Guide to Carbon Steel Grades

Countless industries use carbon steel in their manufacturing processes. If you’re thinking about using this material in your products, consider the numerous types of carbon steel to determine which will benefit your company the most.

Table of Contents

What Is Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel is a carbon-iron alloy with a higher carbon concentration and lower chromium levels than other metals. It contains varying mechanical properties that depend on its carbon content, which can range from 0.04% and 2.5%.

The higher the carbon levels, the stronger and harder the steel can become through heat treating. Higher carbon compositions have low weldability and ductility compared to other metals. Carbon steel is also susceptible to rust and is usually cheaper than other materials.

Types of Carbon Steel Grades

There are four primary types of carbon steel, each with different properties and applications. Carbon steel grades range from low to ultra-high based on their carbon content.

Low Carbon Steel

Low carbon steel, also known as mild steel, represents one of the largest and most common carbon steel groups. This alloy comprises between 0.04% and 0.3% carbon and can take on various shapes.

Low carbon steel is soft, inexpensive, easy to form and ideal for applications where high tensile strength isn’t necessary. This grade of carbon steel also has high ductility for welding and machining.

Common applications of low carbon steel include:

  • Cookware.
  • Structural components.
  • Fencing.
  • Pipelines.
  • Wires.
  • Domestic appliances.
  • Stampings.
  • Automobile components.
  • Bolts.
  • Medical equipment.

Medium Carbon Steel

Medium carbon steel has the second-lowest carbon concentration between 0.31% and 0.6% and a manganese content of 0.06% and 1.65%. This material is stronger than low carbon steel with lower ductility and toughness.

Heat treatment can improve medium carbon steel’s strength, and adding alloying elements like nickel, chromium and molybdenum facilitates hardening.

Some of the many uses of medium carbon steel include:

  • Axle shafts.
  • Gears.
  • Structural support beams.
  • Cranks.
  • Train wheels.
  • Pressure structures.
  • Forging.
  • Automotive components.

High Carbon Steel Grades

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High carbon steel, or carbon tool steel, has carbon levels between 0.61% and 1.5% and a magnesium composition ranging from 0.31% and 0.9%. High carbon steel is among the hardest carbon steel grades, though it has the lowest ductility, making it difficult to weld, bend or cut. High carbon steel is highly wear-resistant and becomes brittle when heat treated.

High carbon steel is useful for numerous high-strength applications, including:

  • Cutting tools.
  • Masonry nails.
  • Railways.
  • Spring steel.
  • Bars.
  • Plates.

Ultra-High Carbon Steel

Ultra-high carbon steel is a fortified metal with a carbon concentration between 1.24% and 2%. This metal is brittle and requires special handling. Manufacturers can temper ultra-high carbon steel for hardness, and it is one of the most durable metals on the market when processed with alloys.

Ultra-high carbon steel is used for special, nonindustrial applications, including:

  • Axles.
  • Knives.
  • Punches.
  • Metal cutting tools.
  • Truck springs.

Manufacture Carbon Steel Products With PBZ Manufacturing

Reach out to PBZ Manufacturing with your questions about carbon steel and your project. We specialize in manufacturing, engineering, assembling, finishing and shipping metal products, making us your one-stop shop for all your metal manufacturing needs.

Contact us today or call 717-584-8767 for more information on our capabilities!

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