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How to Determine the Correct Alloy

Have you ever wondered why machinists and engineers utilize different alloys of material when quoting or producing parts? Why is 1018 CDS a better option for a job than 1215 CDS? Well the answer is that each alloy of material, whether it be steel, stainless steel, brass, or aluminum, has precise characteristics that make it more ideal than other alloys in specific situations. Characteristics such as material grade weldability, alloy tolerance, and applications of the part all play a pivotal role in determining which alloy machinists and engineers choose. We look to dive into why specific alloys are used and the characteristics behind popular material alloys.

The first material that we look to examine is aluminum. Although aluminum has four mainstream alloys, we will examine two of the most popular we come in contact with at Ashley Ward. These two aluminum alloys are 2011 and 6061. If you are looking for an aluminum alloy that is designed for machining, 2011 is your solution. With a tolerance of +/-.0015 and high machinability, aluminum 2011 is the ideal selection when products are being produced for commercial uses. The downfall of this alloy is its price, which is almost double other alloys traditionally. For a more economical price, 6061 is a viable option. With good formability, weldability, and corrosion resistance, 6061 is the perfect candidate for any aluminum job that is for electronic hardware applications. Therefore, when determining which aluminum alloy to use, price and application play a huge role in determining which alloy is the best fit.

When a project indicates stainless steel to be used, there is an abundance of alloys to choose from. The two most common that we machine are 303 and 304. With price and tolerance being relatively the same, we must look at the machinability and application to determine which alloy to use. If your project requires the material to be extremely wieldable and formable, 304 is a better choice than 303. On the other hand, if you are looking for a material that is non-magnetic, designed for machining, and corrosion resistant, 303 is your alloy of choice. As a result, need for corrosion resistance and machinability will become your main detriments for determining which alloy of stainless steel to exploit.

The material with the most variety of alloys typically used is steel. Of the many alloys that are used in steel machining, Ashley Ward typically uses 12L14, and 1215, although we will explore 1018 as well because it is very common across several industries. If you part requires rivets and strong welds, 1018 is the choice. Although this alloy has traditional bad machinability, it is great for weldability and formability, which is why this alloy is ideal for parts requiring strong welds. 1018 is also the cheapest of the proceeding alloys. 12L14 is the most qualified alloy for parts requiring turning as a result of its’ excellent machinability. It is also used in endless commercial products, which make it more attractive as well. Finally, the last option of steel alloy that is considered is 1215. If 12L14 isn’t a desired option, typically due to the lead content, 1215 steel would be the next best option. 1215 is still very machinable and is cost effective. With this information, the main decision that should guide your choice of alloy can be seen in the machinability, weldability, and formability, as well as application of the part.

The last material that needs to be addressed is brass. A vast majority of the brass parts we machine come from the 360 grade. There are many reasons why customers place a majority of their work on the basis of 360 brass. First, this alloy free machining. This allows us to save the customer money by offering fast and efficient cycle times. The immense applications that 360 brass serves is also a huge advantage to this type of material. 360 brass can be used in electronic hardware, plumbing fittings, and numerous industrial products. This versatility is coveted when choosing a brass alloy and is a big factor as to why we mainly machine brass out of 360.

Each alloy of material serves a specific purpose. By taking into account the application of part, machinability, weldability, formability, and price, we can determine which specific alloy is the best candidate for any specific project. So next time you are deciding which alloy to use, you now have some knowledge to make the most appropriate decision.

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