Processing Metals

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Processing Metals

Metal processing involves a series of steps to transform raw metal materials into usable products.

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  • Metal ores are extracted from the earth's crust through mining.
    • Depending on the type of metal, mining methods include open-pit mining, underground mining, and placer mining.
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Crushing and grinding

  • The extracted ores are crushed and ground into smaller particles.
    • This facilitates further processing.
  • Crushing and grinding increase the surface area of the ore.
    • This allows for more efficient extraction of the metal.
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  • The desired metal is usually present in the ore with other minerals.
  • Concentration techniques are employed to separate the valuable metal from the rest of the ore.
    • For example, froth flotation, gravity separation, and magnetic separation.
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  • Smelting is the process of extracting the metal from its concentrated ore by melting it in a furnace.
  • Smelting reduces the metal oxide to its elemental form using a reducing agent.
    • An example of a reducing agent would be carbon monoxide.
  • Smelting separates the impurities and produces a metal-rich product.
    • The metal-rich product is called the 'matte' or 'bullion'.
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  • The matte or bullion obtained from smelting might contain impurities.
    • These impurities need to be removed to achieve the desired metal purity.
  • Refining techniques are used to remove impurities like sulphur, carbon, or other metals.
    • Refining techniques include electrolysis, fractional crystallisation, and chemical processes.

Processing Metals

Metal processing involves a series of steps to transform raw metal materials into usable products. The specific process can vary depending on the type of metal.

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Shaping and forming

  • After the metal has been purified, it can be shaped and formed into the desired product.
  • Shaping and forming techniques include:
    • Casting.
    • Forging.
    • Rolling.
    • Extrusion.
    • Machining.
  • These techniques allow for the metal to be moulded, shaped, or cut into specific forms and dimensions.
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Heat treatment

  • Heat treatment processes are employed to enhance the metal's properties.
    • For example, hardness, strength, and ductility.
  • Heat treatment processes involve annealing, tempering, and quenching.
    • By heating and cooling the metal, these processes achieve the desired mechanical properties.
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Surface Treatment

  • Surface treatments are applied to improve the metal's appearance.
  • Surface treatments also improve the metal's resistance to corrosion.
  • Surface treatment processes include:
    • Plating.
    • Painting.
    • Powder coating.
    • Anodizing, and galvanising.
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Assembly and finishing

  • Metal components are usually assembled with other materials to create a finished product.
  • Assembly processes involve:
    • Welding.
    • Soldering.
    • Fastening.
    • Adhesive bonding.
  • After assembly, final finishing processes are applied to enhance the aesthetics and protect the metal.
    • Finishing processes include polishing and coating.

Jump to other topics

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4Metal: Specialist Technical Principles

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6Textiles: Specialist Technical Principles

7Designing & Making Principles

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