The 3 Defining Characteristics of Carbon Steel

forge-550622_960_720Steel is one of the world’s most versatile and widely used metals. Featuring a combination of iron and carbon, it’s used in applications such as aerospace, manufacturing, construction, telecommunications and more. However, there are different types of steel, one of which is carbon steel. To learn more about carbon steel and its defining characteristics, keep reading.

Carbon steel can best be described as steel with an above-average carbon content. As noted above, all steel contains some trace amounts of carbon. Without carbon, it wouldn’t be considered steel. Carbon steel, however, contains up to 2.1% carbon by weight, which is far more than standard steel. The use of additional offers several key benefits, improving its strength and resilience.

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), carbon steel is characterized by the three following factors:

No Minimum Content Requirement for Elements

The AISI states that carbon steel has no specific requirement for the minimum content of chromium, cobalt, nickel, niobium, tungsten, titanium, or any other element.

Specified Maximum for Copper Does Not Exceed 0.40%

While carbon steel may contain trace amounts of copper, the AISI states that the specified maximum for copper should not exceed 0.40% of the carbon steel’s total weight. If it does, it can’t be considered carbon steel.

Maximum Content for Manganese, Silicone and Copper Doesn’t Exceed Specifications

The third defining characteristic of carbon steel is that its maximum content for the following elements should not exceed the specified percentages: manganese 1.65%; silicone 0.60%; copper 0.60%.

The Bottom Line…

Of course, these specifications for carbon steel have been created by the AISI, so it’s safe to assume they are correct. The key thing to remember, however, is that carbon steel contains a higher concentration of carbon by weight than other types of steel, such as stainless. Why is this important? Well, the use of carbon changes the properties of steel, allowing it to become harder and stronger through heat treatment methods.

With that said, too much carbon can cause problems with steel. When the carbon content of steel rises, it reduces its ability to be welded. This is because carbon lowers the melting point of steel. So, too much carbon can make it difficult — or impossible — to weld steel; thus, limiting its usability. This is why metallurgists must carefully use a precise amount of carbon when creating steel.

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