Non-ferrous metals and alloys are called so because they lack the iron content that ferrous materials have. Choosing the right materials for springs is critical, since they will impact the quality and longevity of the final product. At Airedale Springs, we work with both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, which are used in different situations.
Spring materials will depend on the end use of the spring. For example, in the electronics sector, it’s important that the metals are strong, conductive and with good resistance to heat and corrosion. This is why copper, a non-ferrous metal, is so popular for this industry.
There are many other non-ferrous materials in spring manufacturing, such as the ones we’re highlighting in this article.
Why Use Non-Ferrous Materials in the First Place?
There are many different types of non-ferrous materials, many of which are used to make springs and wireforms. Although they’re all different, they share similar characteristics, such as high resistance to corrosion, easy machinability, good weldability, great thermal and electrical conductivity, lower mass than ferrous metals, and non-magnetic properties.
Non-ferrous springs may not be as strong as materials with iron content in their composition – and they may be more susceptible to fatigue as well – but they also provide the ductility and resistance to extreme temperatures that ferrous metals and alloys may not have.
This metal is widely used in spring manufacturing, including in its alloyed forms. By itself, aluminium is malleable and not as strong as other materials – by adding other metals and putting it through specific treatments, aluminium can achieve the necessary properties. Cold working aluminium can increase its hardness, meaning it needs annealing.
Aluminium is a lightweight metal (2.7g/cm3, which is around a third of the weight of steel) and resistant to corrosion, so it’s often used in industries where this is a concern, like aerospace, marine and rail. Aluminium also reflects radiant energy and is non-magnetic, and its melting point is 660.32oC. This metal is also non-toxic and doesn’t splinter.
At high temperatures, aluminium alloys tend to lose some of their strength, although they are good for electrical applications, since they have high electrical conductivity. Popular alloys include the addition of magnesium and manganese (which adds strength and allows for malleability) and magnesium and silicon (which produces strong but lightweight parts).
You can find aluminium springs in a wide range of applications, including bicycles, aircraft, door mechanisms, motors and generators.
As spring manufacturers, we work with a variety of industries at Airedale Springs, and each of them has its own specific requirements. For this reason, it’s important that we understand how materials can impact the end product. Copper, as we mentioned, is great for electrical applications, so it’s one we use for springs in that sector.
This metal is a popular non-ferrous material. If it’s not alloyed with any other metal, copper is soft and ductile; with the addition of the other metals, copper’s mechanical properties are boosted.
Common alloys are beryllium-copper, which is easy to weld and machine, and is also resistant to wear and tear, and brass (when zinc is added to copper). Brass is resistant to corrosion due to the zinc addition, an element with many different applications that is often used to galvanise steel in a variety of fields. In regard to resistance to corrosion, copper also reacts with oxygen to form a layer of copper oxide that protects metal from corrosion.
The main applications of copper are electrical, but the metal and its alloys are also found in roofing, industrial machinery, musical instruments and even in agriculture. In regard to springs made from copper and/or other alloying elements, they are common in electronics as well, but can also be found in valves, engines and tools.
This metal is also commonly used in spring manufacturing. This silvery-white metal is everywhere around us, from batteries to electric guitar strings. Known for its toughness, resistance to corrosion and resistance to extreme temperatures, nickel is also an incredibly versatile material that can be alloyed with a large number of metals.
Durable and strong, nickel alloys are ideal for environments such as those found in oil rigs and chemical plants, and they’re reliable for indicating instruments as well. Cobalt-nickel is a popular alloy, often chosen when the strength of stainless steel is not enough for a specific use; the alloy is not just strong, but durable, ductile and highly resistant to wear and to corrosion.
Other alloys include nickel-iron, nickel-copper and nickel-chromium, and all of which are suitable for low and high temperatures.
Nickel and its alloys are easy to shape and machine, so they are sought-after for springs as well. They tend to have good solderability and thermal conductivity and can also be resistant to chemicals and caustic materials.
These springs are used for aerospace components, food manufacturing processes, and electronic products.
Non-ferrous materials like the ones we talked about are typically used in electrical applications due to the non-magnetic nature of these metals and alloys. However, as compression spring manufacturers, we are able to produce a vast array of springs made from both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.