Metals
This page gives advice on the different types of metal you can use for fabrication.

Choosing the right metal

To choose the right material for your project, it is essential to understand the basic properties of workable metals. Metals can be split into two categories; Ferrous (those which contain iron), and non-ferrous (those which do not contain iron).

Ferrous metals

This group is characterised by its tensile strength and durability; making it popular for structural applications. Its iron content makes it both magnetic (with the exception of stainless steel) and susceptible to oxidisation, better known as rust.

Common Ferrous Metals:

  • Alloy Steel – such as stainless steel and core-ten.
  • Carbon Steel – commonly used in fabrication.
Mild Steel or Carbon Steel is manufactured in two ways:
  • Hot Rolled Typically used for making larger structural members, it is cheaper but less dimensionally stable.
  • Cold Rolled – Very dimensionally consistent, it has sharper corners and cleaner finish quality. Typically used for detailed applications and furniture.

Non-ferrous metals

This group is characterised by its malleability, making it easy to work with. Non-ferrous metals do not contain any iron and therefore are not magnetic and do not corrode through oxidisation (rust). Many non-ferrous metals are alloys, meaning that they are a mix of different metals; for example, brass, which is a mix of copper and zinc. Different ratios of these mixes create different working qualities which can be matched with a specific project or application.

Common Non-Ferrous Metals:

  • Aluminium
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Titanium
  • Gold
  • Silver

Which metals can be welded?

Not all metals can be machined or welded using the same tools or processes. Currently, the Maker Spaces have the capabilities to machine and weld ferrous metals, such as carbon steel (mild steel) and stainless steel. It is possible to cut, grind and machine any other metal, including non-ferrous metals, however, the process for welding these are currently not available. Consult with a Maker Spaces technician if you have questions about materials.

Mild Steel (Hot/Cold Rolled)

  • Comes in a large selection of dimensions and profiles.
  • Typically requires minimal preparation if the material is new.
  • Large pieces can be cut to length by the supplier where needed.
  • Ideal for structural components or details which are hidden.
  • The best choice if you have bends in your design.
  • Cost effective and easy to work with.
  • Easy to clean and finish.
  • It will oxidise (rust) if left unfinished, so this is a good choice if you plan to powder-coat or paint the component.
  • Can be welded with MIG or TIG

Stainless Steel (304 and 316)

  • Comes in a limited selection of dimensions and profiles.
  • Requires minimal prep.
  • Ideal for components which can be seen, or where a raw metal finish is desired.
  • Does not oxidise, ideal for outdoor applications.
  • Harder and more challenging to work than mild steel.
  • More susceptible to distortion when heated.
  • More expensive than mild steel.
  • More challenging to weld.
  • Can be Tig or Mig welded.
Galvanised steel cannot be welded in the Metal Work Area. Welding galvanised steel will create noxious fumes which are extremely dangerous to health. If students require galvanisation, this can be achieved as a post-process off-campus. There are special methods for designing for galvanisation. Alternatively, galvanised steel can be joined mechanically; using bolts, rivets or screws.
Galvanised products can typically be identified by their flecked surface appearance as seen below:

Aluminium

  • Difficult to weld

Titanium

  • Difficult to weld