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What Products Are Made of Carbon Steel?

  • November 5, 2020

When most people think of steel, they envision stainless steel. Consisting of an iron alloy with at least 11% chromium, it’s a versatile material that’s used in the production of countless products. However, not all products are made of stainless steel. Some of them are made of carbon steel.

Carbon steel is made primarily of iron — just like stainless steel. The difference is that it doesn’t contain chromium. Rather, carbon steel is comprised of iron and carbon. Depending on the specific type, carbon steel may contain anywhere from 0.05% to 2% carbon content.

Common Types of Products

The amount of carbon content in an iron alloy will influence its tensile strength. As its carbon content increases, the iron alloy will become stronger. Therefore, carbon steel is often used in the production of cutting tools. Carbon steel is both stronger and harder than stainless steel. Cutting tools, of course, can benefit from these physical properties. When a machine or tool has a strong blade, it will be able to cut through workpieces with greater ease.

Gears are often made of carbon steel as well. As long as a gear isn’t exposed to moisture, it shouldn’t suffer from corrosion. As a result, there’s no real benefit to using stainless steel. Gears can actually perform better when they are made of carbon steel. Carbon steel gears are able to withstand more force than stainless steel gears. Other common types of products made of carbon steel include springs, bolts, kitchen knives, wires, cables, bridges, ball bearings and airplane components.

Cost Impact

When choosing between stainless steel and carbon steel, manufacturing companies must consider the cost. Carbon steel typically costs more than stainless steel. This is due to the fact that it’s made of carbon and iron, both of which are inexpensive. Stainless steel is made of chromium and iron. Chromium is considered a rare-earth metal, and while it’s technically not rare, it still costs more than carbon. This means stainless steel is usually more expensive than carbon steel.

Potential Sourcing Issues

Along with costs, manufacturing companies must consider sourcing issues when choosing between stainless steel and carbon steel. Carbon steel is typically easier to source because it’s comprised of carbon rather than chromium. Nonetheless, manufacturing companies may struggle to source specific types of carbon steel. Low-carbon steel is the most common type. High-carbon steel, on the other hand, is somewhat rare, making it difficult to source at times.

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