The Inconel Family of Superalloys
When you need a metal with outstanding physical properties that can withstand extreme conditions, Inconel alloys are often the best choice.
Ulbrich offers a variety of nickel superalloys that will stand up to just about any high-temperature or oxidation element you throw at it.
What Are Inconel Superalloys?
Alloys are created by combining two or more substances to create a product with more desirable properties than any of its parts. Alone, pure metal is often soft and prone to corrosion.
Inconel superalloys are one alloy class that has proven valuable in applications like jet engines, offshore marine platforms, and automotive parts.
So, what exactly are Inconel superalloys?
Basically, these compounds are nickel-based alloys that contain chromium and iron. Together, the elements form supermetals with traits that are highly sought after and difficult to find. These characteristics include high corrosion resistance and great performance in extreme temperatures, which are ideal for heat treatment.
It’s important to note that Inconel is a registered trademark of Special Metals Corporation. So, if you’re purchasing Inconel 625, you are buying their product. When this alloy is produced and sold generically, it is often called Nickel Alloy 625. This naming convention follows for the entire family of Inconel alloys and their generic counterparts.
Characteristics of Inconel Alloys
Inconel material is known for oxidation resistance, creep resistance, corrosion resistance, and high strength in extreme temperatures in real-world applications — and when tested in simulations run by supercomputers.
Additionally, Inconel alloy can be produced in a small grain size, which increases its yield strength and physical properties. When milled properly, an alloy like Inconel x 750 can withstand over 1,300° Fahrenheit (704° Celsius).
Special Properties of Inconel Superalloys
You’re already aware of the high strength and corrosion resistance that Inconel superalloys possess in elevated temperatures. Here’s a look at some additional properties that make them special.
Properties of Superalloys
Superalloys earn their name by being more versatile than their parent metals, and thus more valuable to their users. In general, superalloys have incredible high-temperature strength and resist the extreme environments they’re exposed to. They also have a smaller grain boundary than regular alloys, which prevents them from becoming brittle.
In other words, when more typically used metals aren’t durable enough, superalloys can get the job done.
Special Properties of Inconel Material
Inconel material is known for performing well, even as it reaches its melting point. Its microstructure and physical properties allow an Inconel alloy to have excellent corrosion resistance and oxidation resistance compared to other metals.
These special properties are why Inconel Strip & Shaped Wire are widely used by stampers, and manufacturers producing parts for a wide range of industries. It's also one of the most common powdered metals used in additive manufacturing.
Uses and Applications of Inconel Superalloys
Many industries requiring extremely strong material tend to gravitate toward metals like a titanium or stainless steel alloy. However, thanks to their versatility, Inconel material and other superalloys are gaining traction and are often the best choice for certain applications.
Common Uses for Inconel Alloys
Inconel alloys are commonly used in applications where thermal expansion occurs due to high temperatures. Thanks to their extreme temperature resistance, Inconel material is a core component of automotive parts, the aerospace industry, marine applications, and the oil and gas industry.
Each Inconel alloy has its own strengths and characteristics, so it’s important to understand the differences in order to choose the right one for your application.
Applications for Different Types of Inconel Alloys
Although a nickel-based superalloy like Inconel has all sorts of applications, there are different types of Inconel alloys—and each has its own unique properties. Here are a few of the Inconel superalloys that Ulbrich works with:
- Inconel 600 (Nickel Alloy 600) resists oxidation and corrosion cracking and is found in furnace components.
- Inconel 601 (Nickel Alloy 601) in which the addition of aluminum enhances the performance in high temperatures. It’s frequently used in gasoline engines and in the power generation field.
- Inconel 625 (Nickel Alloy 625) has ultimate tensile strength thanks to a hardened microstructure. It’s used for everything from propulsion motors to marine components.
- Inconel 690 (Nickel Alloy 690) which contains high chromium that increases its resistance to salt water, is common in marine applications.
- Inconel 718 (Nickel Alloy 718) is more flexible than other Inconel material, thanks to the additives it contains, and is commonly found in jet engines and other high-temperature applications.
Learning the various applications helps you understand the advantages of Inconel superalloys. So, are there any disadvantages?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Inconel Superalloys
Like any material, Inconel superalloys have a wide range of advantages—but also a few disadvantages. If you’re not sure which material is best, just rely on the Ulbrich Team to help you through!
Advantages of Superalloys
The elements mixed to produce superalloys create an alloy with premium physical and mechanical properties. They become stronger. They’re more resistant to corrosion, oxidation, and high temperatures. Thus, they’re invaluable to industries like power generation.
Costs of Inconel Superalloys
Inconel alloys tend to be more expensive than basic steel or iron. However, their physical properties far outweigh cheaper alternatives. For example, you can build a bridge with steel, but you wouldn’t trust it to hold up to the extreme environment of a gas turbine. That’s a much more intense, specialized application better suited for Inconel material!
Disadvantages of Inconel Superalloys
Cost can be one disadvantage of Inconel superalloys.
Another potential downside of a nickel alloy is how challenging it can be to work with. Inconel's high strength and excellent corrosion resistance properties make it an ideal material for use in extreme environments. However, these same properties also make it challenging to stamp and deep draw, as it can be prone to cracking, wrinkling, or tearing during manufacturing processes.
In addition, Inconel's high hardness can cause excessive wear on stamping or deep drawing tools, leading to shorter tool life and increased manufacturing costs. Therefore, special care must be taken when stamping or deep drawing Inconel to ensure that the final product meets your desired specifications.
The Difference between Nimonic and Inconel Alloys
As durable as Inconel material is under pressure, if you’re working with gas turbines or internal combustion engines, you might also consider a Nimonic alloy.
Like Inconel, Nimonic is a nickel superalloy discovered through materials science that resists heat and corrosion. Both compounds are popular across many industries that require great performance under extreme conditions. However, there are some key differences, including:
- Inconel contains nickel, chromium, and iron; Nimonic generally contains at least 50 percent nickel, 20 percent chromium, and other elements like titanium and aluminum.
- Nimonic has slightly more tensile strength at high temperatures, but Inconel has higher corrosion resistance when exposed to salt water and chemicals.
- Due to its chromium content, Inconel tends to be more expensive than Nimonic.
Choosing the right superalloy for your unique application is vitally important, so let the precision metal experts help!
How to Choose the Right Inconel Superalloy
As the leader in precision metals since 1924, Ulbrich Stainless Steel has the expertise you need to choose the right Inconel superalloy for your unique application. We offer a variety of nickel-based alloys in a range of shapes and sizes, and we’re here to guide and educate you on each of them.
Contact us to learn more about the products we offer—and the cutting-edge technology that we’ll use to customize your material's properties.