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August 19, 2013

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High End Nickel Products

August 12, 2013

Nickel is a versatile metal with a variety of combinations for useful alloys. By making alloys like Monel alloy 400, Incoloy alloy 825, or Nickel 200/201 the end result will be a material that will function in different environments with different purposes.

Monel alloy 400 is a nickel-copper alloy that is one of the stronger options in the nickel product family. Along with its general durability, it is resistant to seawater, hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid and alkalies. Its ability to withstand seawater makes it ideal for marine engineering, as well as chemical and hydrocarbon processing equipment, valves, pumps, shafts, fittings, fasteners, and heat exchangers.

When nickel-iron-chromium comes together with molybdenum and copper, they form incoloy alloy 825. This substance can hold up against sulfuric and phosphoric acids, along with reducing and oxidizing acids, stress cracking, and localized attacks like pitting and crevice corrosion. It’s durability against acids make it perfect for chemical processing, pollution-control equipment, oil and gas well piping, nuclear fuel reprocessing, acid production, and pickling equipment.

Nickel 200/201 is a commercially pure substance, with 99.5% wrought nickel. This alloy has good mechanical properties and is resistance to a range of corrosive media, along with excellent thermal electrical and magnetostrictive properties. This pure alloy is used for a range of food protection equipment as well as synthetic fibers and alkalies.

The versatility of Nickel alloys 400, 825, and 200 makes them valuable to engineers. Whether it is for marine engineering, oil piping, food processing or a number of other types of manufacturing, it can be made into an applicable alloy.

Monel and Inconel: Oil Rigs Thriving Under Pressure

July 8, 2013

The Monel and Inconel families of metal alloys are two of the most versatile sets of materials available for use in high-temperature or high-pressure applications.  Monel consists of a variety of nickel alloys, primarily composed of nickel and copper, with some iron and other trace elements. Inconel (or “inco”) is a group of austenitic nickel-chromium-based super alloys. And each has its place in the world of advanced metal manufacturing.

Monel got its start a century ago in such mundane uses as identification tags for American soldiers and the roofing of the old Penn Station in New York City; but as its corrosion-resistance properties became more apparent, varieties of Monel were of increasing demand in areas such as marine and aeronautic equipment and even musical instruments. By the 1960s, designers of offshore-drilling platforms began to use non-magnetic Monel alloys in special underwater equipment, such as drill collars for surveying oil wells, especially in directional drilling operations.

To give you a sense of the size and proportion of some of the large scale oil rig platforms.  Here’s a short video of some of Norway’s off-shore oil pumping stations.

It takes large amounts of steel, Monel and other types of steel to fabricate these super structures.  They must withstand the elements such as water, salt, temperature changes, high waves, and other factors such as possible accidents with ocean vessels.

Inconel also became a prized material for making components of offshore drilling rigs, such as well pump and wellhead parts. Today, exotic uses of Inconel alloys include such things as exhaust pipes for ultra-performance sports cars.

Both Monel and Inconel are extremely hard to shape and machine using traditional techniques due to rapid work hardening. Manufacturing materials for industries such as aerospace and marine equipment using Monel and Inconel involves demanding metallurgic processes. To insure that your mission-critical components are built to high-quality standards using these unique alloys requires a technically competent specialty metal supplier. Several types of Monel and Inconel are available, such as Monel 400, Monel K500, Inconel 600, 601, 617, 625, 800, and 825.  We hope that you will trust us to be yours.


The Titanium Playing Fields

June 10, 2013

Lately, the wide world of sports has awoken to the advantages of using titanium alloys in its equipment. From baseball bats to golf clubs (see our blog entry “Another Creative Use for Titanium: Golf Clubs” from January 2012), it seems that we’re seeing athletic applications for the unique metal popping up all around us.

Known for possessing the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal, titanium is changing the playing field by both lightening and strengthening the components found in tennis rackets, field hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, catcher’s masks, goalie’s masks, football helmet grills, bicycles frames and wheels, cricket bats, fishing rods and on and on. It’s even being used by upscale farriers in horseshoes for competition horses.

Here are a few of the more interesting examples of how titanium is now affecting athletics:

  • At this year’s Masters Tournament, the length of many of the longer holes was increased by 10 percent to make them challenging to a new generation of players using titanium-based drivers and fairway metals.
  • Gunter Mai of Berlin, Germany, received a Guinness World Record this year for building the world’s lightest full-size racing bicycle, which tipped the scales at a mere 2.8 kg (about 6 pounds), and logging over 12,000 miles on the machine.
  • During the 2012 Paralympics, 20-year-old seated discus thrower Kieran Tscherniawsky of Heckington, U.K., competed in a special lightweight titanium self-propelled power-assisted wheelchair.
  • Major League catchers routinely wear up to 5 pounds of gear during their duties behind the plate. New steel-and-titanium masks (from Nike) used by catchers like Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins cut down just a bit on the weight of the “tools of ignorance.”
  • At the Champion Titanium Horseshoe Co., they state that their specialty products have “delivered consistent results that have improved the health of ‘trashed’ hooves and provided equestrians with a lightweight advantage for enhanced competitive performance.”

So the word is definitely getting out among the sporting crowd that titanium has performance advantages that put it at the front of the field.  Particular grades of titanium based alloys used in consumer applications include titanium grade 9, titanium 3-2.5, and titanium 3AI-2.5V.

Apollo Astronaut: Let’s Get Going to Mars

May 13, 2013

Buzz Aldrin, the man famous for being the second person to walk on the moon, has a vision of the future of space exploration that involves rocketing people to Mars in the near future.

In his new book, “Mission to Mars,” Aldrin argues that the best way for us to spend our limited space budget in the future is to send an international team to the Red Planet within the next 20 years or so – and to bypass a return to the moon altogether.

“We need the next generation to be our Mars generation,” Aldrin said recently.” I’m very passionate about getting man to Mars and starting a colony there. I’ve outlined my plan of how to get us there in my new book.”

Aldrin is not alone in that regard. Already, there are at least two private groups working on plans for a real mission to Mars.

The nonprofit Inspiration Mars Foundation, led by American businessman Dennis Tito, is planning a two-person flyover of the Red Planet in 2018 and is actively recruiting a crew for the 501-day roundtrip mission, which would have to travel 38 million miles each way (the closest that Mars will be to Earth in the near future).

The other group, called Mars One, has far more ambitious plans. Championed by Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft, they actually want to land on Mars and set up a small colony of about 20 people sometime in the next 10 years. They estimate the project will cost $6 billion and are actively raising funds.

For such an ambitious mission to succeed, it would need a spacecraft that is faster than anything around today. Surprisingly, such a model is in the works. Researchers at the University of Washington are designing a fusion-powered rocket that could, if all goes well, propel a manned spacecraft to Mars in just 30 days. But the NASA-funded project has some very big physical hurdles to overcome over the next 20 years of its estimated timeline. The biggest of these would be how to sustain a sequential fusion reaction in the first place.

And then there’s the separate matter of building a crew quarters, which would have to be both strong and lightweight. The obvious choice for a material that could meet the most strenuous specifications would, of course, be a titanium alloy.

When Aldrin flew to the moon in 1969, the aerospace industry had just begun to exploit the unique properties of titanium in high-speed aircraft and rocket components (the Apollo 11’s Command and Service modules used Ti-6A1-4V alloy). Today, we are using titanium to build even more sophisticated assemblies and components in aerospace applications, these include titanium in grades 2, 3, and 4. And given another 10 or 20 years, who knows how much more creative we’ll become in using it. Maybe even enough to send a colony to Mars.

Continental Steel: on the Razor’s Edge of All Industrial Cutting

April 29, 2013

For almost a century now, the world has required huge quantities of steel, nickel, and titanium to fuel the construction of its products, services, and infrastructures. Whatever the 21st century brings, one thing is for certain: there will be no end to this demand; there will only be rising demands as developing nations bring themselves to a level on par with the “modern” world of the 20th century.

As the 20th century progressed, and as the 21st century progresses, metal-cutting technology has expanded to meet all the nuances and precisions that modern metallurgy demands. At the beginning of the last century, metal was cut primarily by means of saws and presses. These technologies worked well in their day, and in many cases are still appropriate for today’s production needs. That being said, the increased need for tightness of tolerance in metal cutting, particularly in advanced fields such as aerospace, chemical engineering, and OEM medical devices, requires new methods of cutting metal. While we at Continental are masters at traditional saw-cutting metals of all different materials, we also provide metals that are cut using the latest in precision laser cutting and plasma cutting technology.

Unlike saw cutting, laser cutting and plasma cutting can be used to produce fine-tuned, hyper-accurate dimensions for a specific component of a given application. Given the tensile strengths of some of the alloys we supply to various industries, plasma and laser cutting can be better methods of dealing with these levels of strength. For example, corrosion-resistant nickel alloys such as Ni200/201 – Alloy 400-600-625-825 oftentimes require tolerances as tight as +/- 0.010”. Furthermore, we work extensively with companies that practice water-jet cutting, which is an excellent and neatly precise cutting method for specialty metals and alloys for applications used in mining and in aerospace (for example, the celebrated Nickel alloy Invar 36 – used prominently in the fabrication of parts for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

In short, whether it’s advanced plasma cutting for a titanium part intended for a satellite you’re building, or something more traditional that requires mere saw-cutting, we at Continental supply only the finest metals and alloys at the tolerance levels appropriate for whatever the job.  For more information on the types of cut metals and alloys we supply and for which industries, reach out to us today at Continental Steel and Tube.

Developing New Sources of Energy for North America and Beyond

April 9, 2013

Despite the rough-and-tumble nature of today’s economy, there are more than a few bright spots to take assurance from. One of the most prominent is the resurgence of our nation’s oil industry. As a result of the Bakken Shale Deposit alone, the state of North Dakota alone is now producing enough barrels of oil per year that it could, in theory, become a member in good standing of OPEC. And that’s just North Dakota. And that’s just speaking about one type of energy resource. Other new sources for our nation’s power grid are vying to become major players in the near future.

Solar energy, for one, is just getting started. Sure, there has been recent talk of how we may see a slight decline in solar investment in the United States throughout 2013, but the long-term prospects for solar power energy would seem nearly unlimited. Scientists are developing other, cheaper means of making solar panels than have been used previously. Photovoltaic modules – the devices used to capture solar energy – have seen a 40% decline in pricing over the past year. Furthermore, increased automated production of solar panels has given the solar market better leverage in terms of cost savings.

In short, all marketplace forces indicate that solar power is here to stay as a viable, and increasingly cheap, alternative to fossil fuels. At Continental Steel, we supply nickel alloys such as Invar 36 that are used in the manufacture of solar panel devices. Celebrated for its thermal conductivity and its high resistance to heat, Invar 36 is the perfect “workhorse” alloy for America’s clean-tech renaissance. As things stand, we at Continental Steel are awestruck with the sheer depth and diversity of America’s energy rebound. Whatever the source(s) of our nation’s future power grid, we are confident it will be a bright one. Contact us to see how we can be of service in providing your company with the materials it needs to build today’s – and tomorrow’s—energy technology.

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