Nickel suppliers provide high purity nickel and nickel alloys, which share characteristics such as malleability, somewhat ferromagnetic, hardness, ductility, and electrical and heat-conductivity, to diverse companies for further processing. A silvery white metal, nickel suppliers provide nickel in a variety of forms such as sheet, rods, foil, bars, plates, wire and mesh. Since nickel must be mined from the earth, its original ore form is processed through extractive metallurgy.
The most common use of nickel after it has undergone extractive metallurgy is in the production of stainless steel. As a result, nickel suppliers typically supply to stainless steel and low alloy steel foundries and chemical companies. Electroplating is the second most common use for nickel behind stainless steel because nickel alloys are resistant to both rust and oxidation, and can be plated on many different surfaces.
Also able to perform electroless nickel plating, applications include electronic connectors, automobile trim, and bathroom fittings. In addition, most also supply nickel and nickel alloys in a broad range of forms, with the ability to forge nickel alloys into shapes including flat bars, rings or disks for the aerospace, automotive, medical, food service and many other industries with applications including guitar string, magnets, coinage, rechargeable batteries and more.
Nickel suppliers typically provide a broad spectrum of nickel alloys. Often alloyed with metals including with copper, chromium, lead, silver, cobalt, gold and aluminum, the amount of nickel in these alloys can vary from 32.5% to 99.5%. However, there are some alloys that are more common than others, and will be more regularly supplied on a stock basis rather than a specialty order.
Defined as metal alloys in which nickel is the most prominent element, nickel alloys are typically categorized in four main group: low-expansion alloys, electrical resistance alloys, soft magnetic alloys, and shape memory alloys. Electrical resistance alloys can be further broken down into two sub-categories: resistance alloys and heating alloys.
Low expansion alloys are nickel alloys that are specifically engineered to have low thermal expansion and include Invar, Kovar, Inconel 718, nickel-cobalt alloys and nickel alloy 625. Electric resistance alloys are nickel alloys with a high nickel content and include alloys such as Nichrome and copper-nickel alloys.
Soft magnetic alloys are nickel alloys with high magnetic permeability and low saturation induction including iron-nickel alloys. Shape memory alloys are nickel alloys that are capable of returning to their prior shape upon undergoing the appropriate heating schedule such as copper-aluminum-nickel alloys and nickel-titanium alloys.