Many manufacturing businesses need custom parts containers and washing baskets for their parts finishing processes. Some custom parts simply don’t fit inside of the stock baskets that might come with a given parts washing machine (if any came with the machine at all), or your old baskets might be nearing total failure.
Either way, when the time comes to order new baskets, there are many different design considerations that have to be made. One of the most important choices in the design of a custom parts washing basket is which material should be used for the basket.
With the right material choice, a basket can last for hundreds of thousands of uses in many applications, and help to reduce damage to sensitive parts. With the wrong material, a basket may prematurely fail, leading you to purchasing another all-new set of baskets sooner than you should have, racking up the avoidable expenses.
Before you make the material choice for your own custom basket, it’s important to know what kinds of materials are commonly available. To help you with this, here’s a short list of some of the most common basket materials:
A common, comparatively low-cost choice for materials handling baskets. As a material, plain steel has good tensile strength and is easy to shape.
However, there are some limitations to this material that keep it from being suitable for all applications. One such limitation is that untreated steel corrodes easily, being susceptible to oxidation. Continued exposure to outdoor conditions, salty air, or water can cause this material to rust fairly quickly.
One method for making steel more versatile is to galvanize it with a coating of protective zinc. There are two methods that are frequently used in galvanization:
Hot Dipping. A process by which the steel to be galvanized is dipped in a bath of molten zinc.
Electrogalvanization. Based on the electroplating process, this method applies a thinner layer of zinc than hot dipping.
Either way, the process of galvanization leaves a layer of zinc bonded with the surface of the steel to protect the steel from the effects of exposure to the environment. This increases the steel’s ability to handle moisture and corrosives.
One caveat to using galvanized steel is that there is an inherent danger in welding it, as the process of welding may cause some of the zinc to evaporate and release toxic fumes.
As a material, galvanized steel is suitable for applications where corrosion resistance is a must.
There are more than 300 different grades of stainless steel available on the market. Two of the most common stainless steel alloys are grade 304 and grade 316 stainless. These stainless steel alloys have high corrosion resistance, especially compared to plain steel
Different grades of stainless steel have different specific properties, but a few common benefits of stainless steel include:
Temperature tolerances ranging from -150° F to 1600° F (-101° C to 871° C).
Surface conditioning (steel is less apt to absorb oil, grease, and other solvents compared to more porous materials).
Resistance to oxidation.
High tensile strength.
Suitability for a specific application may vary based on the grade of stainless steel, but grades 304 and 316 are suitable for a wide variety of applications that involve contact with corrosives.
As with stainless steel, there are several different grades of Inconel available on the market. Inconel is a term used to refer to several austenite nickel-chromium alloys which feature strong chemical and temperature resistances.
The typical application for Inconel involves high temperatures and pressures, as this material is very strong and can withstand enormous heat and pressure.
As a material, plastic can be very cheap, once the mold and tooling costs are out of the way. There are many different specific formulas for plastic, but on average, they tend to be much softer than metal containers. This makes plastic good for applications where a part must not be scratched or damaged, as the softer plastic would absorb impacts rather than causing damage.
However, there are many problems with this material as well. For example, plastic’s softness typically makes for a weaker container, which in turn means a shorter useful life and greater likelihood of basket failure during a critical phase of the parts finishing/wash operation.
Additionally, plastics tend to have a much narrower range of temperatures that they can tolerate than steel, -60° F to 250° F (-51° C to 121° C). Some specialized plastic formulas might have a wider operational range, but most plastic baskets cannot survive extreme temperatures for long.
Plastics are also more apt to absorb oils, grease, and solvents than nonporous metals are, making them stain more easily, ruining their surface conditioning.
In many cases, the best use of plastics in a basket is as a coating for a steel wire frame, giving the basket the tensile strength of steel and the part-protecting softness of plastic.
Want to Know about other Materials for Parts Washing Baskets?
Learn more by contacting Marlin Steel, or check our guide to “Why Steel is Better than Plastic” at the link below: