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What is Manganese Steel?

what-is-manganese-steel?

Manganese steel is incredibly resistant to wear and tear. Less likely to rust than other alloys, it’s also too tough to cut with a saw. Welding it is possible, but it requires considerable know-how. Discover how this groundbreaking 19th-century invention has evolved to allow for widespread commercial use.

Robert Hadfield wasn’t sure just what he had created in his metalworking shop. For months, he had been studying the impact of adding different elements to steel. His goal was to create a material for casting train wheels. Finally, in 1882, he had a breakthrough.

He added ferromanganese to steel, ending up with a substance that wasn’t magnetic and looked like a block of lead. But it was ideal for casting. Not entirely satisfied with his achievement, he worked on perfecting it until he got just the results he wanted. Finally, in 1883, he patented his invention, but he didn’t make it available to the public until 1887. His creation: manganese steel, also aptly known as mangalloy or Hadfield manganese steel.

What is Manganese Steel?

Manganese steel, or Hadfield steel, is a steel alloy with 12-14% manganese content.  Its 1% carbon content gives it the ductility that allows it to be dented but not cut through.  Ductility, by the way, refers to a material’s ability to have its shape changed without breaking.

As the term implies, ductility especially refers to the ability to pull the material in question through a thread or wire (a duct-like channel) without having its strength compromised.  That process of changing shape, which typically takes place by applying pressure, is called deformation.

This “ultimate work hardening steel” has a reputation for being incredibly strong. The more impact it’s subjected to, the harder it gets.  So intense is its hardness that it can’t be cut with lathes or saws.  Welding it is difficult too, although it is doable.  Plus, it’s wear resistance is second to none, as it’s much less susceptible to abrasion than other metals.

Hadfield’s steel alloy was the first one to differ markedly from carbon steel. The manganese inhibits the alloy’s ability to transition from its austenite phase, in which it is malleable, to martensite, which is hard and brittle.  This transformation occurs in most normal metals when they harden.  The austenite of manganese steel converts to martensite under the mechanical impact. This activity allows the metal’s tough surface layer to form.

Manganese steel is also the first steel alloy to be stable and versatile enough for widespread commercial use.  What was initially intended for manufacturing train wheels came to be used for producing safes, anti-drill plates, and bulletproof cabinets.

What is Austenitic Steel?

While we’re on the topic of austenite and steel, let’s have a working definition of austenitic steel.  Referring to it as austenite just means it’s not magnetic.  This type of steel is made of nickel, chromium, and carbon, among other minor alloys.  There are two main types of material: 300 series and 200 series.  The 300 series plates of steel are made of at least 8% nickel.  In the 200 series, you’ll find cheaper alloys — usually manganese or nitrogen — in lieu of some of the nickel.

What stands out about austenitic material is its resistance to abrasion and corrosion.  That makes it perfect for use in stainless steel appliances.  Not surprisingly, more than 70% of metal production is dedicated to the austenitic variety.

Besides appliances, you can find austenitic manganese steel in automotive parts, power tools, valves, cutlery and cookware, and harvesting machines.  They’re also used in mechanical engineering.

How to Weld Mangalloy

Mangalloy can’t be cut by saws or other mechanical means.  Using carbide or diamond, it is possible to drill through the material, but it is a herculean task to the nth degree.

Subjecting it to a high temperature to manipulate it is an art as much as it is a science.  Under yellow heat, you can forge it.  But when it’s subjected to white-hot heat, it can crumble.  While plasma or laser cutting is recommended, you can also use an oxy-acetylene torch for cutting the steel.

As mentioned earlier, you can weld a manganese steel plate.  To do it effectively, you’ll need to make sure the temperature doesn’t get too high.  (Keep it below 500°F).  Getting the weld to cool right away helps protect the metal from cracking.  The fumes released during this process can be overwhelming, so be sure to protect yourself accordingly.

What is Manganese Dioxide and What Can You Do With It?

This material is an inorganic compound used for water treatment.  It removes radium, arsenic, manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and iron from water.  It also plays an important role in the production of batteries, fungicides, pesticides, electric circuitry, and beverage cans.

While the compound’s applications may sound somewhat sophisticated, it’s actually been in use since the Stone Age, thousands of years before the advent of batteries and beverage cans.  Ancient people mixed it into the paint they used to decorate the stone walls of their cave dwellings.  The next people to take advantage of manganese dioxide were the ancient Greeks, who used it when producing steel.

This enabled them to fashion weapons that were far superior to those of their enemies, giving them a considerable advantage on the battlefield.  In the mid-1700s, it was a key ingredient in the manufacturing of chlorine.

What is High Manganese Steel and What is it Used For?

This type of steel has a manganese composition ranging from 3% to 27%.  It’s strong and doesn’t require high temperatures to reach its tough consistency.  It’s non-magnetic and wear-resistant, too, making it a practical go-to for a variety of applications.

Steel with a higher percentage of manganese tends to be especially resistant to frigid weather.  Heat treatment can affect the elongation of alloys, too.

What Are Some Practical Applications for Manganese Steel?

This highly-durable material proves invaluable in mining.  It’s also used in a variety of environments and on equipment.   Applications for the material include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Railway crossings and switches
  • Crawler heads for tractors
  • Cement mixers
  • Rock crushers

Not surprisingly, as technology evolves, the list of uses for alloy steel continues to grow.  Many alloys are even more versatile because, as cryogenic steels, they remain strong even at low temperatures.

What is an Alloying Element?

This is used to change the chemical and mechanical properties of steel so they surpass those of carbon steel.  The list of these elements is fairly long, but some are used more regularly than others.  These “top 5” elements are:

  1. Chromium. The amount of chromium added usually equals or exceeds 11%.  At these levels, chromium prevents iron oxidation and improves corrosion resistance.
  2. Molybdenum.  This component increases steel’s ability to harden and can also reduce pitting while enhancing the metal’s tensile strength and toughness.
  3. Vanadium. Vanadium plays a role in keeping the steel’s grain size small.  Grain formation is actually inhibited, keeping the grains from growing as large as they normally would.  Finer grains translate to higher ductility.
  4. Manganese. Manganese makes it possible for the steel’s hardness and strength to increase, even at a slower quench rate.  The heating and quenching process affects hardness and strength, and throwing some manganese in the mix makes defects less likely to occur during the process.
  5. Nickel. Nickel, in certain percentages, promotes austenite.  To achieve the desired results, the percentage of nickel should be more than 8%.  It’s also important for the chromium content in the steel to be at least 18%.

What is High Manganese Ore?

This type of ore is used in iron-making.  When the metal is hot, it keeps the manganese concentration within the target range.  Ore can be transformed into manganese metal or ferroalloys.

What Types of Steel are Used in Sheet Metal?

There are several types of sheet metal, and each is made of different materials.  Here’s a breakdown:

  • Stainless. The non-magnetic variety of stainless steel sheet metal is composed of 300 series steel.  The magnetic kind requires 400 series steel.
  • Aluminum. Aluminum sheet metal comes in several grades, and each grade has its pros and cons.  For instance, Grade 1100 stands up well to chemicals and weather elements, but it’s not very strong.  The strength of the metal increases at higher grades.
  • Brass/copper. Copper is the preferred material for sheet metal in this category. But if the material isn’t readily available, it can be substituted with cartridge brass.
  • Cold-rolled. Cold-rolled sheet metal comes in 1008 and 1018 alloys.
  • Pre-plated. Steel must be galvanized and annealed to make this kind of sheet metal.

What is Abrasion Resisting Steel?

Abrasion resisting steel often has a high composition of carbon. It’s frequently used in the manufacturing of construction equipment because these implements are highly susceptible to damage from weather elements and sharp-edged debris.

It’s not known for being especially strong, so it’s not the first substance to turn to when building structures.  However, it is good for lining chutes, bins, conveyor belts, and the like.  Alloys in this category all have similar properties and don’t differ much in terms of chemical composition.

What are the Tensile Properties of Manganese Steel?

Tensile refers to how a material reacts when force is applied to it.  Measuring this property requires precise testing. In a highly controlled manner, the applied load is assessed to determine several factors, such as the metal’s elongation, elasticity, yield point, and yield strength, to name a few.

Mangalloy is characterized by moderate yield strength by much higher tensile strength.  The more work hardening it goes through, the more its tensile strength increases.

Where is Manganese Found in the Human Body and What Purposes Does it Serve?

For the human body, manganese is a trace mineral, but it’s essential nonetheless. The body doesn’t produce it, so it has to come from our diets.  Once it’s consumed, it is stored in the liver, bones, pancreas, kidneys, and even the brain.  Manganese, even in minuscule amounts, offers incredible health benefits.

  • Promotes blood clotting. Clotting around a wound is the first step toward healing.  Getting adequate levels of manganese can help the body recover faster from wounds.
  • Helps form antioxidants. Antioxidants, in turn, protect us from the havoc wreaked by free radicals.  Free radicals are molecules that leave a trail of damage and destruction when it comes to the body’s cells.
  • Lowers blood sugar. Research suggests the possibility that the mineral helps the body regulate blood sugar.  People with diabetes were found to have lower amounts of manganese in their bodies.
  • Improves bone health. When combined with Vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients, manganese goes a long way in promoting bone density, and strength.

Why Does Wear-Resistant Steel Need Impact Resistance?

Ideally, steel should be able to stand up to a lot of impacts without cracking.  Being wear and impact resistant means the part in question won’t often be sidelined for repairs.  If it is, it won’t be out of commission for long.  Though such durable metals may be somewhat more costly in the short-term, they eventually pay for themselves since they are so low maintenance.

What is a Mild Steel?

This type of steel is perhaps better known as low-carbon steel.  In proportion to the weight of the metal, the percentage of carbon can range anywhere from 0.05% to 0.25%. (With most carbon steels, the percentage ranges from 0.30% to 2%).

Unlike other steels, mild steel isn’t an alloy.  The only other element occurring in large volumes in the metal is iron.  Other components typically found in alloys are absent in this steel.

Not having much in the way of alloying elements sets this steel apart from the rest.  For one thing, it’s easier to manipulate than metals with a higher amount of carbon.  Heating and quenching can’t do much to harden the steel.  Because its crystal structure can be easily disrupted, this material has less tensile strength than its alloy counterparts.  Additionally, it is vulnerable to oxidation.

This low-carbon steel is made by combining iron ore and coal.  They’re extracted from the earth, melted in a blast furnace, then delivered to another furnace to burn the impurities away.  This process also takes care of any other modifications that may need to be made to the steel’s composition.  Next, the steel is left to harden into a solid slab.  Last, it’s usually reduced to a smaller size so it’s more manageable.

This type of steel is used in:

  • Signs
  • Vehicles
  • Wire
  • Fencing
  • Furniture
  • Decorations
  • Nails
  • Vehicles

What is a Ferrite?

While we’re on the topic of iron-rich metals, let’s break down ferrites.  Ferrites are formed when iron oxide (rust) reacts with other metals such as magnesium, manganese, barium, aluminum, cobalt, copper, or nickel.

With their magnetic properties and ceramic-like texture, ferrites are used in the manufacturing of electronics.  For example, ferrite’s ability to pick up magnetic fields (magnetic permeability) makes them a key component in producing antennas.  Highly resistant to electricity, ferrites serve an essential purpose in the cores of transformers, where they reduce eddy currents.

Ferrites are embedded into your computer too.  Square-loop ferrites are a key component of the memory cores of computers.  Using an electrical current, you can magnetize this type of ferrite in two directions. Inside the computer, square-loop ferrites allow information to be stored in a minuscule ferrite ring.  Ferrites are also used in other types of computer memory and microwave guides.

These compounds are brittle and hard and come in gray or black. They take the form of small crystals

What Are Medium Maganese Steels?

Medium manganese steel (medium mn steel) is high strength steel with a 3’12 wt. % manganese content.  It’s considered an important class of third-generation novel alloys.  These materials are characterized by phase-like microstructures.

Intercritical annealing allows these steels to have fine-grained microstructures, creating complex, multi-phase microstructures, often consisting of:

  • Various types of austenites (stabilized, reverted, retained, partition)
  • Martensite
  • Ferrite
  • Delta-ferrite (although this is not always present)

Mn steel has a reputation for superior ductility.  The key to forming these metals is selecting the correct annealing temperature.  Under the right conditions, different types of beneficial microstructures will form at room temperature.

With their high ductility and strength, medium manganese steels show promise in a variety of industries, especially automotive.   Developments on the material began in the 1970s. Advances in technology are leading to new and improved steels, as well as an increase in possible uses for them.

Is Manganese Steel Good for Swords?

Look at sword advertisements online and you’ll see that some of them are made of manganese steel.  Certainly, the material is good to use for this purpose.  After all, it’s incredibly strong and not susceptible to corrosion.

However, if you want to make your own sword, manganese might be a difficult metal to work with, since cutting it is nearly impossible.  Of course, you can also find swords made of other metals, such as stainless steel.

What Are the Different Types of Steel?

Different types of steel fall into one of four groups.

  • Carbon Steels. These steels are made primarily of carbon and iron, with only trace amounts of several elements.  Accounting for 90% of steel production, this kind is by far the most common.  Depending on its carbon-composition, this steel can be placed into three subgroups: low/mild (up to 0.3%), medium (0.3-0.6%), and high (more than 0.6%).
  • Alloys. As their name implies, these steels are composed of alloying elements — copper, chromium, aluminum, nickel).  These elements are added to impact the strength, machinability, ductility, and corrosion resistance of these steels.
  • Stainless Steels. Stainless steels have a composition that includes 10-20% chromium.  Steels in this group are especially corrosion-resistant.  They are an essential component of food processing equipment, medical equipment, piping, and cutting tools.
  • Tool Steels. As you may have guessed, these steels are especially ideal for drilling and cutting equipment.  Materials found in this group of steels include tungsten, cobalt, vanadium, and molybdenum.  These elements go a long way toward promoting durability and heat-resistance.

What Are the Different Grades of Steel?

As a group, a steel grade serves as another means of classification.  Grades allow you to easily distinguish among the different types.  This might otherwise be difficult since so many factors can affect steel’s properties.  After all, two metals with the same composition can have different characteristics if they are subjected to different temperatures during heat-treatment.

There are two grading systems for various steels.

  • ASTM Grading System. With this method, each metal is labeled by a letter based on which category it falls into (alloy, stainless, etc.).  The letter designation is followed by a number corresponding to the metal’s properties.
  • SAE Grading System. With this system, classifications are based on a four-digit number.  The first two indicate the type of steel and the concentration of its alloying elements.  The last two numbers tell you the metal’s carbon concentration.

What’s the Difference Between Magnesium and Manganese?

People sometimes confuse magnesium and manganese, maybe because they sound like they might be related.  While they’re both minerals used by the body, that’s about where their similarities end.  Here’s what you need to know about Magnesium vs. Manganese: 101.

Manganese, as mentioned earlier, can’t be produced by the body but is essential for the release of certain enzymes required by the body to carry out its many functions.  Manganese is good for your immune system, boosts bone density, and works with Vitamin K in blood clotting.

Magnesium promotes bone health and nervous system functioning. This mineral is necessary for maintaining energy levels.  Magnesium is used to treat depression and migraine headaches, too.

What’s the Best Grade of Steel?

Stainless steel is definitely one of the most oft-used steels because it can stand up to a variety of elements and, for the most part, still be none the worse for wear.

Grades 304 and 316 are the most common types.  The primary difference between them is that 316 has molybdenum, while 304 doesn’t.  Here’s a more in-depth look at these two types.

304

304 is the most common material used worldwide.  It consists of 16-24% chromium and as much as 35% nickel.  You can also find trace amounts of manganese and carbon in this stainless steel.

304 has different subtypes, the most prevalent of which is 18/8, made up of 8% nickel and 18% chromium.

This holds up well against most oxidizing acids.  Easy to sanitize, it is frequently used in appliances and other culinary implements.  It’s also found in decor, furniture, and buildings.

Despite its advantages, 304 has one flaw: It is vulnerable to damage from saline and chloride solutions.  Therefore, 304 doesn’t hold up as well in coastal areas.  Chloride exposure can lead to localized corrosions (called pitting) that may spread, compromising structural integrity.

Stainless 304 is used in:

  • Finishing hardware (screws, plates, handles)
  • Pots and pans
  • Storage tanks
  • Residential sinks and their components
  • Residential appliances
  • Equipment tubing
  • Indoor decor and architecture

316

Next in line in terms of popularity is stainless steel 316.  It has a composition highly similar to 304, the difference being that 316 has about 2-3% molybdenum.  This makes it more resistant to industrial solvents and chloride. Other 300 series metals contain higher concentrations of molybdenum (as much as 7%), but this is really only necessary for heavy-duty industrial applications.

Unlike 304, 316 isn’t compromised in saline environments.  It’s often used in chemical processing and other industrial activities.

You can find 316 in

  • Commercial kitchens
  • Industrial equipment (pharmaceutical and manufacturing)
  • Pressure vessels
  • Cisterns and pipes
  • Medical equipment
  • Marine equipment
  • Food production and processing in saline environments
  • Outdoor site furnishings
  • Chemical manufacturing

FAQ

Can manganese steel rust?

All steels are at least somewhat susceptible to rust when there is a lot of moisture in the air.  Manganese, however, makes Hadfield steel more corrosion resistant so rusting happens much more slowly than it would otherwise.

Is manganese steel magnetic?

Though it has a high iron content, manganese steel is not magnetic, making it suitable for industrial lifting magnets.  It’s also used when assembling electric transformers.

Why are 300 series metals so frequently used?

These metals are especially well-known for their versatility, strength, balance, and corrosion-resistance.  Stainless steel is preferred over other materials because it lasts a long time and maintains a smooth finish.  When it’s taken care of correctly, this metal can be extremely low-maintenance, essentially paying for itself in the long run.

References:

Bortec: What is Austenitic Steel?

Wikipedia: Mangalloy

AJ Marshall: Manganese Steel – 6 Things You Need to Know

WCP Online: The Magic of Manganese Dioxide: What It Is and Why You Should Care

McALPIN Industries: What are the Different Types of Sheet Metal?

Steel-N: High Manganese Steel

ScienceDirect: Manganese Ore

Eramet: High Manganese Lumpy Ore

Medical News Today: What are the Benefits and Effects of Manganese

Metal Supermarkets: What is Mild Steel?

Britannica: Ferrite Iron Oxide Compound

Dierk-Raabe: Medium Mn Steels

Taylor and Francis Online: Special Issue on ‘Medium Manganese Steels’

Mead Metals, Inc.: What are the Different Grades of Steel

Live Strong: Difference Between Magnesium and Manganese

Reliance Foundry: Which is better? 304 vs 316 Stainless Steel?

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