Sterling Silver: How strong is it?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Plasticdreaming, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. Plasticdreaming
    Plasticdreaming New Member
    I've been tempted to have certain projects made in Shapeways sterling silver as opposed to stainless steel due to silvers smoother surface quality. My only hesitation has been due to the "strength" of the material. Using Shapeways materials listings it shows as only slightly less strong than stainless steel but what does that translate into in the real world?

    For instance i have an idea of how Shapeways steel compares to machinable aluminum in strength .

    I'd love some insight from members who have projects made of both materials.
  2. GlenG
    GlenG New Member
    I suggest you do a quick Wikipedia search for a basic explanation of what the "strength" of a material really means. It is in fact a combination of several factors that need to be considered and balanced when structural strength is a concern. The overall design of a part and it's intended application also must be taken into consideration. For example: a properly designed truss structure will be stronger and lighter than a solid beam.
    As to the difference between silver and the SS print medium. SS is closer to cast steel than to aluminum. It is more brittle than aluminum in thin unsupported sections but it is much stronger under compression. Silver is closer to copper or soft aluminum. Metal terms to discover are: yield point, elongation, and tensile strength.
  3. Youknowwho4eva
    Youknowwho4eva Shapeways Employee Community Team
    Along with what Glen already said, I'd compare silver to a Paperclip. It'll flex, and bend, and deform. I haven't broken a piece, but it feels it may be easier to break than aluminum of the same thickness. Of course it's a lot easier to try to break a 10 cent paperclip than a $50 silver print :p
  4. Plasticdreaming
    Plasticdreaming New Member
    Thank you both for your replies :).

    You've mentioned my true reason for asking the initial question: compression (strength). I was going to use the terms yield point, elongation and tensile strength but thought better of it as i didnt want to scare individuals away that actually owned silver but weren't familiar with those terms or related testing methods. The compression "strength" of sterling silver is what i'd like to find out (a number) but i've had difficulty finding it. The others are available though. If you know please share :)

    Also Glen when you mention "soft aluminum" are you excluding 60 series (6061 , 6063) aluminum or would you consider those soft? How would you compare shapeways sterling silver to either of those if your familiar with them?
    Thank you :)
    This is the type of "real world" answer i was looking for more or less . Like you mentioned indirectly i'm wondering what the strength of a larger/thicker piece might be . If i could find data revealing the compression strength that would help a great deal.

    What type of model do you have that is made of silver? Size? shape?

    The information would be greatly appreciated.

    Again thank you both.

    Last edited: Jan 23, 2012
  5. Roy_Stevens
    Roy_Stevens New Member
    Metals are nearly identical in tension and compression. So the yield strength is your number. Compare this with something you're familiar with, such as 6061 aluminum.
    6061-T6: 275 MPa
    Sterling silver: 124 MPa
    6061 no heat treatment: 125 MPa
  6. Plasticdreaming
    Plasticdreaming New Member
    Knowledge rules supreme .

    Your my latest best friend :)

    Thank you very much for that insight. It is very helpful.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  7. GlenG
    GlenG New Member
    Johnny & Plas,
    First let me say I am NOT a formally trained metallurgist or materials engineer. So help me understand how you can say "metals are nearly identical in tension"? Are you saying a silver wire under tension is equal in strength to an equivalent diameter steel wire? Surely not.

    As I said in my first reply to the original question, the matter of actual strength of any finished part is always combination of many factors. Foremost in determing the suitability of any material is what/how the part/parts are intended to function. You can read all the charts and data til you are blue in the face and still come up with the wrong answer. If you want to understand the comparative nature of metals or any material, go get some sample materials and play around with them. Take a hammer to them, grind them, file them, melt/burn them. Then most of what you need to know will be revealed.

    Tensile Strength of Metals and alloys

    Name - -Tenacity Tons per sq. in.-
    Manganese steel, cast 38
    Aluminum Bronze 25
    Phosphor bronze, cast 15 to 16
    Muntz Metal 20
    Malleable cast iron 15
    Copper, wire 25
    Copper, Sheet and Bolt 15
    Copper, cast 10
    Gun-Metal 12
    Brass 10
    Zinc 3
    Cast Lead 1½
    Aluminum, wrought, not annealed 14.7
    Ditto, annealed 6.0
  8. stannum
    stannum Well-Known Member
    He said the same in tension and compression cases, for the same material, not that silver is the same than steel. Concrete is not the same in tension than in compression, it's a lot stronger in compression case.
  9. GlenG
    GlenG New Member
    Ahh, yes of course, very few exceptions with metals. Actually the SS print media suffers similarly to concrete, or cast iron, in being significantly stronger in compression than in tension. This is where part design becomes an important factor.
  10. Plasticdreaming
    Plasticdreaming New Member
    In my application compression is absolutely the most important factor and between the information Johnnylingo provided (or more specifically my interpretation of it), additional research into relatively soft production metals that i've done and Shapeways own Christel (your greatly appreciated! And your associates insight as well! ) i've confirmed my assumptions regarding sterling silver.

    Thank you again everyone that chimed in!