Who Do You Call When You Need a Custom Alloy: A University, a Mill or a Specialty Alloys Company?

It can be difficult to decide which type of organization to call when you need a specialty alloy, especially when you are not talking about huge quantities of alloy.  Usually, your options are to contact a university, a mill or a specialty alloys company.  All three might have the capability to make your alloy, but there are some important things to consider before you place your order.


Universities often have some impressive equipment. Sometimes, however, if the equipment was purchased for a specific project with grant money, it may not be maintained properly once that project is finished. Further, graduate students are often the ones trained to operate the equipment.  And graduate students tend to move on.  If the university does have personnel trained to operate the equipment, his or her experience with sophisticated alloy systems may be very limited.  Here are a few questions to ask before you entrust a university to make your custom alloy:

  1. Is there staff dedicated to maintaining the equipment?
  2. Are there personnel dedicated to operating the equipment?
  3. Does someone have experience with the alloys system you are interested in?


It should be a warning sign if “no”  is the answer to any of the above questions.

Depending on the complexity of your order, when you choose a university to make your custom alloy you may also need to oversee the project yourself.  Because universities are not typically one-stop-shops this may mean that you’ve got to find your own subcontractors to get your alloy to its final form.

If you’re going to work with a university you are also going to have to be flexible with their delivery schedule.  Because of priorities at universities, meeting your tight deadlines is not their strong suit.


Often a customer will want to work with a mill because they have a relationship with that company. If you feel comfortable with the people there, and they have the equipment you need, it would be a logical choice. 

It’s important to remember, though, that you may not be their first priority. Their primary reason for existence is to handle internal jobs, and that work will always take precedence over your project. This could mean that your deadline will be pushed aside because of their deadlines.  Also, they will not have anyone on staff to manage your project so you will need to oversee things yourself.

Having a mill handle your custom alloy project might work if your timeframe for delivery is flexible, you have ample time to oversee the project and you have the ability to source the subcontractors you need to get your alloy to its final form.

 Specialty Alloys Companies

I think of Sophisticated Alloys as a “mini mill” since we handle every little detail. We not only melt your material, but we can also provide all of the ancillary operations — HIP, rolling, extrusion, heat treating, machining, etc.  — the material may require.  And since we can deliver your alloy in whatever final form you choose, you will always know whether your project is staying within your budget parameters.

We are different from large mills in another important way too.   We have a range of vacuum melting furnaces that gives us the flexibility to work with you to make your prototype quantity alloy and see its development through to production quantities.

When a customer calls to request a custom composition he should know that his deadline is a top priority with us.   Whether the request is for quantities small or large Sophisticated Alloys has the equipment, the experience and the desire to make pure and precise alloys according to the customer’s schedule.

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