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Steel is an overarching term that describes a host of different alloy materials. Carbon steel and stainless steel alloys are some of the most common grades used to manufacture a nearly infinite number of products throughout the world. Stainless steel and carbon steel alloys have many similar features and are both composed of iron and carbon.
The separation factor that differentiates carbon and stainless steel is the specific alloy content of each metal. The differing percentage of alloy materials provides each metal with its unique characteristics. The following table highlights some of the physical differences between carbon and stainless steel.
|Physical Features||Stainless Steel||Carbon Steel|
|Melting Point||The melting point of stainless steel varies between 1375 to 1530 Deg C, which is less than carbon steel.||Typically, Low Carbon Steel has a melting point of 1410 Deg C. The melting point of high Carbon steel ranges between 1425-1540 Deg C, which is greater than stainless steel.|
|Average Density||The average Density of Stainless Steel is 8000 Kg/m3, which is slightly heavier than Carbon Steel.||The average Density of Carbon Steel is 7850 Kg/m3, which is less than stainless steel.|
|Co-Efficient of Linear Thermal Expansion||Depending on grade, the coefficient varies in the range of (10-17.3) X10-6 m/ (m °C). The expansion coefficient of Stainless Steel is comparatively more than that of Carbon Steel.||The thermal expansion coefficient for carbon steel varies in the range of (10.8 – 12.5) X 10-6 m/ (m °C). This is generally less than stainless steel.|
Carbon Steel ApplicationsCarbon steel makes up around 90% of today’s steel production, and the construction industry uses about a quarter of the world's steel for manufacturing purposes. Since it’s susceptible to corrosion, carbon steel needs to be galvanized for outdoor use. It’s also not nearly as attractive as stainless steel, with a dull, uninspiring finish. Overall, the higher carbon content increases the metal’s durability, heat distribution, and malleability, lowering its melting point. Carbon steel is commonly used in the following applications:
- Construction (roads, railways, buildings, infrastructure)
- Playground equipment
- Automobile parts
- Structural beams
- Steel wires
Stainless Steel ApplicationsStainless steel is generally used for applications that require high strength and advanced corrosion resistance. Unlike carbon steel, stainless steel isn't prone to corrosion, rusting, or staining when exposed to water. These characteristics allow stainless steel to be used for a wide range of applications, including:
- Medical instruments
- Hot water tanks
- Surgical implants
- Architectural construction
- Appliance Finishes
- Food production & storage
Is Stainless Steel Heavier Than Regular Steel?Stainless steel is heavier and has a lower strength-to-weight ratio than both carbon steel and aluminum, which makes it unsuitable for aviation or aerospace applications where decreased weight is a must. Carbon steel’s decreased weight allows it to be used for applications that do not require enhanced corrosion resistance.
Stainless Steel vs Carbon Steel: Which Should you Choose?The steel material that you need will depend exclusively on your project specifications and what qualities are the most important. If corrosion resistance and aesthetic appeal are the qualities of the greatest importance, than stainless steel would be the best option. However, if increased hardness and lower weight are valued over aesthetics and corrosion protection, than carbon steel may be the best option.
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