The Advantages and Disadvantages of Common Pipe Fabrication Materials

June 26, 2015

There are many common metal alloys used for pipe fabrication in modern industrial manufacturing, each presenting unique advantages and disadvantages. Chrome, carbon steel, nickel, titanium, and stainless steel are all examples of materials which are frequently utilized throughout a wide spectrum of applications, depending on their individual physical properties.

Many common traits exist between alloys, sometimes making it difficult to discern exactly which material is best suited to a certain project. However, detailed research will reveal the subtle differences which set these metals apart from one another, making it quite possible to isolate the ideal choice in any situation.

Chrome Molybdenum

The word alloy describes a type of material made up of two or more metals, as is the case with chromium molybdenum. Known under a wide range of titles including chrome moly, chromalloy, and CrMo, this type of alloy delivers high strength and durability, resistance against corrosion and impact, and easier fabrication compared with many other similar materials.

While different products feature varying mechanical and chemical characteristics, chrome-moly pipes are frequently used in situations where very high temperatures may occur. Applications include ducting work, boiler components, heat exchangers, flanges, valves, and pressure vessels among many others. Although this type of alloy provides strong rigidity and resistance against wear, it is often expensive to manufacture and process, a reflection of its high performance capability.

Nickel Alloy

There are several grades of nickel alloy available, each with different properties that make them more or less suitable for specific environments. Although the manufacturing process is fairly complex when compared against other materials, the returns can be substantial. Compared with several other common metal alloys used for pipe fabrication, nickel products can offer strong resistance to corrosion, heat, and related thermal expansion.

Nickel alloy requires the purest raw materials during manufacturing in order to ensure the greatest possible product integrity. Depending on the concentration of the makeup materials, different grades of the material will be produced. For example, 625 tubing can include between 20 and 30 percent chromium for improved heat resistance. In cases where materials will be exposed to salt water, 400 grade nickel alloy is more desirable for its copper content.


Another material offering quality performance against seawater-related corrosion is titanium, widely considered a premiere choice for use in power station condensers. Its high strength-to-weight ratio provides capable rigidity and durability even with a thinner-walled construction, which also allows for efficient heat transfer without compromising overall strength.

Moreover, titanium’s natural resistance to corrosion provides for easy maintenance and cleaning processes. The long-lasting durability extends the life of fabricated pipes as well as those products which they are integrated into.

Carbon Steel

There are a host of benefits offered by carbon steel, beginning with its status as one of the most environmentally-friendly metal alloys. It boasts one of the highest recycling rates of any reusable material, accounting for more weight than recycled glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum products in total. Heightening the eco-benefits, roughly 50 percent of all new carbon steel produced is done so in facilities which utilize reclaimed materials.

Carbon steel is also very durable and relatively low-cost when compared with some of the other common metal alloys used for pipe fabrication, with allowance for thinner walls without a noticeable sacrifice of strength. It provides great resistance to shock and vibrations, making it ideal for industrial construction projects.

Stainless Steel

Last and certainly not least, stainless steel delivers a range of benefits for many applications. Like many competing materials, it provides high strength without the need for dense weight. It offers quality resistance against many natural threats, such as ultraviolet rays and extreme temperatures. Stainless steel also resists corrosion well without the need for additional linings or coatings to protect it.

Similar to carbon, stainless steel is green-friendly. It is fully recyclable, and as much as half of all new materials are manufactured using reclaimed scrap in the United States. One can find this type of alloy in several different grades, with various capabilities to suit different types of needs.

As an example, type 304 stainless is a popular choice when strong chemical- and corrosion-resistance is desired. However, in situations where high-temperature exposure or welding is necessary, type 304L would make a better choice as it is lower in carbon content. This prevents the problem of carbide precipitation which exists for type 304 when temperatures exceed 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Selecting the Best Material for the Application

In the end, the metal alloy selected you select will depend upon several engineering application and design factors. Consider The sometimes harsh industrial environment of a specific process will often mandate the necessary resistance to corrosion, impact damage, and extreme temperatures (both hot and cold). Materials such as titanium offer high strength without heavy weight, but that type of performance often comes at additional cost. Our shop and field pipe fabrication is built and delivered per client’s contract specifications using the highest quality pipe material for each particular project. You can be assured of compliance using STI Group as your partner for all your pipe fabrication needs.