion resistance, high melting point, and its ability to form hard, protective coatings on other metals. It is commonly found in nature as mineral chromite.
Chromium Composition and Alloys
Although it is robust and resistant to corrosion, natural chromium is not as strong as other metals. However, it can develop strength and other beneficial qualities when alloyed with other elements.
Some common chromium alloys include
- Stainless Steel
- Chrome-molybdenum alloy
- Chromium-vanadium alloy
- Chromium-nickel alloy
- Chromium-tungsten alloy
Application of Chromium
In the manufacturing industry, Chromium is used to make things like pigments and refractories, as well as parts for stainless steel, aerospace, automobiles, and machinery. Chromium is also used a lot in hard-facing and electroplating.
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and its atomic number is 14. It is a metalloid, which means it has properties of both a metal and a nonmetal, it is a hard, dark-gray solid with a metallic luster and a very high melting point.
It is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, after oxygen.
Silicon Composition and Alloys
Unlike several other metals, silicon is not particularly robust or durable. However, it can develop strength and other beneficial qualities when alloyed with other elements. Some common silicon alloys include:
Application of Silicon
Applications of silicon in the manufacturing industry include use in the production of semiconductors, electronic devices such as transistors, computer chips, and solar cells. It is also used as a deoxidizer for steel and other ferrous alloys.
Silicon is also used to make high-temperature resistant and insulative materials, as well as in the construction of high-strength lightweight parts.
Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and its atomic number is 3. It is a soft, silvery-white metal that is known for its low density, high reactivity, and low melting point.
It is the lightest of all metals and the least dense solid element. It is commonly found in nature in the form of lithium minerals such as spodumene and lithium chloride.
Lithium Composition and Alloys
It’s important to note that pure lithium is a weaker and softer metal than some others. Alloying it with other elements can improve its strength and other qualities.
Some common lithium alloys include
- Lithium-aluminum alloy
- Lithium-magnesium alloy
- Lithium-copper alloy
- Lithium-tin alloy
- Lithium-niobium alloy
Application of Lithium
Applications of Lithium in the manufacturing industry include use in the production of batteries, heat-resistant glass, lubricants, aluminum and copper production, aircraft manufacturing, and the aerospace industry.
Lithium is also used in pharmaceuticals and in some ceramics manufacturing.
We hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive list of the top 20 types of metal and their various applications. Whether it’s for industrial or decorative purposes, the right type of metal can make all the difference in your project.
With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which one is best suited for your particular needs. Always consider your budget, time frame, and desired outcome when selecting a type of metal before getting started on any project.