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Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel

Who Will Win

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel

Steel is easily one of the modern world's most essential materials. Its incredible strength and versatility mean it features numerous buildings, industrial machinery, and the most outstanding engineering works around the world. 

Steel comes in a variety of alloys, but none more popular than carbon steel and stainless steel. Although both alloys share some characteristics that make them suitable for various applications, they also have differences.

Composition

All steels contain iron and carbon. In some alloys, additional elements are added, which give them their unique properties.

Stainless steel is mainly made of chromium, nickel, and molybdenum. It contains at least 10.5% chromium by mass or higher.

Carbon steel, on the other hand, is a composition of iron and carbon. The carbon content varies depending on the type of steel starting at 0.05% for low or mild carbon steel and 3% in ultra-high-carbon steels.

Cost

The cost of steel varies depending on the form of steel you're buying. The composition of steel, among other factors, are some of the aspects that might affect the price you pay for steel. With all other factors constant, stainless steel costs more than mild or medium carbon steels. However, ultra-high carbon steel might cost as much or, in some instances, even more than stainless steel.

The best way to determine how much you will pay for steel is by assessing the performance factors you require for your application then investigate the best options and how much they will cost.

Corrosion Resistance

Stainless steel gets its name and reputation from its resistance to corrosion. It is a highly durable material that is resistant to corrosion and pitting. Steel in itself though highly durable, is vulnerable to corrosion. Stainless steel gets its protection from corrosion from the chromium that is alloyed into the metal.

When chromium reacts with oxygen, it forms a layer of chromium oxide that keeps the steel beneath safe from corrosion.

Carbon steel doesn't have the same ability to stave off corrosion. While it has many good qualities, corrosion resistance is not one of them. As such, it’s not recommended to use carbon steel in marine environments.

Tensile and Yield Strength

Steel has a high tensile and yield strength meaning it is less likely to break or become deformed when pulled on by forces. This unique property is what makes it perfect for commercial buildings and infrastructure like bridges.

Carbon steel has a relatively high yield strength but a lower tensile strength. It maintains its shape almost to the breaking point but has a spontaneous break when it crosses that point.

On the other hand, Stainless steel has a low carbon content which makes it softer than carbon steel and also means it has low yield strength and is more vulnerable to bending and denting than carbon steel.

Machining and Welding

Machining and welding are a key part of making any structures from steel. It’s important to identify metals that are easy to work with. Stainless steel is a notoriously difficult metal to work with and requires specialized machining tools and techniques. However, it's not impossible to work with stainless steel, but carbon steel is a more favourable option in this case.

Appearance

Appearance is a critical factor to consider when choosing the right material for various projects. Both carbon and stainless steels have a likeable finish. Carbon steel has a smooth and sleek look that can be widely adjusted through multiple coatings and finishes for varying aesthetic options for various environments.

On the other hand, Stainless steel is known for its lustre and shine, making it the better of the two options.

Heat Resistance

Stainless steel has superior heat resistance properties even though carbon can also resist high temperatures. Stainless steel can withstand temperatures of up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.