The Equipment Found In Modern Metallurgy Labs

Metallurgy is rather unfamiliar to the layperson, but it impacts nearly everybody’s lives in countless ways. Some 90% of all products in the United States contain some form of cast metal component in one form or another. In order to create metal components that can stand up to the tasks they are intended to perform, producers must be able to accurately assess the properties of the metal they will potentially use. Metallurgy is the analysis and investigation of metals in order to determine their properties. Metallurgical labs largely work for private industry: being hired by clients that want to know the specific properties of a metal. Aerospace, automotive and engineering groups frequently hire metallurgical labs to perform tests on potential construction materials. Legal teams frequently use metallurgists as expert witnesses when trying to prove that a product has been improperly or unsafely made.

Metallurgy labs contain lots of specialist equipment. Here is a quick guide to some of the machines found in a typical metallurgy lab.

Induction Furnaces

In order to correctly test metals and cast them into shapes for effective testing, they have to be melted. Many metals have extremely high melting points. Laboratory-grade induction furnaces are most commonly used in laboratory settings due to their energy efficiency and ability to melt metals without potentially alloying them with materials present in combusting fuels. Induction furnaces do not rely on combustion to create heat. Instead, they rely on an effect called an eddy current, which is produced when a conductive material is surrounded by a coil through which an alternating current is passed. Check out for more information on how induction furnaces are used in metallurgy labs.


Autoclaves are essential in the extraction of metals from ores that they are very tightly bonded to. These machines are essentially extremely powerful pressure cookers. They use high-pressure steam to create chemical reactions that ‘leach’ the payload metals out of the ore that contains them. Most metallurgical laboratories contain small autoclaves that are only capable of extracting small amounts of metal for testing. Industrial refining installations, on the other hand, can have autoclaves the size of school buses that cost millions of dollars to fabricate.

Analytical Balances

Analytical balances are extremely sensitive scales that can measure even the tiniest variation in mass. This is very important in the analysis of metallurgical samples. Analytical balances have enclosed weighing pans – preventing foreign materials from interfering with the weight of a sample. Even a speck of dust that is allowed to settle on a sample could alter the reading given.

Scanning Electron Microscopes

Scanning electron microscopes can create images representing the microscopic makeup of a metal sample in great detail. They pass a beam of electrons over a target – which then bounces back onto a sensor and provides topographical information that can be visualized with the aid of a computer. Scanning electron microscopes are used to investigate metallurgical sample integrity. These microscopes allow for the creation of detailed images with a clear depth to them.

Ruskin Brodkin

Ruskin Brodkin writes for She is a graduate in journalism from the University of Maryland. Ruskin currently lives in Brooklyn, and she previously worked as a Television Producer on BBA International's Squawk Box Europe. Ruskin has also been a movies reporter for Radio New Zealand.

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