4 Types of Steel: What Makes Them Different?

4 Types of Steel: What Makes Them Different?

An iron alloy, steel is mainly composed of iron and amalgamated with a single or more alloying metal to create new materials with special properties. There are four major categories together with many subgroups, which serve various purposes. Its characteristics alter, based on the elements it is mixed with, and also with the techniques employed to heat or cool the metal. It is classified by its structure. Iron is intermixed with Carbon and many different elements to attain a unique form.


There are different kinds of steel and the purposes they serve also vary. They are chiefly Carbon steel, Stainless steel, Alloy steel, and Tool steel.

1. Carbon Steel

All kinds of steel contain Carbon. However, dull and matte-like Carbon steel is special, because of a conspicuous absence of other elements in its composition. Although it has just 2% or less carbon by weight, its elemental character constitutes carbon steel to be a very tough, rugged, and durable metal suitable for countless purposes. Carbon steel is often mixed up with cast iron, though it contains more than 2% carbon, which gives it a rough texture and makes it more brittle. Carbon steel does not have an alloy categorization since there is an absence of other alloying elements in its makeup. It’s popular because of its simplicity. It also explains why 90% of all steel produced is carbon steel.

Carbon steel may be classified as,

Low carbon – It has a carbon content of 0.01 to 0.03%. This one is the most common and affordable. It has high ductility and can be stretched under strain without breaking. Carbon steel is generally used to make pipes, wires, bolts, vehicle bodies, fencing, etc. 

Medium carbon – It has a carbon content of 0.3 to 0.6%. It has higher strength, hardness, and lower ductility than the low-carbon variety. Medium carbon is used to make gears, axles, shafts, railway tracks, household appliances, etc.

High carbon – Carbon content in this variety is between 0.6 to 1.4%. This one is the hardest type, and more resistant to scratching, denting, and breaking. Due to its tensile strength, it’s used to manufacture sharp cutting tools like blades, punches, and springs.

2. Stainless Steel

It’s the most frequently utilized metal in the household. Due to a high concentration of Chromium in the composition, it’s highly corrosion-repellent. Stainless steel can also be very easily cleaned, polished, and sterilized.

Stainless steel can be classified as,

Austenitic – It contains around 18% Chromium and high amounts of Nickel. This form of stainless steel is mostly used to make kitchen appliances and food processing equipment.

Ferritic – It has about 12 to 17% Chromium and a little Nickel in its composition. Titanium and Molybdenum may be present too. It’s mainly used in automotive applications and the manufacturing of industrial equipment.

Martensitic – It has about 11 to 17% Carbon and some Nickel in its makeup. It’s usually found in surgical equipment, pliers, and cutlery. 

3. Alloy Steel

Alloy steel has various other elements in its composition, like Aluminium, Boron, Copper, Lead, silicon, Nickel, Chromium, and Titanium to build a metal with exclusive desired properties. Low alloy steel contains around 1 to 5% alloying elements while high alloy steel has 5 to 50% of them. This form of steel is used in many industries due to its increased strength, wear resistance, and toughness. Alloy steel is also popular because of its low cost, widespread availability, and convenient processing. It’s used to manufacture heavy-duty pipes needed for oil and gas drilling, electrical wiring, industrial heat exchangers, transformers, and automotive springs and shocks.

4. Tool Steel

As the name suggests, this type of carbon alloy is specifically used for machine tool manufacturing. The alloy may be made up of Molybdenum, Cobalt, Vanadium, and Tungsten in varying amounts. It is resistant to abrasion, corrosion, or impact. It’s also very strong, durable, and can hold sharpened edges. There are different grades, air-hardening, water-hardening, oil-hardening, shock-resisting and high-speed, etc. meant for specific uses. This alloy is used to make knives, drill bits, power saws, punches, and riveting tools. Since it can tolerate extreme heat, tool steel is also used for forging and casting.

That’s all about a breakdown of the types of steel available and the different purposes they serve.


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