Maraging steel, a competitor of titanium that couldn’t exist without it.

Maraging steels were invented to address the increased aerospace industry need for ultra-high strength materials that have good toughness. The basic concept was to create an alternate iron strengthening process that would not involve the use of carbon. The carbon is what gives steel its strength, but at the cost of losing malleability.

The solution was to develop a precipitation of inter-metallic compounds that would allow increasing the strength and toughness of iron, without experiencing the downsides of using carbon. The name of the process came from a combination of “martensic” – a structural phase in iron hardening process, and “aging” – an age treatment procedure.

The initial development came from International Nickel Company, and contained 18% nickel. Some other metallic compounds have been used since in similar processes such as cobalt, molybdenum and, of course our most endeared titanium metal.

Nowadays maraging low-carbon steels have evolved from the aerospace industry stage and are implemented in various other products. The total production is estimated between 1000 and 2000 tons per year. Though sometimes it is suggested that it would eventually replace titanium in many applications, because of its greater toughness, maraging type steel still retains irons heavy mass and can’t compete with titanium in lightness.

Due to the excellent combination of high strength and hardness, ductility and toughness combined with corrosion resistance, the stainless maraging steels are still used in critical sectors where those aspects are of great importance, such as military.

Maraging ultra high strength steels are typically applied to produce missile and rocket motor cases and propellers. Engine components such as crankshafts and gears that work at warm temperatures and the firing pins of automatic weapons that cycle from hot to cool repeatedly while under substantial loads and impacts are also made from maraging steels. Due to the fact that many military applications are impossible in the absence of this alloy, it is viewed as a strategic material and sometimes specific embargos are enacted for countries that have a high threat potential.

The most common domain where this special steel is founds is the golfing industry, to which it has been available for years. The most common use is in thin metallic face inserts in golf club heads that allow the face to flex and produce a high coefficient of restitution or rebound effect, just like the use of titanium, as a way to increase the ball velocity coming off the face. Some manufactures prefer using maraging material instead of standard titanium golf heads , as it is easily bonded to a stainless frame in fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

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