The number of alloys available to metalworking professionals varies in scope, depending on the application at hand. And while it may be easy to choose a proven material like steel as a default, there are other more specific alloys that may better serve the needs of professionals in various scenarios.
One such example is manganese steel. This alloy is generally comprised of 13% manganese and features some truly remarkable properties that steel itself doesn’t bring to the table. Called Mangalloy or Hadfield steel, manganese steel alloy boasts incredible impact strength, wonderful workability and extreme resistance to abrasions:
- Increased hardness: On its own, manganese is substantially harder than most other metals, including iron. Unfortunately, as a standalone material, it’s also much more brittle than most metals. When combined with steel at low ratios (between 12-19%), manganese benefits from the resilience of steel, while lending its hardness to the overall alloy. The significant steel presence in Mangalloy keeps it from becoming brittle, while the hardness of manganese lends itself to the ultimate alloy.
- Better deoxidation: Steel contains iron, which means it’s susceptible to oxidation (rust). Manganese, however, doesn’t contain iron. Through deoxidation, manganese provides protection to the Mangalloy alloy by reacting with any dissolved oxygen in the molten metal as the alloy is formed. This causes oxides to form, which can be removed from the alloy to prevent future oxidation from occurring. The result is a stronger alloy that’s also resistant to oxidation.
- Improved high-heat workability: Mangalloy offers great workability at high temperatures, where steel alone may be too brittle. Manganese prevents sulfur atoms from binding with iron at high temperatures, keeping the alloy more workable. In addition, this also prevents cracking and tearing at higher temperatures as the metal is worked in different ways.
There are even more reasons to opt for Mangalloy in certain metalworking applications. For example, the tendency of manganese to soften instead of harden when rapidly cooled means better workability for cryogenic steels. Mangalloy is also incredibly impact-resistant when worked, making it a versatile alloy for use in more extreme environments and those susceptible to different detractors.
Where is it used?
Mangalloy has found widespread application across various industries with specific demands for its properties. For example, it’s used within the construction industry in applications such as rock crushers, cement mixers and even heavy machinery bits. Elsewhere, you’ll find Mangalloy used in railroad ties, inside shot peening machines and crawler treads for tractors. These applications and more all demand resilience in the face of duress and the ability to withstand heavy, repeated abrasion.
The downfall of Mangalloy
There is one clear detriment to Mangalloy that often prevents it from being used as part of a fabrication project or in routine metalworking: It’s nearly impossible to machine. It can be plasma or laser cut, but it’s virtually impervious to other forms of machining! Cold-rolling is also an option, but even this is still severely limited when it comes to workability.
Mangalloy is just one of the many alloys out there that could be a shoe-in for your next manufacturing project. It all depends on the properties your product needs and the abilities of your shop to meet the workability demands of the alloy you’re using. In the case of Mangalloy, that might be easier said than done!