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Expert Metal Fabrication and Metalwork

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Different Types of Metals in Fabrication

Metals are fundamental materials used across a wide array of industries due to their varied properties and applications. From ferrous metals like steel and iron, known for their strength and durability, to non-ferrous metals such as aluminium and copper that offer lighter weight and corrosion resistance, each type of metal serves distinct purposes. Additionally, exotic metals like titanium and Inconel are crucial for their specialised properties in high-tech fields, while precious metals like gold and silver are valued for their electrical conductivity and aesthetic qualities. 

As experts at Acorn Metal, we’ve had the privilege of working with a wide range of metals, each possessing unique properties that make them invaluable across various industries. Understanding the different types of metals and their distinct characteristics is not just fundamental—it’s crucial for choosing the right material for any project, whether it’s for construction, aerospace, automotive, or even artistic endeavours.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the main categories of metals used in fabrication:

  • Ferrous Metals
  • Non-Ferrous Metals
  • Specialty and Exotic Metals
  • Composite Materials and Alloys
  • Precious Metals

In this article, we will discuss how the most common types of these metals. As well as how they can be utilised in various fabrication techniques. From the durability of steel to the versatility of metal alloys, each material offers distinct advantages that can be leveraged to achieve innovation and efficiency in metal fabrication. Let’s break down the details of each metal type and their pivotal roles in different sectors.

Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals, primarily composed of iron and known for their strength and durability, are indispensable in various sectors, particularly in construction and industrial applications. This category includes several types of steel (an iron alloy), each with its own advantages for metal fabrication.


Properties: Iron is durable and extremely hard, making it ideal for forming the base of alloys like steel. Its high tensile strength and weight make it suitable for structural applications.

Applications: Historically significant, iron is used today mostly in its alloyed forms but can be found in construction materials, machinery, and automotive components. It is foundational in manufacturing heavy machinery and building infrastructure.


Properties: steel is celebrated for its versatility, easily adapting to various modifications which enhance its utility across multiple applications. Its high recyclability also promotes sustainability within industries. 

Applications: Typically, regular steel is fundamental in modern construction, used extensively from structural beams to rebars. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in the automotive industry, forming essential components such as car frames and body parts.

Stainless Steel

Properties: Stainless steel is best known for its corrosion resistance. It also maintains excellent strength at high temperatures and aesthetic appeal, making it a popular choice in a wide array of applications.

Applications: Its resistance to rust and staining makes stainless steel ideal for kitchen appliances, medical instruments, and in food processing industries. It is also used in architecture for cladding, handrails, and fixtures.

Mild Steel (M/S)

Properties: Mild steel, also known as low-carbon steel, is characterised by its low carbon content, making it more ductile, malleable, and easy to weld than higher-carbon steel. This quality makes it less brittle and ensures better safety in handling.

Applications: Mild steel is extensively used in the construction of automobile chassis, body panels, and building frameworks. It’s also favoured for manufacturing everyday items like fencing, gates, and furniture due to its welding and shaping capabilities.

Hot Rolled Steel

Properties: Hot-rolled steel is produced by rolling the steel at a high temperature, which makes it easier to shape and form. It has a rough surface texture and is typically less precise in its dimensions compared to cold-rolled steel.

Applications: Ideal for structural components like I-beams and simple cross-sections such as rail tracks. It’s also used in agricultural equipment, automotive frames, and construction materials where finish and precise shapes are not the primary concern.

Cold Rolled Steel

Properties: Cold-rolled steel is essentially hot-rolled steel that has undergone further processing to improve its dimensional accuracy and surface finish. This additional processing makes it stronger and harder than hot-rolled steel.

Applications: Due to its high strength and improved surface finish, cold-rolled steel is frequently used in applications requiring a well-finished appearance and precise dimensions, such as in home appliances, metal furniture, and metal panels.

Galvanised Steel

Properties: Galvanised steel is treated with a zinc coating that protects it from corrosion. It is particularly useful in outdoor applications where durability against the elements is crucial.

Applications: Commonly used in outdoor structures, roofing, fencing, and automotive parts that require enhanced resistance to weathering.

Carbon Steel

Properties: Carbon steel is distinguished by its carbon content, offering a balance of durability, ductility, and strength. It is less expensive than other steel types and can be very strong, depending on the carbon concentration.

Applications: Used extensively in construction for structural components such as beams and columns. It is also prevalent in the manufacturing of pipes, automotive bodies, and appliances.

Alloy Steel

Properties: This steel is made by adding various elements to improve its mechanical properties, such as strength, hardness, and resistance to wear and corrosion. Common alloying elements include chromium, nickel, and molybdenum.

Applications: Alloy steel is crucial in creating parts that must withstand stressful conditions, high temperatures, and corrosive environments. It is widely used in the power generation industry, aerospace, and tool-making.

Tool Steel

Properties: Tool steel is renowned for its hardness and ability to hold a cutting edge at high temperatures. It is also very tough and resistant to bending and breaking.

Applications: Primarily used to manufacture cutting and drilling tools, dies, and moulds. Tool steel is essential in the manufacturing of machinery and for tool and die-making industries.

Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals, characterised by their lack of iron content, are invaluable in industries where strength is essential but weight reduction is also essential. They are typically more corrosion-resistant than their ferrous counterparts, making them ideal for a wide range of applications.


Properties: Aluminium is lightweight, highly conductive, and corrosion-resistant. Its malleability allows it to be easily formed into various shapes.

Applications: Widely used in the aerospace industry due to its lightweight nature, aluminium is also prevalent in packaging, construction (for windows and doors), and in automotive manufacturing to reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel efficiency.


Properties: Known for its excellent thermal and electrical conductivity, copper is also naturally antibacterial and highly ductile.

Applications: Copper is essential in electrical wiring, plumbing, and in the manufacture of electronics. It’s also used in renewable energy systems, such as solar panels and wind turbines, highlighting its role in eco-friendly technologies.


Properties: An alloy of copper and zinc, brass enjoys good corrosion resistance, excellent machinability, and an attractive gold-like appearance.

Applications: Commonly used in plumbing fixtures, musical instruments, and decorative items due to its acoustic properties and aesthetic appeal. Brass is also utilised in automotive and electrical components.


Properties: Bronze, primarily an alloy of copper and tin, boasts enhanced strength and corrosion resistance, especially against seawater.

Applications: Due to its resistance to corrosion and metal fatigue, bronze is widely used in ship propellers and submerged bearings. It is also favoured for sculptures and medals.


Properties: Zinc is highly resistant to corrosion and is used primarily to galvanise other metals to protect them from rust.

Applications: Galvanised steel, which is steel coated with zinc, is used extensively in the construction of vehicles, buildings, and bridges for enhanced durability.


Properties: Magnesium is the lightest structural metal, known for its low density, high strength-to-weight ratio, and excellent machinability.

Applications: It is commonly used in the automotive and aerospace industries to improve fuel efficiency and performance. Magnesium alloys are also used in mobile phones and laptop cases due to their lightweight.


Properties: Lead is very soft, highly malleable, and offers good corrosion resistance. It is also an effective barrier against X-ray and gamma-ray radiation.

Applications: Used in batteries, protective aprons for radiation shielding in medical settings, and in the construction of soundproofing materials.


Properties: Tin is malleable, corrosion-resistant, and has a low melting point, making it ideal for alloying with other metals.

Applications: Primarily used as a coating material in tinplate (used for food packaging) and solders. It is also used in the production of bronze and pewter.

Specialty Metals

Specialty metals are selected for their unique properties, such as exceptional strength, corrosion resistance, and their capacity to endure extreme conditions. These characteristics make them indispensable in sectors such as aerospace, medical devices, and nuclear reactors.


Properties: Titanium is renowned for its strength, lightweight nature, and exceptional corrosion resistance. It has the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element.

Applications: Predominantly used in aerospace for aircraft components and frames due to its lightweight and strong characteristics. It is also utilised in medical implants and prosthetics due to its biocompatibility.


Properties: Nickel is versatile, and known for its corrosion resistance and excellent high-temperature strength. It also possesses magnetic properties.

Applications: Widely used in the production of stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys. Its high-temperature capabilities make it suitable for jet engines and turbines.


Properties: Cobalt is hard, lustrous, and silver-grey, known for its wear resistance and ability to retain its properties at high temperatures.

Applications: Vital for superalloys used in jet turbines and gas turbine generators. Also used in batteries and electroplating.


Properties: Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals and excellent hardness, making it ideal for high-temperature applications.

Applications: Commonly used in electrical applications, such as in the filaments of light bulbs and in x-ray tubes. It is also used in military applications for its density and hardness.


Properties: Inconel alloys are oxidation-corrosion-resistant materials well suited for service in extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat.

Applications: Because of its ability to withstand intense temperatures and degradation, Inconel is used in rocket engines, nuclear reactors, and submarines.

Precious Metals

Precious metals are not only coveted for their rarity and beauty but also for their industrial applications due to their corrosion resistance and other unique properties.


Properties: Gold is highly conductive, non-reactive, and resistant to corrosion.

Applications: Used extensively in electronics for reliable, corrosion-resistant electrical connectors. It’s also a mainstay in jewellery and investment.


Properties: Silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals and possesses antimicrobial properties.

Applications: Widely used in electronics for conductors and contacts. Its antimicrobial properties also make it valuable in medical coatings and bandages.


Properties: Platinum is highly resistant to wear and tarnish, making it ideal for high-temperature and corrosive environments.

Applications: It’s often used in automotive catalytic converters to reduce emissions and is also popular in jewellery due to its appealing lustre and durability.

Composite Materials and Alloys

Composite materials and alloys are engineered from a mix of several different metals or elements, designed to achieve properties superior to those found in the individual metals.

Composites like reinforced carbon-carbon are used for their strength and heat resistance, vital in applications requiring robust performance. Alloys such as bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) have specific applications due to their durability and corrosion resistance, making them ideal for maritime environments.

Metal composites and alloys can be classified as both ferrous and non-ferrous depending on their makeup. 

Harnessing the Power of Metals in Fabrication

Throughout this article, we’ve explored the vast world of metals, from the robust ferrous metals foundational to construction and manufacturing to the versatile non-ferrous metals that lighten our modern aerospace and automotive needs, and the specialised and precious metals that operate at the frontiers of technology and design. 

At Acorn Metal, we are committed to leveraging our deep knowledge and extensive experience to help you select the perfect metal for your specific applications. We work with a range of metal types. 

Contact one of our expert fabricators today to discuss your project’s needs. We will work with you to find the best solution for fabricating your chosen types of metal. 

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