Steel is one of the hardest and most stable metals that are known to man. It is no wonder that steel finds usage in practically all facets of our day to day life. Over the years, more than 3500 grades of steel have been discovered which are characterized by different chemical, physical and environmental properties. Steel is mainly an alloy compound made up of combination of iron and carbon. The amounts of carbon, as well as other alloying elements and impurities, determine the physical and chemical properties of various grades of steel.
There are mainly four different types of steel that are used all over the world. Let’s have a closer look at them.
Carbon steels are made of small amounts of different types of alloying elements. They are used for 90% of overall steel production. The carbon steels can also be further classified into three different groups according to their carbon content, namely, low carbon steels, medium carbon steels and high carbon steels.
The low carbon steels or mild steels are comprised of a maximum of 0.3% carbon. The medium carbon steels include carbon anywhere between 0.3% and 0.6%. All specimens of high carbon steels are known to contain carbon in excess of 0.6%. Carbon steels are often used for making structural components such as bridges, buildings, axles, shafts, rails, pipelines, gears, couplings, fridges, cars and washing machines. The high carbon steels typically have greater tensile strength and can be used for making cutting tools, high-strength wires, blades, dies, punches and springs.
The alloy steels are comprised of numerous alloying elements such as silicon, manganese, nickel, copper, titanium, aluminum and chromium in diverse proportions which helps to manipulate and customize the properties of the steel, such as its corrosion resistance, robustness, strength, weldability, formability and ductility. Alloy steels find applications in numerous sectors and areas, such as in the manufacturing of pipelines, transformers, auto parts, electric motors and power generators.
Stainless steels most contain copious amounts of chromium between 10% and 20% as the primary alloying element. This form of steel is greatly valued for its high resistance to corrosion.
Stainless steel having more than 11% chromium is more than 200 times more resistant to rust and corrosion than the mild steel. Some of the items made with stainless steel include kitchen utensils, food processing equipment, knives, piping systems, cutting tools, surgical and dental care equipment.
Tool steels are comprised of molybdenum, tungsten, vanadium and cobalt in different quantities which help in increasing the durability and heat resistance, thereby making them perfect for making drilling and cutting equipment. Some of the items that can be made with tool steels include long or tubular products like rails, rods and bars, angles, wires, shapes, pipes and sections. They also find usage in the production of flat items like include sheets, plates, strips and coils. They are primarily used in making automotive parts, packaging systems, appliances, construction products and shipbuilding. Other products that can be made with tool steels are fittings, valves, and flanges.