How do scrap yards know what types of metals they are buying? That is a common question that many scrappers have asked us in the past and it is a valid one to ask. Knowing what metals that you are selling is, well…kind of a big deal. Now, we know that your scrap yard will know what copper, brass, and aluminum grades are, but what about when you get into different metals like stainless steel and carbide?
Old Methods Die Hard: Spark Test
There used to be a method called the spark test and this was how scrap yards were able to figure out what
metals were for so many years. This spark test was done and the color, intensity, and consistency of the sparks that came off of it is how the scrap yard would be able to get a much better idea about the alloy that they were buying.
Technology Has Taken Over
As all technology has evolved over the last few decades, a new invention or innovation (depending on how you look at it) has evolved, and that is the XRF Analyzer. These tools are incredible useful (but expensive) and will leave little to no doubt about what metal that you have while selling it to your scrap yard.
What Is An XRF Analyzer?
An XRF (X-ray fluorescence) analyzer are tools used often in the scrap metal industry to determine types of metals by passing florescent x-rays off the metal sample and provides a breakdown of elements inside the material.
XRF’s are not a common tool for scrappers with their cost being in the tens of thousands of dollar range, but they are fairly common in the scrap yard world. Scrap yards will invest a lot of money in tools because they will become essential to their day-to-day operations and that will help you and your scrap needs out as well.
If you have a material that you think may be a unique alloy or metal and your scrap yard used one of these tools, then you should be able to get them to analyze the metal and help you learn more about what you have.
What Can The Analyzer Read?
The analyzer will be able to read almost all types of metals that you have from grades of aluminum to grades of tungsten scrap. There are so many types and grades of metals that unless the metal has a stamping on it (which is rare), you won’t be able to tell just by looking at it. For example, stainless steel 304 and stainless steel 316 look identical, even to the trained eye of scrap yard owners….but 316 stainless will be worth a lot more money if you are able to identify it.
Now….know and abusing that your yard has an analyzer are two different things. If you have one or two pieces of metal and won’t be getting any more of it anytime soon we suggest just selling it like it is. You don’t want to aggravate the scrap yard managers so they don’t try to help you anymore.
How Do The XRF’s Work?
The XRFs shoot small amounts of radiation into the metal which helps to learn the composition of it. By learning the composition you will be able to see if it is 100% aluminum or maybe it has some copper mixed into it….but what it does is it gives you an exact idea. The exact science behind it is not easy, but know that they are very accurate and will help you learn and make money.
One of the biggest things to do for the analyzers is to make sure that the area that they are zapping is clean. Either by using a grinding wheel or a cut off end is the best way to ensure that.