Inconel

Inconel

[ing-kuh-nel]
Inconel is a registered trademark of Special Metals Corporation that refers to a family of austenitic nickel-based superalloys. Inconel alloys are typically used in high temperature applications. It is often referred to in English as "Inco" (or occasionally "Iconel").

Properties

Inconel alloys are oxidation and corrosion resistant materials well suited for service in extreme environments. When heated, Inconel forms a thick, stable, passivating oxide layer protecting the surface from further attack. Inconel retains strength over a wide temperature range, attractive for high temperature applications where aluminum and steel would succumb to creep as a result of thermally-induced crystal vacancies (see Arrhenius equation). Inconel's high temperature strength is developed by solid solution strengthening or precipitation strengthening, depending on the alloy. In age hardening or precipitation strengthening varieties, small amounts of niobium combine with nickel to form the intermetallic compound Ni3Nb or gamma prime (γ'). Gamma prime forms small cubic crystals that inhibit slip and creep effectively at elevated temperatures.

Machining

Inconel is a difficult metal to shape and machine using traditional techniques due to rapid work hardening. After the first machining pass, work hardening tends to elastically deform either the workpiece or the tool on subsequent passes. For this reason, age-hardened Inconels such as 718 are machined using an aggressive but slow cut with a hard tool, minimizing the number of passes required. Alternatively, the majority of the machining can be performed with the workpiece in a solutionised form, with only the final steps being performed after age-hardening. External threads are machined using a lathe to "single point" the threads, or by rolling the threads using a screw machine. Holes with internal threads are made by welding or brazing threaded inserts made of stainless steel. Cutting of plate is often done with a waterjet cutter. Internal threads can also be cut by single point method on lathe, or by threadmilling on machining center. New whisker reinforced ceramic cutters are also used to machine nickel alloys. They remove material at a rate typically 8X faster than carbide cutters.

Joining

Welding inconel alloys is difficult due to cracking and microstructural segregation of alloying elements in the heat affected zone. However, several alloys have been designed to overcome these problems. The most common way to weld inconel is by using a TIG welder with the appropriate filler metal.

Uses

Inconel is often encountered in extreme environments. It is common in gas turbine blades, seals, and combustors, as well as turbocharger rotors and seals, high temperature fasteners, chemical processing and pressure vessels, heat exchanger tubing, steam generators in nuclear pressurized water reactors, natural gas progessing with contaminants such as H2S and CO2, firearm sound suppressor blast baffles, and Formula One exhaust systems.

North American Aviation constructed the skin of the X-15 rocket plane out of an Inconel alloy known as "Inconel X".

Inconel alloys

  • Inconel 600: Solid solution strengthened
  • Inconel 625: Acid resistant, good weldability
  • Inconel 690: Low cobalt content for nuclear applications
  • Inconel 718: Gamma double prime strengthened with good weldability
  • Inconel 939: Gamma prime strengthened with good weldability

References

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