Stellite

Stellite

Stellite alloy is a range of cobalt-chromium alloys designed for wear resistance. It may also contain tungsten and a small but important amount of carbon. It is a trademarked name of the Deloro Stellite Company and was invented by Elwood Haynes in the early 1900s as a substitute for flatware that stained (or that had to be constantly cleaned).

Properties

Stellite alloy is a completely non-magnetic and non-corrosive cobalt alloy. There are a number of Stellite alloys, with various compositions optimised for different uses. Information is available from the manufacturer, Deloro Stellite, outlining the composition of a number of Stellite alloys and their intended applications. The alloy currently most suited for cutting tools, for example, is Stellite 100, because this alloy is quite hard, maintains a good cutting edge even at high temperature, and resists hardening and annealing due to heat. Other alloys are formulated to maximize combinations of wear resistance, corrosion resistance, or ability to withstand extreme temperatures.

Stellite alloys display astounding hardness and toughness, and are also usually very resistant to corrosion. Stellite alloys are so hard that they are very difficult to machine, and anything made from them is, as a result, very expensive. Typically a Stellite part will be very precisely cast so that only minimal machining will be necessary. Machining of Stellite is more often done by grinding, rather than by cutting. Stellite alloys also tend to have extremely high melting points due to the cobalt and chromium content.

Applications

Typical applications include saw teeth, hardfacing, and acid-resistant machine parts. Stellite was a major improvement in the production of poppet valves and valve seats in internal combustion engines; by reducing wear in them, the competing slide-valve design was driven from the market. The first third of M60 machine gun barrels (starting from the chamber) are lined with Stellite. In the early 1980s, experiments were done in the United Kingdom to make artificial hip joints and other bone replacements out of precision-cast Stellite alloys.

Stellite has also been used in the manufacture of turning tools for lathes. With the introduction and improvements in tipped tools it is not used as often any more, but it was found to have superior cutting properties compared to the early carbon steel tools and even some high speed steel tools, especially against difficult materials such as stainless steel. Care was needed in grinding the blanks and these were marked at one end to show the correct orientation, without which the cutting edge could chip prematurely.

While Stellite remains the material of choice for certain internal parts in industrial process valves (valve seat hardfacing), its use has been discouraged in nuclear power plants. In piping that can communicate with the reactor, tiny amounts of Stellite would be released into the process fluid and eventually enter the reactor. There the cobalt would be activated by the neutron flux in the reactor and become cobalt-60, a radioisotope with a five year half life that releases very energetic gamma rays. While not a hazard to the general public, about a third to a half of nuclear worker exposures could be traced to the use of Stellite and to trace amounts of cobalt in stainless steels. Replacements for Stellite have been developed by the industry, such as the Electric Power Research Institute’s “NOREM”, that provide acceptable performance without cobalt. Since the United States nuclear power industry has begun to replace the Stellite valve seat hardfacing in the late 1970s and to tighten specifications of cobalt in stainless steels, worker exposures due to cobalt-60 have dropped significantly.

Varieties

Talonite is an alloy similar to Stellite which has been hot-rolled and hardened in a particular way, to provide a combination of hardness, wear resistance and machinability. Not all Stellite alloys respond to this process.

Notes

External links

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