Understanding what your safe is made from is an important aspect of ownership. Most safes nowadays are made from a variety of steel alloys, but what exactly does that mean? When there’s just a small wall of steel between your valuables and an eager burglar it’s important to have some confidence in your safe’s security and the material it is made from. Here we’ll look at how steel alloys are made and what sets them apart from pure metals.
Interesting to note is that steel by itself is already an alloy. A metal alloy simply means that it is made from 2 or more different types of materials or metals. In the case of steel it is iron and carbon combined to make it become steel as we know it. The main reason for doing this is additional strength. More specifically tensile strength. Pure iron can be brittle and will snap or break before it bends but this isn’t the case with steel. Different combinations of materials and metals are combined to make different alloys with varying characteristics. Alloy steel uses iron, carbon, and any number of different elements to alter its characteristics. Some common alloyants include: manganese, chromium, nickel, titanium, copper, and a number of other elements.
Each added element can add additional characteristics to a steel alloy. For example, adding chromium will increase its resistance to corrosion as well hardenability. Tungsten will increase the melting point. Nickel is a toughener. There’s lots of interesting combinations available to get the most out of a steel alloy for the proper application. So, where does this come into play for safes? What are the most common alloys and the best alloys used in safe manufacturing?
Most safes will use a basic iron and carbon steel alloy because it offers the best balance between price and performance. Higher quality safes, however, will often use a chromium steel alloy for the additional hardness as well as resistance to corrosion. Nickel will also sometimes be added because it makes the steel alloy tougher as well as somewhat ‘elastic’ meaning it won’t break or shatter. In addition to the composition there are a number of different methods for creating these steel alloys that can have a significant impact on their performance.
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