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Different Grades of Steel

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Your project’s requirements will often dictate which type of steel you should work with. As a common metal material, steel is categorized based on the chemical and physical properties of the steel. Four types of steel used across a wide range of industries include carbon steel, stainless steel, alloy steel, and tool steel.

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Carbon Steel

With a carbon range between 0.04% and 1.5%, carbon steel makes up about 90% of steel production. Carbon steel is often categorized by carbon content: mild, medium, or high carbon steel.  

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Mild Carbon Steel

Mild carbon steel includes carbon steel containing 0.04% up to 0.30% carbon content. It is also known as “low carbon steel.”

Mild Carbon Steel Properties
  • Highly Machinable
  • High ductility
  • High weldability
  • Cost-effective
Applications for Mild Carbon Steel
  • Automotive components
  • Structural steel
  • Wiring
  • Consumer appliances
  • Machinery
  • Forgings
  • Tubing

Medium Carbon Steel

Medium carbon steel includes steel with carbon content ranging from 0.30% up to 0.60%.

Medium Carbon Steel Properties
  • Medium strength
  • Medium ductility
  • Low hardenability
  • Heat-treatable
Applications for Medium Carbon Steel
  • Automotive components such as axles or gears
  • Machine parts 

High Carbon Steel

High carbon steel includes steel with carbon content ranging from 0.60% up to 1.50%.
carbon steel
High Carbon Steel Properties
  • High hardness
  • High strength
  • Low machinability
  • Low ductility
High Carbon Steel Applications
  • Tooling
  • Die casting
  • Steel bars
  • Railways
For rust protection and corrosion resistance, carbon steels are typically treated with hot-dipped galvanization.

Stainless Steel

Properties of stainless steel include at least 10.5% chromium, which helps prevent corrosion and staining. While carbon steel is generally prone to rust, stainless steel has a chromium film to block oxidization.
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Stainless Steel Properties
  • High tensile strength
  • Easily formed
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Eco-friendly
Stainless Steel Types
  • Austenitic
  • Martensitic
  • Ferritic
  • Duplex
  • Precipitation hardened
Stainless Steel Applications
  • Surgical equipment
  • Structural parts
  • Food industry applications
  • Aerospace components
  • Automotive valves and fittings

Alloy Steel

Properties of alloy steel must include other elements in the standard mixture of iron and carbon.
  • Common elements are manganese, chromium, molybdenum, silicon, and nickel.
    • These include greater hardness, corrosion resistance, heat resistance, and overall strength.
  • Depending on the composition, some specialty alloy steels can be found in aerospace applications and aircraft components.

Tool Steel

Tool steels contain a larger proportion of tungsten, molybdenum, chromium, and vanadium.

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  • With chemical properties like hardness and wear resistance, tooling steel can keep a sharp edge even in the hottest environments.
  • It is ideal for crafting tools or applications that require cutting, extruding, and molding other metals.
  • Tooling steel products include steel bar or steel plates and sheets.

Find the Right Steel Grade for Your Project

Whether you need carbon steel or stainless steel products, IMS has the right metal solution for you. Stop by one of our locations or order your metal online and pick it up. 

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