A wide range of metals can be manufactured as sheet metal, including steel, tin, nickel, titanium, brass, copper and aluminium. Silver and gold sheets are also used in the jewellery industry. Platinum has a foot in both camps – it is prized for making jewellery, but in sheet form it is also used as a catalyst in industrial processes.
Stainless steel is used incredibly widely in everything from zips to tall buildings and cars. It is strong and requires little maintenance, and it also resists corrosion. Add to that the fact that it can be recycled and you have a material that ticks a lot of boxes in today’s manufacturing and building industries.
It is often used for the exterior finish on buildings because it is easy to weld and looks attractive – you’ll find it used prominently in the Eurostar Terminal in Waterloo Station. It can contain up to 90% recycled steel, so it’s an obvious choice for buildings which want a “sustainable” status. And when it’s polished, it’s highly reflective, so large sheets of stainless steel can be used to bring light into spaces within buildings.
These qualities mean that its use in car production is increasing too, as it can also help manufacturers meet environmental targets. And it’s a first choice for operating tables and other medical equipment. It’s easy to sterilise and won’t corrode when cleaned repeatedly.
All of the sheet metals we’re looking at here, and more, can be obtained from a reputable sheet metal supplier. You can get metal sheets from RapidMetals, who can help with any queries you might have for your particular application.
Nickel, Zinc and Tin
These are frequently used in alloys or to coat other metals. The zinc/nickel combination offers superb corrosion resistance and is therefore often used in marine fittings. The famous tin can consists of a base metal sheet coated in tin so that it is easy to mould and shape.
Zinc sheeting was previously used in roofs and for household items such as baths, but it fell out of favour. Now, however, it is returning as a favourite with architects because of its innate properties and because of the distinctive patina it develops over time as it ages from a shining silver surface to a matt grey-blue colour.
Architectural zinc actually includes a very small percentage of titanium, which reduces the amount the zinc can expand in warm weather and gives greater hardness and tensile strength. Similarly, it also has a small amount of copper to make it more workable.
Like steel, aluminium can be recycled – an amazing statistic is that since 1880 of all the aluminium produced in the world, three-quarters is still in use. That is true sustainability. Sheet aluminium has the advantage over steel that it’s just as strong but a third lighter, so it is widely used in construction. Its most famous use is probably in the Empire State Building.
Platinum and Titanium
Titanium is often used as an alloy with other metals to produce a light but strong sheet metal, used in aerospace, manufacturing, chemicals, armaments and energy production and jewellery. It has to be carefully handled during sheet production with very sharp cutting equipment and controlled temperatures.
The most widespread use of platinum is in catalytic converters for cars, and its ability as a catalyst is also used in the petroleum industry to break down long-chain oil molecules and start them on their journey to becoming petroleum. Platinum is used as a catalyst in the making of drugs, plastics, fertilisers and thousands of other products.