Comparing Titanium, Nickel, Stainless Steel, and Aluminum Tubing

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A leading tube and pipe supplier, Continental Steel has been proudly serving a wide range of industries for over 30 years. Over this time, we’ve become a top source for high-quality, commonly used industrial metal materials.

In most industries, the most frequently requested materials are aluminum, nickel, and titanium. Each featuring a unique set of properties and benefits, these high-performance metals can be used in a range of applications.

Aluminum Tubing

Aluminum and aluminum alloys (common aluminum alloying agents include copper, manganese, magnesium, and zinc) are most notable for their light weight; aluminum is generally about 1/3 the weight of steel. This lightness, plus an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, makes this versatile material well suited to applications in the aerospace, rail transportation, and automotive industries, all of which require lightweight parts with exceptional strength.

Several of the more commonly used aluminum grades for tubing include:

  • Aluminum 2024— This alloy offers excellent strength and is readily formed making it easier to work with. This alloy is often machined to a high finish as it has a relatively low level of resistance to corrosion.
  • Aluminum 7075— Another high-strength alloy, aluminum 7075 offers above average resistance to corrosion and cracking.
  • Aluminum 5086— This aluminum alloy offers strong resistance to corrosion, and proves to be an option for many applications as the material becomes stronger through cold working.

Aluminum tubing also displays superior corrosion resistance, so it’s an ideal material for applications in challenging environments, such as marine applications, as well as those that use or process corrosive materials, including the chemical, petrochemical, and food processing industries. Finally, thanks to its excellent thermal conduction, aluminum is well suited to various industrial heat transfer processes.

Antennae construction, various commercial applications, electronics, health-care products, and hot water conveyance applications can also benefit from the use of aluminum tubing.

Nickel Tubing

While nickel tubing is quite strong, its high resistance to temperature fluctuation and particularly high heat resistance make it an especially unique material option. Nickel tubing is commonly used in industries with extreme temperature environments, including the chemical and petrochemical, aerospace, oil and gas, biotechnology, medical and health care, food processing, and environmental safety (such as waste and waste water treatment) fields.

In particular, there are five nickel alloys that are commonly used in various industrial applications:

  • Alloy 200 nickel — This commercially pure nickel features high corrosion resistance and very good mechanical properties, including yield strength, tensile strength, and elongation.
  • Alloy 20 nickel — Sometimes referred to as stainless, this nickel alloy contains a large amount of chromium and molybdenum and was developed specifically for piping applications that involve sulfuric acid.
  • Alloy 400 nickel — This nickel-copper-chromium blend features high strength and weldability and is ideal for use in valves, pumps, and similar high-stress applications.
  • Alloy 600 nickel — A nickel-chromium alloy that also includes notable concentrations of iron, this alloy is known for its oxidation and stress-corrosion cracking resistances.
  • Alloy C-276 nickel — With very high concentrations of chromium of molybdenum, this alloy resists pitting and crevice corrosion and is well suited to chemical processing and other highly corrosive applications.

Titanium Tubing

Because titanium is a high-strength and low-density metal, it’s very well suited to applications where both weight and strength are critical, such as those in the aerospace, automotive, and military and defense industries. Also, alloying titanium with select materials, including aluminum and vanadium, increases its strength without increasing its weight.

  • Grade 1— Grade 1 titanium has the highest ductility and excellent welding properties. The material holds up well in corrosive environments.
  • Grade 2 – Resistant to both oxidation and corrosion, this material has moderate strength and exceptional weldability
  • Grade 5— Also known as Titanium 6Al-4V, this grade is the most commercially available. This high-strength titanium is heat treatable and has good fabricability.
  • Grade 9— With excellent corrosion resistance and heat resistance, this grade is regularly used in challenging industrial applications.

Titanium tubing satisfies a wide range of application requirements across many diverse industries. Titanium tubing sees wide use in the chemical and petrochemical, marine, medical, nuclear, and pulp and paper industries. It’s also frequently utilized in the recreational industry for equipment such as bicycle frames, golf clubs, helmet grills for various sports, lacrosse stick shafts, and tennis rackets.

Biocompatible and nontoxic, titanium tubing is often used in more challenging, complex applications, such as surgical instruments and orthopedic implants. Titanium’s high tensile strength-to-density ratio and high corrosion resistance make it ideal for sensitive military and aerospace applications, including critical structural projects, firewalls, exhaust ducts, and landing gear.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel tubing is highly corrosion resistant, protecting against fire and high temperatures and has an aesthetically appealing appearance. Stainless steel also provides excellent weldability and machinability, and it is generally used for a wide range of structural purposes and applications.

  • 304 Stainless Steel—Also known as A2, 304 is one of the most widely used stainless steels available on the market. It is ideal for use in high-temperature settings and with corrosive acids.
  • 316 Stainless Steel—Out of all the 300 series stainless steel grades, 316 provides the strongest corrosion and pitting resistance. It is highly ductile and ideal for hydraulic and instrumentation tubing.
  • 904L Stainless Steel—This high alloy stainless steel is a non-stabilized austenitic metal with low carbon content. It is non-magnetic and offers excellent resistance to stress corrosion cracking and crevice corrosion.
  • 2205 Stainless Steel—This high alloy stainless steel is available in four groups: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic and precipitation-hardened steels. Its design enables improved resistance to sulfide stress corrosion as well as chloride environments.

Learn More

Over the years, Continental Steel has worked with manufacturers across all types of industries to efficiently meet their unique aluminum, nickel, and titanium tubing needs. Whatever your requirements and specifications, your procurement team can trust Continental Steel to quickly and effectively locate and supply the highest-quality materials for your project. To learn more, contact us today.

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