When working with sheet metal machinery, it pays to understand what the different characteristics of the various types of sheet metal you’ll be working with are. Their characteristics are what makes them ideal for certain applications as well as easier to use with some machines over others. Today, we’ll be talking about malleability – a characteristic that a few types of sheet metal share.
What is malleability?
Malleability pertains to a metal’s ability to be rolled, pressed or hammered into a new shape without breaking. Another way to look at it is how much pressure a sheet of metal can withstand without breaking. Malleability is quite an important characteristic as its quite prominent in the metal fabrication industry. The malleability of a metal relies on its crystal structure (how its atoms are arranged) – the variance of each metal’s crystal structure is fundamental to its deformation tolerance.
What makes a metal malleable?
Let’s get a bit scientific for a moment, the degree of a metal’s malleability depends on its atom arrangement, its crystal structure. The keys are the valence electrons. Valence electrons reside on the outer shell of an atom and can easily form chemical bonds. When the metals with valence electrons are heated, they become highly malleable due to the atoms being able to easily slide over each other – thus allowing the shape of the metal itself to be deformed and altered.
Which metals are malleable?
There are a few metals that are malleable, but we’re just going to talk a bit about the popular ones that you’re likely to fabricate.
Iron is the most common element on our planet. In its purest form, it is malleable. Wrought iron, is also highly malleable. Cast iron, however, is brittle. One of the reasons for this is because cast iron is actually an alloy – so the iron’s natural properties become somewhat muddled with the introduction of the other elements like silicon – which is not malleable.
Copper is a very versatile metal. It’s highly conductive of both heat and electricity and of course, is very malleable. Most commonly used for wiring applications and water piping, copper is also a very ductile metal and has excellent corrosion resistance.
Aluminium is used for a wide variety of applications ranging from power lines and creating small electronic devices to being utilised heavily in the aerospace and transportation industries. The latter two industries alone require a number of oddly shaped components which makes aluminium the perfect option. Not only is it incredibly malleable and ductile, but it also has an outstanding strength to weight ratio (aluminium is very light whilst still being very strong).
Gold is actually the most malleable metal in the world and can be pushed to insane limits before breaking. However, due to its cost, it is rarely used in commercial industries.
What’s the difference between malleability and ductility?
Whilst malleability deals with how much metal can be hammered and deformed, ductility is the characteristic that defines how much metal can be drawn out into a thin wire before breaking. It is common for the two to be mistakenly used interchangeably due to their similarities. Ductility is arguably more important to copper, for example, as copper wiring needs to be drawn out to achieve its shape.
Are you looking to purchase sheet metal machinery in Melbourne?
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a newcomer to the industry – quality sheet metal machinery is absolutely essential for any fabricator. ACRA Machinery stock a range of new and used sheet metal machinery from a number of trusted and reputable international brands like Durma and Jorns.
We also provide repair and maintenance services, so your machine is always in tip-top condition. We provide this service on-site, so you don’t have to worry about transporting your machine anywhere. Keeping your machine in prime condition will save you time and money in the future.
If you would like to get in touch with us regarding our products or services, then please don’t hesitate to fill out our online contact form or call 03 9794 6675.