Nickel is no ytterbium. It has neither the nebulosity of meitnerium nor the mystery of ununhexium. Even other comparatively boring elements like titanium are more exciting than nickel. While titanium can be found grazing the cheeks of famous athletes in razor blade commercials, nickel coins can be found clanking around in dryers all over America along with some desiccated lint and maybe a few bobby pins. The staggeringly uninteresting aluminum is also more captivating than nickel. For example, in the 19th century, at the height of Napoleon III’s reign, aluminum cutlery was rumored to have been given to the emperor’s most honored dinner guests because of its perceived rarity, while the riff-raff vassalry had to get by with gold utensils. Historically, nickel, like a chump, was more often used by accident than intentionally because it was frequently confused with silver, or it was included in alloys of other, more exciting metals by mistake. Nickel? Nickel who?
Cautious optimism. This is perhaps the most fitting phrase to describe the mindset of industrial manufacturers across the United States at the beginning of 2011. A steady production year throughout 2010 had given companies reason to hope for growth in the months ahead and provided a welcome change from the many months of setbacks and challenges seen during the economic recession. Now, five months into the year, those tentative hopes have not been disappointed. In fact, current and consistent growth records for the manufacturing sector show no signs of slowing down, and many businesses have good reason to remain optimistic in the months ahead. According to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), seventeen of the eighteen categorized manufacturing industries are reporting growth for April including: plastics & rubber, primary metals, chemical products and electrical equipment, to name just a few. ISM releases monthly statistic reports based on different sectors of manufacturing such as employment, orders and deliveries, inventory, prices and production. By comparing data from these fields month to month, ISM can determine whether a sector is growing or decreasing, thus providing a basis for determining which direction manufacturing may be taking.
Good quality manufacturing is simply not enough for industry leader McKey Perforating Company. Rather, this reputable company is confident enough to claim they offer ‘perforation perfected’. If company growth is anything to go by, their bold statement is spot on. Headquartered in New Berlin, Wisconsin, with a recently expanded branch in Tennessee, McKey is a contract manufacturer and global supplier of perforated metals and laser-welded perforated tubes. Industries as diverse as construction, automotive, food processing and commercial laundry all benefit from the high quality products and services offered by McKey. With experience in the metal working field dating back 150 years, the team at McKey brings a wealth of knowledge and skill to its everyday operations. Woman-owned and operated, and a founding member of the standard setting Industrial Perforating Association, McKey maintains strict quality standards in all aspects of business.
A company like California Metal & Supply Inc. is as hard to find as are the metals the company distributes. Located in Los Angeles a short drive from the international airport, California Metal & Supply is one of the leading metal distributors in North America with a customer base mostly in the aerospace, automotive, petrochemical and defense industries, as well a growing international customer base. While the task of sourcing and supplying precious metals such as Titanium, Inconel, Nickel, Aluminum, Stainless, 13-8, 15-5, 17-4, 17-7, Kovar, and Invar is a primary focus, California Metal & Supply also believes in responsible business management. With the help of its valued customers, the company supports a number of local and national charities, essentially giving back to the communities that have helped its success since 1984.
With news of a princely engagement across the pond intertwined with Black Friday deals extending to the jewelry market, those without a family jewel to bequeath to their darling might be looking for a deal that will, like the media frenzy, combine the right price with a charmed reaction from that special someone. Even with the deals, though, some might find the solid gold or silver jewelry out of their price range. Luckily, gold and silver coatings applied to a more economic substrate through electroless plating offer a lovely alternative that still gets the right reaction. Coincidentally, getting the reaction right is the key to success when it comes to gold and silver plating just as it is with the more common electroless nickel plating.
In 1992 a technical sales agency under the name of Quality Air Management began serving industry with dust collectors and accessories. By 2003 QAM changed its focus to the design and manufacture of advanced dust collection systems and innovative accessories previously unavailable. QAM has since become an industry leader in the development of new dust collection equipment. We have not only grown as a business, but are responsible for much of the growth in the industry at large.
When I think of coating services my mind wanders back to repainting the walls of a bedroom in my grandma’s house before I moved in to stay with her for a while. Thankfully, I had a lot of help in transforming the room, from cleaning the walls to applying the primer to finishing the final coat. However, coating services refer to much more then getting your friends and family in on your painting projects, or hiring the local small business. Industrial coatings are a varied spectrum of protective and enhancing materials that coat a vast range of substrates, or the surfaces to which they are applied. For example, my bedroom walls would be considered the substrate in my story. The two main reasons to utilize coatings are to protect the substrate from environmental conditions, corrosion and wear, and to give the substrate any desired characteristics that the coating may have and the substrate lacks. The purpose of my painting job was to totally change the look of the room. Besides aesthetics, desirable characteristics of a coating include magnetic, electrical and anti-reflection properties, resistance to water, UV waves and chemicals, and added strength and durability.
In anthropological studies of culture and civilization, one of the key elements is to gain an understanding of how a society develops over time. One way to do this is to examine of the evolution of material use and commodification. Through centuries and even millennia, one material in particular has demonstrated extreme utility within several societies and as such has become a vital tool for the study of those societies and civilization as a whole. Whether in the form of purposeful piping or astounding artwork, copper and its alloys have inundated the cultural realm. From antiquity to modern day manufacturing this renowned material finds use in not only the obscure and elite, but the everyday as well. While the impact of copper on daily life is often overlooked, the importance of copper to cultural studies and cultural continuity is paramount.
Do you remember your parents talking about their experience with computers in school? My dad would always refer to ‘punch cards’ that had to be manually inserted into the computer to get the desired results. He says that it wasn’t until he was in college that he started using these punch cards to create simple accounting programs, and this was in the year 1977. The farthest back I can remember is to that one computer in the back of my second grade classroom and the big floppy disks (actual flexible floppy, not the hard disks yet) we inserted for some reason that’s a bit blurry to me now, probably some sort of ‘game’ to help us learn addition and subtraction. I was in second grade in 1989-1990, and the demise of punch cards wasn’t so long ago if you think about it. They were in common use through the mid-1970s; this decade marked the beginning of CNC machining and various computer numerical controlled devices.
Named after the mythological giants, the Titans, titanium was discovered in the late 1500s. Unlike Tungsten’s superior strength and high density, making it the metal of choice for many tough applications from drill bits and cutting tools to impenetrable tank armor, titanium combines great strength but at low density, making it as strong as steel but half the weight per volume, plus it is ductile, corrosion resistant and heat resistant. The military, automotive, jewelry and aerospace industries, among others, buy titanium products. Titanium tubing, pipes, wire, bars, plate, foil, rods and sheet are either distributed, used as parts, or further processed. Let’s see how this important metal was first utilized.
When Lee Curry founded the machine job shop Micro Forms, Inc. back in 1967, he had just one customer and a lot of ambition. Decades later the tool and die stamping job shop, now owned by sons David and Dan, serves countless industries with small precision metal stampings. Ever diverse, Micro Forms has a valued history of meeting the most challenging needs of every customer. As infallible as their products, this reputation radiates from Curry’s emphasis on accountability and quality that brought great expansion to the company. Such focus on service has carried on to the next generation who continue to maintain a strong customer base by not only working for their clients, but with them.
Barry A. Dorfman & Co. is not your typical metal service center. Founded in 1999 on the principle of supplying customers with the best materials on time and within budget, the skilled representatives at this California based company do just that, no matter the material. With an understanding that rare metals do not translate into rare demands, the knowledgeable staff at Barry A. Dorfman stocks and sells the unique and raw materials that other centers do not. If your unique application requires something not already in stock, the team at Barry A. Dorfman & Co. also acts as a broker to locate and acquire the best metal for the job ensuring the needs of every client are met.
The year 1783 marked the birth of the strongest pure metal with the highest melting point: Tungsten. The makings of this metal lay in the layers of the earth as ore ready to be mined and extracted. In 1781, German pharmacist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was working with tungstenite ore (now called scheelite), specifically calcium tungstate mineral, and with his mortar and pestle extracted a new acid, tungstic acid (a fine yellow powder). He suggested that by reducing it a new metal could be obtained. Two years later, Spaniard brothers Jose and Fausto Elhuyar found an identical acid in wolframite and were able to take Scheele’s vision and isolate the tungsten metal by reduction of the tungsten powder. Wolframite, an iron manganese tungstate mineral, was examined by Woulfe in 1779, marking the earliest documented time that someone thought that the new tungsten element might exist. Thus, an alternative name for tungsten is wolfram.
The history of stainless steel, though just a century long, is a bit confusing to say the least. French scientist Leon Guillet sought to analyze iron-nickel-chrome alloys in 1906, creating a material that would now be known as stainless steel though it was not at the time. The anti-corrosive material was again ‘invented’ in 1912 by Benno Strauss and Eduard Maurer, Germans looking for a new hull for their yachts. That same year Elwood Haynes ‘discovered’ the material to combat the frequent rusting of his razor blades. Though his patent was not secured until 1919, Haynes still beat out fellow 1912 inventor Harry Brearley who announced this ‘new’ material several years later. Though the debate may never reach a conclusion, it is known that that last contender, Harry Brearley, who sought a more rugged material for rifle barrels, did with great certainty invent the first stainless steel tubing.
Besides marking the end of summer and the start of a new school year, the close of August also brings the Primetime Emmy Awards, a show highlighting and honoring popular actors, actresses and television shows. The trophy that is awarded to each winner of a winged muse holding an atom is one of the most recognizable of its kind. The Academy Awards feature another icon: a trophy called Oscar. These two trophies have more in common than what meets the eye because they are both a result of the manufacturing process die casting.
During these dog days of summer when pop cans drip with condensation immediately when removed from the cooler, when beach towels take days to dry and when no hair product can stand up to the humidity, I catch myself thinking fondly of the upcoming winter season. As much as I complain about the blustery weather and the complications of snow, I also get warm fuzzies just thinking about all the winter activities I love like getting the Christmas tree, drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire and baking cookies. Baking sugar cookies in the shape of stockings, trees and stars is an annual tradition for me and though making cookies may seem like just a fun way of producing delicious treats, it actually has a number of similarities with manufacturing cold headed parts.
The Tour de France came to an end last week with Alberto Contador of Spain winning the 2,263 mile bicycling race for the second year in a row. In the second stage of the race, however, there was an incident that could have prevented him from even finishing. Contador, Lance Armstrong and many other riders experienced a massive crash when they encountered a road made slippery by rain and an oil spill. Most cyclists continued on after sustaining minor bruises and abrasions. Their bikes remained relatively undamaged because the material of the frame and wheels had undergone an aluminum anodizing process. This technique is used with both professional and hobby bicycles to harden the surface of the aluminum and thicken the layer of naturally occurring oxide, resulting in a tough, durable and corrosion-resistance finish.
Less than a week away from the official start of the season, the signs of summer are abundant throughout the state of Michigan. Schools are letting out, water parks are filled with loyal patrons waiting in long lines for the cool relief offered by the oversized slides, both motorcycles and bicycles line the streets and sidewalks and the most popular camping sites are just about at capacity. As Michiganders slosh down giant water filled tubes at high speed, balance precariously on the framework of a bike or wrestle with unruly canopy and tent frames; it’s unlikely that most will consider the industrial processes that make each of these pastimes possible. More than just a summer commodity, tubes and tube fabrication play an important role in recreation and daily life throughout the year.
In many contexts the word steel has become synonymous with strength and durability, qualities illustrated by its use in such arduous industries as automotive, aerospace, construction, electronics and even shipbuilding. While it seems clear from these many uses, many are unaware of the incredible diversity of the material. Rather than one specific iron alloy, the steel family includes hundreds of permutations of the element, each precision designed for optimal performance in variable conditions. On top of this, finishing treatments and processing are commonly used to bolster the capabilities and capacities of steel products such as steel plates, strip and tubing. As much as 30% of all industrial steel products and 45% of specialty steel undergo some type of pre-processing before moving into full scale production. Most of this work is performed by the highly skilled professionals of steel service centers across the nation.
In 1966, James Brown began a ballad with the assertion that ‘this is a man’s world.’ The song goes on telling that men built the cars, trains and other essential elements of modern infrastructure. While this was true at the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 18th Century, by Brown’s time women played an important role in the industrial workforce. Though much later than the initial movement, the women’s industrial revolution came about at the beginning of WWII. Up until this point the positions suited to the fragile female form were domestic or clerical. With men leaving for war, however, this changed drastically as is demonstrated by one of the most iconic figures of the time: Rosie the Riveter. Depicted as a strong, but womanly sheet metal worker this figure inspired many women of the time to fill industrial vacancies and help to build countless planes, bombshells and other metal components needed in the war effort. Despite demands that they return to domestic roles at the end of the war, the presence of women in the industrial sector has risen steadily ever since. While men may still make up a larger percentage of the workforce in the field of sheet metal fabrication, an increasing number of modern women follow in the footprints of Rosie.