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Metal Suppliers News

Advanced aluminium alloys, recycling triumphs, brass credit cards and more. Here is the news for everyone involved in the wonderful world of metal supply.

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Our world is never, ever boring. Metals are used in a bewildering variety of manufacturing processes and products, and we’re endlessly surprised by the innovative uses of the metal products we sell. Here’s the latest news from your favourite aluminium extrusion suppliers, brass sheet suppliers and steel suppliers in the UK.

Affordable high strength powder aluminium alloys for the car industry

According to The Engineer, the automotive industry could soon be making a lot more use of today’s ultra-high-strength aluminium alloys made from powders. It’s all down to an exciting new single-step manufacturing process designed for making nanostructured rods and tubes directly from high-performance aluminium alloy powder.

The US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is responsible for the findings, discovering an innovative Solid Phase Process that eliminates some of the many steps needed during conventional extrusion processing. It also happens to deliver a dramatic increase in the final products’ ductility.

High-performance powder aluminium alloys are vital for making lightweight components for aerospace, and while the sector’s high margins make it affordable it has always been too costly for the automotive industry, being so energy-intensive and requiring such a complex process. Now many of the steps have been removed, actually extruding nanostructured aluminium rods directly from powder in one clever step using PNNL’s Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion tech.

How does it work? The aluminium alloy powder is added to an open container then a rotating extrusion die is forced into it, generating heat where the powder and die meet. The material softens and extrudes with ease, and there’s no need for the usual long canning, degassing, hot pressing, pre-heating, and decanning process.

In the words of the PNNL materials scientist Scott Whalen, “The elimination of both the processing steps and the need for pre-heating could dramatically reduce production time as well as lower the cost and overall embedded energy within the product, which could be beneficial for automotive manufacturers who want to make passenger vehicles more affordable, lighter, and fuel-efficient for the consumer.”

The UK’s aluminium drinks can recycling success

As aluminium plate suppliers we’re always interested to see how this more or less infinitely-recyclable metal is being re-used. Right now it looks like there’s something to celebrate, something that feels like a rare occurrence in these days of environmental chaos. Did you know the UK aluminium drink can recycling rate has just rocketed to 75%, its highest level ever, up from just under 55% in 2010?

There’s more good news. It also looks like 95% of all the aluminium packaging collected in Britain is being recycled in Europe, not being sent abroad to who-knows-where to be treated who-knows-how. All this means the humble aluminium drinks can is now the world’s most recycled packaging.

Overall, aluminium recycling is going very well. It looks like the aluminium packaging recycling rate is still rising steadily, from just 41% in 2010 to 52% last year. In total more than 100,000 tonnes of aluminium packaging sold in the UK were recycled in 2018.

It’s all down to generous investment by the aluminium sector as a whole, affecting the public’s behaviour thanks to initiatives like the Aluminium Packaging Recycling Organisation’s MetalMatters and Every Can Counts campaigns, which are creating extra awareness about how much of the stuff can be re-used.

Brass – The perfect metal for credit cards!

Not so long ago you had to be rolling in money to qualify for a metal credit card. Now they’re widely available. While they work in exactly the same way as plastic cards they are heavier and sturdier. And they’re proving surprisingly popular.

Roll back time to the 1920s and metal charge cards were used by shoppers to run up a ‘tab’, paid back in full later. The plastic cards we’re all familiar with superseded these, and the first contemporary metal credit card arrived in 1999, the titanium Centurion Card by American Express. Known as the Black Card, it’s an invitation-only treat with massive start-up and annual fees. But that pales into insignificance compared to the Royale card, which has a real gold trim and a diamond set in the middle.

Now, though, there are more than 20 metal credit cards available, made from everything from brass, copper, brushed stainless steel, titanium and gold to super-rare palladium. They are apparently popular with bank customers who “demand cutting-edge innovations” and are perceived as a high status item, proof of luxury. Because of this perception, some credit card issuers have started to replace the old plastic cards with metal ones, perhaps in an effort to improve loyalty and stop people switching banks.

What’s going on at British Steel?

The closure was a national tragedy. But despite the urgency, the government employee in charge of finding a buyer for British Steel warns that it won’t sell fast. It could take a long time to get a deal good enough to save all 5000 UK jobs at risk.

The official receiver, David Chapman, prefers buyers that are interested in the whole business, not those who simply want to cherry-pick the best bits. The good news is he’s encouraged by the level of interest shown by national and international players in buying the business, and now he’s in discussion with the potential buyers who’ve made the best offers. Luckily British Steel continues to trade and supply its customers as normal while the negotiations are taking place.

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