Everything You Need to Know About Steel

Time to Read: 4 m 53s

Steel is the most used metal in the world; it is everywhere. Like oil and petroleum, steel is interwoven into the various products we rely on daily to sustain our chosen lifestyles. So, what is steel? How is steel manufactured? What type of steel alloys can be purchased? What are the properties and benefits of steel? These questions will be answered as we reveal the true nature of steel and discover the many alloys and products they generate.

What is Steel?

Steel is a metal alloy comprised of natural elements found within the crust of the Earth formed from iron and nonmetal carbon. When iron and carbon are correctly combined, the result is steel, a purified form of iron. By introducing other elements such as molybdenum, nickel, silicon, nitrogen, and manganese, the alloying of the steel is changed, creating different types of steel, such as stainless steel and various other varieties. Nearly all steel grades are grouped into the following classifications and grades:
Steel Classifications
  • Carbon
  • Manganese
  • Nickel
  • Nickel-chromium
  • Carbon-molybdenum
Steel Grades
  • Carbon steel
  • Alloy steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Tool steel

What is Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel contains trace alloying elements such as manganese, copper, and silicon. For 90% of the total steel production, carbon steels have a dull, matte-like appearance and are available in low-, medium-, and high-carbon steel varieties.

What is Alloy Steel?

Alloy steels contain various elements, including aluminum, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, silicon, titanium, and more. The alloying elements change the steel’s properties, allowing for various features and beneficial properties, including enhanced strength, corrosion resistance, and ductility.

What is Stainless Steel?

Containing between 10-20% chromium, stainless steel’s low carbon content provides increased strength and corrosion resistance for home appliances, food processing equipment, and much more.

What is Tool Steel?

Tool steels are primarily composed of cobalt, molybdenum, tungsten, and vanadium, making them extremely hard, durable, and heat resistant. As its name indicates, tool steel is ideal for making tools used for drilling, stamping, cutting, and more.

How is Steel Manufactured?

Steel is typically manufactured in two ways. The first is the BOS (basic oxygen furnace) method, which uses raw material inputs to create steel. The BOS method uses iron smelted from ore in a blast furnace and reprocessed by blowing oxygen through the heated iron. The iron is converted to molten steel by lowering the carbon content within the iron by lowering oxygen levels, which reduces the impurities of the iron.
The EAF (electric arc furnace) method utilizes a more modern approach using recycled steel rather than pure iron ore. The recycled steel is converted into new steel by passing it through compelling electrical arcs that burn away its impurities, leaving only new steel ready for use.

What are the Benefits of Steel?

Compared to other building materials, steel continues to be the go-to choice for building and new construction projects. Steel is also used in nearly every industry in the world. Steel provides the most bang for the proverbial buck, whether it’s automotive, aerospace, medical, food processing, technology, or infrastructure. Steel properties and advantages include the following:


The mix of elements within steel’s construct provides it with enhanced strength. When strength tested, steel routinely outperforms aluminum, titanium, iron, and other metals. Steel remains the metal of choice when high strength is necessary.

Corrosion Resistance

When it comes to corrosion resistance, stainless steel is the first grade that comes to mind. Due to its performance and cost advantages over other corrosion-resistant metals, stainless steel is the zenith and gold standard for corrosion-resistant metals. Standard steels also provide decent corrosion resistance, but nothing compared to stainless.

Melting Point

The melting points of steel and stainless steel are relatively high compared to other metals. Steel’s high melting point allows it to be used for various applications and environments that experience consistently high temperatures. Steel’s approximate melting point is 2500 F (1371 C), while stainless steel has an approximate melting point of 2750 F (1510 C), respectively.

What are the Types of Steel Products?

Steel and its various alloys and grades are available in several formats to meet the specifications and needs of nearly any industrial project. Some of the many steel-shape options include:

What is Galvanized Steel?

Galvanized steel is standard steel coated with a sacrificial zinc finish that protects the steel substrate from corrosion and harmful environmental effects. Galvanized steel is produced through a hot-dip method where the steel is submerged in a zinc bath, offering an extended service life at moderate temperatures.

What is Corten Steel?

Corten, or weathered steel, is designed specifically for outdoor applications; it is engineered to withstand extreme environments and does not require painting. Within a few months of installation, corten steel will develop an aesthetically pleasing, rust-like patina that is perfect for various architectural applications.

Can Steel Get Rusted?

Steel is a mixture of iron and carbon. When exposed to water or moist environments, steel will assuredly rust. However, stainless steel is comprised of the chromium element. Chromium forms a protective shield around the steel substrate, providing the metal with extended protection over standard steel.

The IMS Difference

What separates IMS from other steel suppliers? With an abundance of metal options and customer service that is second to none, IMS has you covered with the following metal stock advantages:
  • Next-day delivery of processed material via our trucks
  • Same-day pick-up in Will-Call
  • No minimum purchase
  • Unprecedented customer service
  • Support of Just-in-Time manufacturing processes
  • Salespeople that act as an extension of your purchasing department (we will get any metal products you need)
  • Material management (stocking and delivery on a scheduled basis)
  • Credit lines with good terms
  • Seven stores are open six days a week (check each location for specific times)
  • Shop by metal alloy

IMS – Your Preferred Destination for Premium Steel Products and Exceptional Customer Service

Looking for high-quality steel products? IMS is your trusted steel supplier and metal stock provider. As a local steel supplier and stainless steel depot, we have products in the sizes and styles you need. IMS also provides metal cutting services to make purchasing easy and convenient. Stop by one of our California or Arizona locations or request a quote today.
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