News From the Wonderful World of Metal Supply
Nothing stands still for long in our world. Metal prices, exciting discoveries, new methods of extracting and manufacturing… it’s all go. And May 2018 is no different. Here are three amazing tales from your favourite British metal suppliers.
Introducing revolutionary ‘green’ aluminium
As aluminium stockholders we’re always interested to see what’s going on in the sector. Here’s some genuinely great news for you. Apple makes gadgets. But now they’ve helped discover a fresh way to make aluminium, and it’s tipped to revolutionise the way their gadgets are made. The new method completely eliminates greenhouse gases from the smelting process, and that’s great news for all of us, not just those of us who buy Apple stuff.
Traditional ways of making aluminium – in use since 1886 – are notorious for creating a lot of pollution. The new smelting process gets rid of the greenhouse gases usually created by the process, an innovation brought to life when Apple brought Alcoa and Rio Tinto together to work on it.
The old method of making the metal involves sending a powerful electric current through alumina to get rid of the oxygen, and that’s what releases massive amounts of greenhouse gas. The new process replaces carbon with a different material that only gives off oxygen when it burns, and that seriously reduces the environmental impact. What is this new material? So far, it’s a secret.
A brand new company, Elysis, will be working on the method to prepare it for wider use. Fingers crossed it will ultimately reduce the environmental impact of smelting all over the world. Well done Alcoa, Rio Tinto and Apple for their world-changing cross-sector collaboration.
An advanced low-temperature surface hardening process for stainless steel
As stainless steel suppliers in the UK we also love to hear what’s going on in the steel industry, all around the globe. There’s some excellent news from that direction this month, too.
Stainless steel is invaluable when you want a corrosion-resistant metal. But it isn’t easy to find a metal that does that as well as having a really good surface hardness, great wear resistance, and high fatigue strength.
The thing is, most high temperature heat treatments can’t be used with stainless steels. Nitriding and nitrocarburising, for example, ruin the metal’s anti-corrosion properties. So is there a way to bring about effective lower-temperature surface hardening for stainless steel? The answer is yes.
An exciting EU-funded project called PLASSTEEL has invented an advanced process to harden the surface of stainless steel at low-temperatures. It works with all ferritic, martensitic, austenitic and duplex grades and the resulting anti-wear, anti-fatigue and anti-corrosion properties are so good they’re being called ‘unparalleled’.
It’s all thanks to IONITECH LTD, which has developed a plasma nitriding/nitrocarburising furnace that delivers really good temperature uniformity across the entire working area and also completely negates the notorious ‘hollow-cathode’ effect you get from traditional methods.
The plasma technology used works fine at temperatures below 500°C and enriches the surface of the metal with nitrogen and carbon. This protective later can be made as deep as necessary for the project in question. While most surface-hardening methods damage the corrosion resistance of stainless steel, the new process circumvents the problem as well as providing precise control over the steel’s ultimate properties. Experiments have increased the surface hardness of stainless steel parts by 400%, and have also improved the metal’s adhesive and abrasive wear as well as its tribological properties, its response to friction, lubrication and wear. And that’s another revolutionary step for our sector.
Is this the world’s most expensive bar?
As brass sheet suppliers we find it fascinating to see what people do with the brass sheets we sell. If you ever found yourself wondering what people make with it, ‘create incredibly expensive architectural art’ is now one of the answers. Do you have a spare USD$800,000 to USD$1,200,000? Then go grab yourself what is surely one of the most expensive bars on earth for your home.
On 24th May Sothebys New York is showcasing a piece of work by François-Xavier Lalanne called ‘Sauterelle’, ‘grasshopper’ in French. It’s one of a pair of grasshopper-shaped bars made by the artist in 1970, a couple of enormous porcelain, polished brass and steel beasts that beautifully showcase the influence of Surrealism, Art Nouveau and Modernism.
There are clever brass compartments inside the insect’s head and body, where you store your booze, and the wings tilt elegantly to create the bar’s counters. On the left wing, you’ll find the signature of the artist.
The second grasshopper bar belongs to Queen Elizabeth, a gift from the French President Georges Pompidou during her State visit to France in 1972. If you buy it, you owe us a pint for bringing it to your attention!
We’ll see you next time for more amazing stories about metals. In the meantime if you need some, we stock it. Let’s talk.