Galvanized Steel: What is it Used For

What Galvanized Steel is Used For

Last month we discussed how galvanized steel is made. Now, I think it is time to talk about what it is used for.

Galvanized steel Ductwork

Christina Bajarano “Ductwork”

HVAC

Galvanized steel is most commonly seen in HVAC equipment and ductwork. Although typically hidden behind ceilings and walls, many buildings are now embracing open ceilings and architecturally exposed ductwork. You may come across this in coffee shops, small restaurants, business buildings, and even in some contemporary homes.

The color of the exposed ductwork can vary as galvanized is easily paintable. Common colors include brown, black or white. I’ve even seen it in purple. However, it is also common to see the raw galvanized spangle.

Construction

Galvanized steel is also heavily used in construction. Due to its rust resistance and durability it can be used for roofing, siding, support beams, and railings. If you live in a region that experiences larger amounts of rain or snow throughout the year, it is likely your rain gutters are constructed from galvanized steel. This is because the metal is stronger and more durable than the vinyl used by other dry regions.

Skip swinging on galvanized steel playground

EvelynGiggles “Swinging” (altered)

Playgrounds

Do you remember the days when you used to go to the park and swing on the swing set for hours? It is quite possible that your old favorite swing set, or even your new swing set-I don’t judge, is constructed from galvanized steel. This also includes jungle gyms, slides, and bicycle racks.

There are countless uses for galvanized steel. A couple of my personal favorites are galvanized wash tubs and whiskey barrels bound together with galvanized strips. It may sound odd that of all things those are my favorite galvanized products, but they are aesthetically pleasing in gardens. They also make handy drink buckets.

Other uses include garbage cans, lighting fixtures, buckets, automobile parts, household appliances, and home décor (I have a large galvanized “K” hanging on my wall).

Galvanized Steel: How it is Made

Galvanized steel coils, ofr metalsMany people know what galvanized steel is. It is used for a wide variety of applications ranging from HVAC ductwork to gardening pails; household decorations to garbage cans. The spangle finish on the surface makes it visually appealing, but also makes it more durable and corrosion resistant.

So, how is galvanized steel made? Where does that spangle come from? Well, let’s find out.

Hot-Dip Galvanization

Galvanized steel is a carbon steel that has been coated with zinc. The most common method of zinc coating is the hot-dip process.

The hot-dip process consists of submerging the carbon steel into a molten zinc bath (approximately 680 degrees Fahrenheit). When the material is removed from the zinc bath and cooled a reaction to the oxygen in the air occurs. The reaction causes the zinc to become part of the steel (an iron-zinc alloy bond). The new surface finish appears to have a crystalline finish or spangled finish.

While this is the most common form of galvanization, it is often used for steel products that have previously been fabricated as the thickness of the final product is not easily controlled. Another method of the galvanization process is continuous galvanizing.

Continuous Galvanizing

Continuous galvanizing applies the zinc coating to the surface of a continuous ribbon of steel (coil) as it passes through a zinc bath. The coil travels at speeds of approximately 600 feet per minute.

As the coil leaves the zinc bath it carries with it an extra layer of molten zinc. The extra zinc is removed with high pressure air (air knives) to create the desired thickness. The material is then allowed to cool and the spangled finish is formed.

Skip with Galvanized Steel FinishContinuous galvanizing allows for more precise control of the thickness and is typically used for steel products that have not yet been fabricated. As the coating thickness increases, the risk of losing some coating during fabrication or forming also increases.

Overall Surface Finish

Galvanized coil and sheet are produced for applications in which corrosion resistance is important. The zinc coating lengthens the life of the end product, making it desirable for manufacturers. The appealing surface finish also makes it desirable for the consumer.

Stainless Steel: What it is Used For

When many people think of steel, they think of stainless-at least that is what I thought of before I came to work for a steel company. The reason behind this is that it is used in numerous applications.

What Stainless Steel is Used For

In a previous post we discussed how stainless steel is made. We discovered how it was mined, melted, hot rolled, cold rolled and, finally, finished. Today, we will find out what that finished stainless steel material is used for.

stainless steel foodservice equipmentKitchen Equipment

One of the most common places you will find stainless steel is in the kitchen. Whether that kitchen is in your home or the restaurant you are eating at it likely has stainless in it somewhere. For time’s sake, we will focus on commercial kitchens.

Kitchens in restaurants are typically 85% (rough estimate based on personal waitressing experience) stainless steel. From the dish line and prep tables, to the walk in coolers and the fryer everywhere you look in a commercial kitchen is shiny metal. This is due to the corrosion resistance to high temperatures and other elements as well as the sanitary properties the metal holds.

The next time you go out to eat, take a peak in the kitchen. You will likely see about 85% of the kitchen is shiny stainless steel.

OK so, you don’t go out to eat-no offense, but that is just weird. Well, there are other applications of stainless steel that might interest you.

distillery equipment

Photo Credit: Brent Rostad

Brewery & Distillery Equipment

Maybe you like to have a cold beer or refreshing Jack and Coke after a long day at work? I mean, am I right? In the event that I am, you may like to know that brewery and distillery equipment is largely made of stainless steel. Similar to foodservice equipment, stainless is use in beverage equipment due to the sanitation aspect, but also because of the strength of the material. Stainless 304 is largely used in beverage equipment.

The Bean, stainless steel architecture

Photo Credit: Vincent Desjardins

Architectural Components

You don’t drink. That is just fine! Did you know stainless is also used for architectural trim? Stairways, windows, doors and building accent pieces can all have stainless trim. I am a fan of beautiful and intriguing architecture, especially when it comes to unique ways to use stainless steel. Some of my personal favorites include “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park (by Anish Kapoor) and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (by Frank Gehry).

These are just some of the applications stainless steel can be used for. It is also found in automotive trim, railway and subway cars, and many other applications.

Beyond Metal: What it Means to Our Customers

Beyond Metal Part 2

Our customers are the focus of our business. Without you we would mindlessly process sheet metal to let it sit on the floor. It’s true, without you we simply wouldn’t exist.

It is because of you that we believe in going Beyond Metal in everything we do. By providing you with value-added services and customized solutions, we want to ensure you succeed.

In this conclusion to the two-part Beyond Metal series we will hear from you, our customers, on the meaning behind the tagline. So, we took to social media as well as had some of our sales reps find out just what our customers think Beyond Metal means.

In part one we posed the question to our employees and received some fantastic responses to what Beyond Metal means internally. But that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t include our customers.

So, again I posed the question, “What does Beyond Metal mean to you?”

The responses:

“It’s a deep-seated relationship with Metalwest,” the purchasing manager for a horse trailer manufacturer said. “In other words, it’s personal.”

“[Metalwest] always makes sure that we get our material when we need it,” a company in sheet metal fabrication shared. “We know we can always count on [them] to deliver.”

“Beyond Metal means exceptional service,” a branch manager for a residential HVAC distributor stated. “[Metalwest] provides us with great service and material.”

Each of these statements reflects what Metalwest stands for and it’s humbling to see  that these statements came from our customers and are personal to them.

We also had some of our customers describe Beyond Metal in one word. To accurately sum up what was said we have created a word cloud. The larger the word, the more it came up. As you can see “service” is the number one word that comes to mind when our customers think Beyond Metal.

Beyond Metal wordcloud

Do you agree with the results of our word cloud? Are there words you feel are missing? Let us know. After all, it’s not about steel.

Stainless Steel: How it is Made

Stainless steel sheetToday we are taking a turn from carbon to discuss stainless steel. This type of steel is widely used. Chances are you own at least a few appliances that are made of stainless. I know my refrigerator is.

Stainless steel comes in many different types. At Metalwest we supply two main types of stainless-Austenitic and Ferritic.

Austenitic is the most common of the stainless steel types. This includes the 200 and 300 series. The alloy contains a minimum of 16% chromium and is also composed of a significant amount of nickel and manganese (here is a link to a periodic table in the off chance you don’t know what I am talking about).

Austenitic stainless has excellent corrosion resistance, good ductility, non-magnetic properties, strength and weldability.

The most common type of austenitic stainless is type 304 due to its corrosion resistance to a wide range of industry exposures. This makes it ideal for foodservice equipment or any application where sanitation is required.

Ferritic alloys have lower corrosion resistance than austenitic alloys due to lower chromium (10.5-27%) content. This includes some of the 400 series of stainless, including 409 and 430. Ferritic stainless has good corrosion resistance, high strength and great workability.

How Stainless Steel is Made

“OK, great. So… how is it made?”

I’m getting there dear Buzz readers. We had to cover the basics first. Here we go…

stainless steel mining cartMining

The process of making stainless steel begins with extracting chromite (an iron chromium oxide) from underground mines. It is then crushed to produce a chromite concentrate. This is what makes stainless steel strong and corrosion resistant.

You wouldn’t want a stainless steel refrigerator that doesn’t hold up and corrodes, right? The product’s ability to hold up is the basically the point of buying stainless-aside from the appealing surface finish, of course.

Melting

The next step is to melt the chromium pellets together in an electric furnace with the other raw materials (iron ore, manganese, nickel, etc.) used for the specific stainless type. After melting, the material is formed into slabs and transferred to a hot rolling mill.

stainless steel roughing millHot Rolling

Once the slab arrives at the hot rolling mill it is transferred to another furnace and the hot material is then sent through a roughing mill. At the roughing mill it is rolled forwards and backwards to reduce the thickness. As the thickness is decreased it causes the slab to become a long strip that will later be wound up into a coil.

The long strip, or band, is passed through additional rolling mills to reduce the thickness even more. At this point it is coiled then cooled by water and transferred to a cold rolling mill.

Cold Rolling

When the material arrives from the hot rolling mill it is covered in a black scale (which we defined while discussing how hot rolled is made).

At the cold rolling plant the material is uncoiled and passed through an annealing and pickling line to remove the black scale. The band is then reduced to the thickness specified by the customer and recoiled.

The coiled material is sent through another annealing and pickling process and rinsed with water.

Finishing

“OK, then what happens?”stainless steel delivery train

Well, the stainless steel material goes through one final finishing step of removing the tension and improving the overall surface finish. The finished stainless is cut to the specified dimensions and shipped to customers around the world via train or barge.

railcar unloading coilSkip prefers the train, as he gets sea sick.

When we receive the material we process it further to ensure our customers are getting the product they need.

Our Core Values: It’s Who We Are

Values. They mean different things to different people. To us, they mean more than words on a placard in our lobbies. Our core values reflect our company, our employees, and our customers. As a company, our core values are the heart of everything we do. To our employees, value means contribution and commitment to our customers. To our customers, it could mean the usefulness of our products and services or the trust and loyalty of a company.

At Metalwest we have eight core values

Safety

Safe behavior is core to our culture.  We are committed to providing a safe work environment for all of our team.  We expect our team to be equally committed to working safely and looking out for one another.

Integrity

Integrity is the foundation of who we are. We will never compromise our honesty and strong moral principles.

Loyalty

We are dedicated and committed to our team, customers, suppliers, and owners because good business is built on trusting relationships.

Teamwork

We are devoted to working together to accomplish common goals.  We each have the responsibility to support the objectives of the organization and our team.

Empowerment and Accountability

We create an environment where we are encouraged to take appropriate risk and are willing to accept responsibility for our actions and results.  Our success is the company’s success.

Devotion to Excellence

We are committed to excellence in everything we do to achieve our vision and mission.

Win-Win Relationships

We strive for mutually beneficial and satisfying solutions by treating customers, employees, and suppliers fairly and respectfully.

Fun

We believe life is too short, so we encourage all people to enjoy life and share laughter. Always be yourself.  Unless you can be a unicorn, then always be a unicorn!

So, why did I share our core values with you? I think it is important to share the culture of a company with its customers. It’s important to show you who Metalwest is, not what. After all, “we’re not about steel, we’re about people.”

Cold Rolled Steel: What it is Used For

Uses for Cold Rolled Steel

When it comes to appearance cold rolled steel has a cleaner surface finish than hot rolled. However, it is also much more basic and is often painted to enhance the overall look.

cold rolled steel filing cabinet

Orderly #3 by DijutalTim 12/20/2011 via Flickr

Metal Furniture

Cold rolled can be used for many applications. One of the most common is metal furniture, typically office use. You see that filing cabinet to your right? Unless you work in some fancy, hoity-toity office and have mahogany cabinets and desks, your filing cabinet is probably part (if not all) metal. Not only that, but it’s probably cold rolled. Looking at mine now, I think the metal is very functional. I have decorated my desk with pictures hung up by colorful magnets. You couldn’t do that with fine mahogany furnishings, now could you?

Exhaust Pipes

motorcycles, steel exhaust pipes

South Cerney Steam Rally 2014 by Barry Skeates 08/01/2014 via Flickr

OK, you don’t work at a desk job. Maybe you spend your time cruising the open highways on your motorcycle. There is a possibility that the exhaust pipe is made from cold-rolled steel (it could also be aluminum or stainless). So, the next time you want to feel the wind in your hair on the open road and your exhaust sounds think to yourself, man that cold roll sounds good. I know I will.

Lockers

metal lockers

School Lockers Yellow Hallway by Steven Depolo 11/10/11 via Flickr

 

It’s back to school time and that means your student (or yourself if you are a high school student) will be placing their books and backpack in a locker. Remembering the combination isn’t the only thing they will think about while opening said locker. Students will examine the door and the interior and realize it is made of cold rolled steel painted in their school colors.

Who am I kidding? The only thing I worried about in high school was if my jeans fit right and whether I was going to prom or not. But you learn something new every day and I bet you had no idea lockers were made of cold rolled steel.

Cold rolled is also use for many other applications. Many lighting fixtures have cold rolled frames. Refrigerators and other household appliances consist of cold rolled components. Metal containers and barrels are typically constructed of cold rolled sheet. It is also used for construction related products, architectural components, lawn mowers, shelving, etc.

Beyond Metal: What it Means to Us

Beyond Metal Part 1

Beyond Metal Quality Meeting with CustomerYou might see us using this tag line from time to time, but do you know what it really means? At Metalwest our product focus is flat roll, but our true focus is our customers.

To us, Beyond Metal means going the extra mile to ensure our customers succeed. We don’t just provide you with metal, we provide you with solutions to help your company thrive. With programs like inventory replenishment systems, supply chain management, and our on-time delivery promise, we are here to serve you.

To get an accurate picture of what our employees think Beyond Metal means, I posed the question and received amazing responses.

The responses:

“When we first looked at creating it, the idea was that it was the representation of what really established us as a company. It’s the other things we do besides metal; the services that go Beyond Metal,” outside sales representative for Utah and co-creator of the tagline, Rick Williams, expressed. “It’s more than buying and selling sheet metal. It’s the services; the other things that help our customers.”

“Our organization provides metal, but also strives to exceed our customers’ expectations for the highest quality, competitive prices and on-time delivery,” said Beth Hackenberg, executive assistant. “Beyond metal are the initiatives working with our customers to contribute to their success and our people that take pride in their work. They go above and beyond to contribute to our customers’ successes.”

“Although we are a metals service center, we provide more than a commodity product,” Jeff Katz, sales manager for the northeast, stated. “It’s our personal service, the mutually beneficial partnerships that we build with customers, our quality, reliability, financial strength, and technical expertise that set us apart from being only a supplier of metal.”

“To me it means doing what our customers want done,” shared John Chojnowski, outside sales representative for the Ogden branch. “It’s looking for ways to provide value to every customer. It’s about providing our customers with peace of mind. It’s Metalwest having inventory on the floor when the customer needs it. And it’s educating the customers of the market and how things are changing so they can make educated decisions about their business.”

Skip-Beyond Metal Buzz mascotAll of these statements have one important thing in common, our customers. Our employees understand that at Metalwest we are about our customers. We process and distribute metal, but that means nothing if we don’t focus on our customers.

To see other ways in which we go Beyond Metal visit our value-added services page.

Cold Rolled: How it is Made

Cold Rolled SheetWe recently discussed how hot rolled steel is made. Now it only makes sense we talk about cold rolled. Cold rolled is the next step along the line of flat-rolled steel products. The process starts with hot rolled P&O.

Hot rolled is processed to a final thickness that is heavier than most sheet products. A cold-reducing process is used, which results in a thinner thickness. The cold reduction starts with tension to the sheet. This causes the product to become thinner, obviously, but also harder and more difficult to form.

Because formability is important in fabricating sheet metal, the steel is annealed. The process of annealing consists of a heat treatment that changes the properties of the material to increase ductility. Doing this makes it a great product for the customer.

Let’s go a little more in depth shall we?

The Cold Reduction Process

So, you are looking for cold rolled coils? Well, to achieve it hot rolled P&O is sent through a series of tandem rolling mill stands (4-high or 6-high vertically stacked rolls). As the material exits each stand it is a fraction thinner than the original hot rolled P&O When it leaves the last stand the material is recoiled. However, at this point the material is hard, not easily formable and basically unusable for many applications.

OK, how do we make it usable?

The Annealing Process

To soften the steel it goes through the annealing process. The annealing process can be accomplished in two ways, batching and continuous annealing. Batch annealing involves stacking the hard coils four or five high on fixed bases or stools (hence the name “batch”). The material is covered to allow the coil to be concealed from the oxides in the atmosphere. These oxides can potentially damage the surface finish.

A large furnace is then lowered onto the stacks of coil. The space between the cover and the furnace is heated by gas while the inside of the cover is fan circulated to convey heat to the coils.

The next method of annealing is continuous. This method allows for the material to be sent through a furnace in a continuous rolled strip. It is then cooled and recoiled.

The heating of the material causes it to become softer and allows for better formability to be used in various applications. It is now usable.

Cold Rolled Finishing

cold rolled lighting fixturesNow what? The material needs to be finished to ensure it is desirable for the customer. After the annealing processes the material is kept covered to prevent oxidization while it is still at a high temperature. This also allows for the breakdown of oils and vapors that may be present after cold rolling.

The material then undergoes temper rolling. The process of temper rolling consists of cold rolling the material with a very low reduction. This finishing process helps with surface finish and flatness of the final cold rolled product.

The finished cold rolled coil is delivered to service centers, like Metalwest, for processing and then sent to customers for fabrication of metal furniture (typically office use), motorcycle exhaust pipes, lighting fixtures and many more.

Cold rolled can also be sent through further processing to create galvanized, galvannealed, electro-galvanized and GalXC. All of which we will discuss later.