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Carbon Steel — What Is It & What It's Used For

Published Thursday, July 14, 2022
This image features carbon steel.

Steel is an iron-carbon alloy that’s durable, strong and often corrosion-resistant. There are currently over 3500 different steel grades, all of them broadly categorized into a handful of types. One of them being carbon steel. It is used regularly for multiple metal fabricating operations. If you’re interested in finding out what it is, why it’s used and what it’s used for, continue reading. This article will discuss the use, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of using this type of steel.

What Is Carbon Steel & How Is It Used?

Consisting of only iron, carbon and trace amounts of other alloy elements, this metal is the purest form of steel that has a dull, matte appearance. Unlike stainless steel, this type is susceptible to rust, but it’s often less expensive and has different properties based on its carbon content.

Low Carbon

Low carbon content steel has about 0.30% carbon content, which allows it to be more malleable under pressure. It is widely used for panelling and fabrication because heat treatments don’t affect it. Its flat-rolled strips and sheets are a staple of the automotive and shipbuilding industry, although low carbon steel is also used in household appliances and certain types of wire.

Medium Carbon

The carbon content in this metal is around 0.60%, which reduces its flexibility but increases its strength. Easy to machine, it appears frequently in bridges and buildings, making it a building industry mainstay. It is also used in railway components like axles, shafts, gears and tracks, as well we household appliances like washing machines and fridges.

High Carbon

Steel with 1.50 to 2% carbon is the strongest. It is used to make blades, cutting tools, dies, punches, springs and wires because of its superior tensile strength. Steel with the highest carbon levels, which is also referred to as cast iron, appears in extremely hard components like large machine parts, cutting tools, and industrial castings.

The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Carbon Steel

This type of steel has several advantages including increased strength and durability that makes it less likely to break under pressure compared to other steel. This makes the steel particularly suitable for applications requiring strength. Examples of this include several centuries ago, Japanese blacksmiths produced swords using high-carbon steel called tamahagane steel. Today, metal fabricators use it in steel parts, automotive components, tools, construction materials and much more.

There are, however, some disadvantages to choosing this type of steel over traditional steel. Since carbon steel is so strong, it doesn’t bend or mold into different shapes easily, limiting its applications. Additionally, it is also more prone to rust and corrosion compared to other types of steel. It would not be a suitable metal for products that will be continuously exposed to external conditions that cause these reactions.

Want to Learn More About Different Types of Steel? Contact VeriForm

VeriForm Inc. is a net-zero metal fabrication company that’s known as the greenest fabricating company in North America! At VeriForm, many skilled industry professionals, and engineers are available to discuss your next metal fabrication project. If you’re struggling to determine which type of metal is suitable for your project, please don’t hesitate to contact us. VeriForm offers a multitude of services including parts fabrication, metal bending, rolling and much more. Want your metal fabrication done right? Contact VeriForm today!