Material handling baskets can have a surprisingly large impact on the efficiency of your company’s parts finishing processes. A well-designed basket is effective at keeping parts safe from damage, and is often useful for a variety of processes.
Many manufacturers rely on plastic baskets for their parts handling needs for a variety of reasons, including low initial cost and the availability of softer surfaces that are less likely to scratch parts.
However, using steel fabrications for material handling baskets can provide a number of benefits that outweigh the benefits of using plastic.
What are these benefits?
Here’s a short list:
1: Higher Load Capacity
On average, steel has a much higher tensile strength than plastic. Just how much higher depends on what specific steel alloy you use and the exact plastic polymer you’re comparing it to.
The higher tensile strength of steel allows baskets made from this material to handle loads that would crush a frame made of plastic.
For example, as cited on the Precision Steel website, type 301 annealed steel has a minimum tensile strength of 90,000 PSI (pounds per square inch), or about 620 MPa (Megapascals). Compare this to the tensile strength of a polymide + glass fiber polymer which, according to Matweb’s Material Property Data chart, is 150 MPa, or about 21,755 PSI.
Type 301 annealed steel is one of the weaker steel alloys, and it’s still four times as strong as one of the toughest polymers on the market.
2: Heat Resistance
There are a number of plastic polymers that are marketed as being “heat resistant.” However, compared to steel, even a heat resistant plastic isn’t very resistant to heat at all.
For example, there’s a polymer called VespelÒ from DupontÒ that can take temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius) without melting, and has an operational temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 Celsius).
As high as this limit is, it’s nothing compared to the melting point of a basic stainless steel alloy, which is about 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit (1,363 degrees Celsius). This makes steel more than three times as tough to melt as a leading “heat resistant” polymer.
This allows material handling baskets made from steel to be used in applications that would melt a polymer basket equivalent, such as heat treating. The high temperature tolerance of steel allows baskets made from this material to pass through oven-like temperatures with ease without degrading or losing tensile strength like a plastic container would.
3: Longer Useful Life
There are a number of factors that can cause a plastic basket to fall apart, such as
- Heavier loads straining/breaking the basket’s frame
- High temperatures damaging the polymer’s bonds
- Chemicals soaking into the basket and contaminating it
- Oxygenation of the basket decaying its molecular structure
Just to name a few. These issues can weaken a plastic basket, wearing it out and shortening its useful life.
Steel baskets, on the other hand, are able to resist many of the above issues better than certain plastic polymers.
As mentioned earlier, steel has a much higher tensile strength and temperature tolerance than plastic, meaning that a basket made of steel will resist damage from heat and heavy loads better than plastic. Additionally, steel is less absorbent than plastic, so accumulated chemicals are easier to remove from steel than plastic.
Oxidation resistance can be an issue for steel and other metals with a high iron content. However, stainless steel alloys are resistant to oxidation corrosion, as the have a thin layer of oxides that prevent other oxides from attaching.
The sheer durability of steel allows steel material handling baskets to outlast plastic ones by a large margin. In many cases, the longer useful life of steel helps make steel materials handling baskets less costly to own than plastic ones over time.
For example, say that a steel basket cost $100 and lasted for 15 years of use, while a plastic equivalent cost $25 and only lasted for a year. After 15 years, your steel basket would have only cost you that $100 for a decade and a half of operations, but the plastic baskets would have cost your company $375 over that same period of time, nearly four times as much.
Steel simply makes for a tougher, longer-lasting, and more reliable materials handling basket than plastic alone.
With all the benefits that steel has to offer, it’s little wonder that it’s an ideal choice for a materials handling basket design.