What are common grades of steel?
Steel is often categorized into different groups: Carbon, Alloy, Stainless, and Tool.
- Carbon Steels only contain trace amounts of elements besides carbon and iron. This group is the most common, accounting for 90% of steel production. Carbon Steel is divided into three subgroups depending on the amount of carbon in the metal: Low Carbon Steels/Mild Steels (up to 0.3% carbon), Medium Carbon Steels (0.3–0.6% carbon), and High Carbon Steels (more than 0.6% carbon).
- Alloy Steels contain alloying elements like nickel, copper, chromium, and/or aluminum. These additional elements are used to influence the metal’s strength, ductility, corrosion resistance, and machinability.
- Stainless Steels contain 10–20% chromium as their alloying element and are valued for their high corrosion resistance. These steels are commonly used in medical equipment, piping, cutting tools, and food processing equipment.
- Tool Steels make excellent cutting and drilling equipment as they contain tungsten, molybdenum, cobalt, and vanadium to increase heat resistance and durability.
Xometry: Steel Hardening Explained has a good explanation of the different material compositions of steel and how they relate to steel-hardening through thermal, mechanical, and/or chemical processes.