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What is Steel & What are the Differences Between Alloy, Stainless & Carbon Steel

Forging is as much about using the right materials as it is knowing how to shape them. 

At CanForge, we use a variety of different grades of steel for our forged components; however, not all steel is the same. An essential part of forging is knowing the difference between steel types and how to use them in specific applications. There are 3500 different steel grades with varying properties that make some more suitable for forged components than others. 

Let’s look at the key differences between alloy, stainless, and carbon steel and how CanForge determines the best forging material for each job.

Steel Coils

Alloy Steel

On a basic level, steel is a common alloy made of carbon and iron, and is considered the world’s most important material for construction and engineering. What makes steel so versatile is the ability for elements to be added to change the steel’s physical properties.

For alloy steel, adding elements like chromium and manganese can improve the steel’s durability, strength and wear resistance. Chromium prevents corrosion whereas manganese is used to increase the hardness of the steel. 

CanForge offers many grades of alloy steel for forging with the most common being 4000 series Alloy Steel. This grade of steel contains molybdenum in addition to chromium to give these forgings toughness and high fatigue strength.

Stainless Steel

Steel that contains at least 10.5% chromium is classified as stainless. Chromium enables stainless steel to achieve a high level of corrosion resistance by preventing oxidation with a protective layer. The most popular type is austenitic stainless steel, which accounts for about 70% of stainless steel used today. Austenitic stainless steel is utilized for its high levels of heat resistance.

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable. During the manufacturing process, the steel can be composed of more than half of recycled steel. This makes stainless steel a sustainable, cost-effective choice that reduces our environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Depending on the application, CanForge can harden some stainless steel forgings through heat treatment to improve strength and impact resistance. These treatments can also prevent stress cracking.

Carbon Steel

As its name indicates, carbon steel contains a higher concentration of carbon compared to other steel types. Carbon gives this type of steel an incredible amount of strength. There are four types of this metal alloy that are classified according to the amount of carbon they contain. 

Although carbon steel is more difficult to work with because of its strength, its hardness and impact resistance is often unparalleled. However, unlike stainless steel, carbon steel doesn’t contain chromium which makes it more likely to rust over time.

CanForge supplies products made from all three of these forging materials and more. Contact us to request a quote for your project.


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