How to Choose the Right Material for Your Handwheel


Monroe Engineering handwheel

When buying a handwheel, you’ll need to choose the right material. A handwheel is a wheel-shaped mechanical component that’s operated via manual turning. Like the steering wheel in a vehicle, you grip a handwheel and turn it to the side. Handwheels, of course, aren’t used for steering. They are used for industrial applications, such as opening and closing a valve or making adjustments to a machine. So, what material should you choose for a handwheel?

Aluminum

Aluminum handwheels offer several benefits. They weigh less than handwheels made of most other materials, and they offer greater protection against corrosion. Aluminum, in fact, is immune to rust. Only iron and iron alloys can rust. With its corrosion-resistant properties — as well as their lightweight construction — aluminum is a versatile choice of material for a handwheel.

Plastic

Handwheels are available in plastic. Like aluminum, plastic is lightweight. Plastic is also resistant to all forms of corrosion, including rust. Furthermore, plastic is naturally resistant to solvents, oils, greases and other harsh chemicals. The downside is that plastic is weaker and less durable than other materials. As a result, plastic handwheels are often used to control a valve. For making adjustments to a machine, metal handwheels are typically used.

Duroplastic

Along with traditional plastic, some handwheels are made of duroplastic. Duroplastic is type of reinforced plastic. It consists of traditional plastic that’s bound with nylon or glass fibers. These fibers work to strengthen the plastic. Duroplastic handwheels are similar to plastic handwheels. Because they contain nylon or glass fibers, though, they are stronger and more durable.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel handwheels are a popular choice. Stainless steel is an iron alloy with corrosion-inhibiting properties. It’s comprised mostly of iron with roughly 11% chromium. When it’s exposed to oxygen, stainless steel develops a layer of chromium oxide to protect against corrosion. Perhaps the most notable feature of stainless steel, however, is its strength. It’s stronger than aluminum, plastic, duroplastic and many other handwheel materials.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is a common material in which handwheels are made. Cast iron is an iron alloy that’s comprised of at least 2% carbon. While it offers minimal protection against corrosion, it’s particularly strong. Cast iron, in fact, is stronger than stainless steel. Both cast iron and stainless steel handwheels are popular choices for making adjustments to machines. Cast iron is simply heavier and stronger, whereas stainless steel is lighter and offers better protection against corrosion.

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