Carbon Steel vs Stainless Steel
What is the Difference Between Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel?
Steel is a commonly used material for a variety of products and tools that are used in almost every aspect of life. Steel is an alloy of iron and another type of metal or metals. Steel has no more than 2% carbon content. If the alloy is above 2% carbon, it is cast iron and not steel.
The various combinations of different metals with iron can create very different types of steel. Of the many different combinations that can be combined to create steel, two are the most commonly used types available, stainless steel and carbon steel. Choosing the best steel is often determined by the particular needs and desires of the finished product.
What is Carbon Steel
When determining what is carbon steel and what is not, the basic answer depends on the carbon content of the alloy. Carbon steel tends to have a higher carbon content than most steel. It tends to have a carbon content of 0.05% to 2.1%. Anything that falls into that range is considered carbon steel. However, there are great differences between the low carbon and the high carbon steel products.
High carbon steel is very hard and much stronger than lower carbon steels. It is great for use in tools and other such products. Unfortunately, high carbon steel can become brittle when put under extreme stress and is more likely to crack than bend. It is also less ductile than its counterparts.
Low carbon steel tends to be a lot cheaper to make. Unfortunately, under stress, it can become bend or deform instead of breaking. This type of carbon steel is also easier to use in manufacturing and is more ductile than other carbon metals. It is great for products such as car body panels, bolts, and steel plates.
What is Stainless Steel
When determining what is stainless steel and what is not, the basic answer is that stainless steel has a chromium content of at least 10.5%, in addition to its iron and carbon content. The addition of chromium is what makes stainless steel so remarkable. The reacts with oxygen to create a barrier that protects the steel from corroding.
Iron, when it becomes exposed to moisture, can oxidize or rust. This corrosion can weaken the metal and destroy many of its beneficial properties. The addition of chromium prevents that from happening. This rust prevention can also be improved by increasing the percentage of chromium or adding other metals, such as nickel.
The addition of chromium also makes the steel more heat-resistant. As with the protection from rust, the more chromium, the better the steel. The lower the content, the cheaper and less durable the product will be.
Stainless steel is often used when the product will be used in areas where moisture exposure is likely or where rust can be detrimental to the functionality of the product. Stainless steel is also more aesthetically pleasing and can be given different finishes to offer a variety of options for appearances.
Stainless steel is a perfect option for any kitchen item. It is durable and is unlikely to rust in the conditions of a kitchen. It is also attractive and provides the perfect aesthetic for cutlery, appliances, and home fixtures.
Which is Better Carbon Steel or Stainless Steel
When comparing carbon steel vs stainless steel, it can be difficult to determine which is the better product without having the context of the use of the metal. Each steel has benefits and detractions that could make it difficult to find the overall best product. The best option is to consider their attributes and determine if they match the planned use of steel.
Stainless steel has the biggest advantage in the resistance to corrosion. If the metal is to be used in an environment where corrosion is highly likely, stainless steel is the clear choice. Carbon steel is very prone to rust and deterioration over time. There are paint options available that can provide some protection for carbon steel that could be beneficial if corrosion is only a secondary issue.
In general, stainless steel has a much more appealing finish. It can be treated in various ways to provide a more aesthetically pleasing look that does not tarnish. Carbon steel can be treated or painted to give it a better appearance. However, this paint may need to be reapplied from time to time.
Although stainless steel is rather strong and durable, carbon steel has an advantage in the strength department. The higher the carbon content, the stronger the carbon steel can be. This can be a great benefit if the application requires great strength.
Ductility is how easily a metal will bend or stretch without cracking. In general, stainless steel can be more ductile than carbon steel due to its higher amounts of nickel. However, if stainless steel has a higher carbon content it may not be as ductile as low carbon steel.
Stainless steel has a lower thermal conductivity than carbon steel. This can make it harder for it to weld. Carbon steels can weld easier, however, the higher the carbon content the harder it may become. Often, those with higher carbon content must be preheated before welding.
In general, stainless steel is far more expensive than carbon steel. However, there are some aspects to consider when determining the pricing of steel. For example, the strength and durability of stainless steel may allow less steel to be used. Its resistance to corrosion can also make it last longer than carbon steel. Carbon steel may need to be painted and repainted from time to time. This can increase its overall cost.
Choosing the right type of steel for a project can be a difficult choice. Many factors must be considered to determine the right choice. Both metals provide many of the same benefits with some inherently different qualities that could make all the difference in the decision.
Contacting a fabricator or company experienced in creating metal products could be beneficial in helping to determine the right metal for the job.