Steel is considered as one of the most commonly used materials in the world of manufacturing, construction and production in general. Primarily, signifying an industry that produces upwards of 1.3 billion tons a year, it is a material that comes in handy throughout the construction of many architectural fabrications, automobile assemblage and houseware manufacturing.
There are various types of steel and based on the various qualities and characteristics of a particular build, the choice of steel may vary. Also, the properties that vary the most between the numerous steel types range from strength, flexibility, rigidity, aesthetics, and cost effectiveness.
Also, based on your scope of work, choosing the proper steel type for the job can be of benefit to the overall quality of the whole project and general cost of production. There are basically two types of steel which are common in daily use. They are Mild Steel and Stainless Steel.
Stainless steel is regarded as a steel alloy with a minimum of 11.5% chromium content. Stainless steel does not get stained, corroded or rust as easily as ordinary steel, however, it is not stain-proof. It is also referred to as corrosion resistant steel when the alloy type and grade are not detailed, particularly in the aviation industry. There are different grades and surface finishes of stainless steel to suit the environment to which the material will be subjected in its lifetime. Common uses of stainless steel are cutlery and watch straps.
Stainless steel differs from mild steel by the amount of chromium present in both of them. Mild steel, also known as carbon steel rusts when it is exposed to air and moisture. This iron oxide film is active and accelerates corrosion by forming more iron oxide. Stainless steels have adequate quantity of chromium present so that a passive film of chromium oxide forms, which prevents further corrosion.
Carbon or Mild steel is sometimes referred to as ‘plain carbon steel’. The American Iron and Steel Institute defines a carbon steel as having no more than 2% carbon and no other substantial alloying element. Mild steel makes up the largest part of steel production and is used in a vast range of applications, ranging from construction to production and assembling of automobiles.
Characteristically, carbon steels are stiff and strong. They also exhibit ferromagnetism (i.e. they possess magnetic capabilities). This means they can be used extensively in the manufacturing of motors and other electrical appliances. Welding mild steels with a carbon content greater than 0.3% requires that special precautions be taken. However, welding carbon steel presents far fewer problems than welding stainless steels. The corrosion resistance of carbon steels is poor (i.e. they rust) and so they should not be used in a corrosive environment unless some form of protective coating is used.
What are the Differences Between Stainless Steel and Mild Steel?
- Steel is less flexible and harder than mild steel. This is as a result of the amount of carbon and other alloyed materials which this type of steel is exposed to in the process of production. The increase in carbon content increases the strength of the stainless steel as opposed to mild steel.
- Mild steel is less hard than steel. This is because, as opposed to hard steel, less amount of carbon is used on the production of mild steel. This results in the flexibility of the steel and this is why it is regarded as mild.
- Stainless steel is more resistant to corrosion because of the carbon content and the other alloyed materials present in its production.
- Mild steel can be further strengthened through the addition of carbon. This is why it is considered more cost effective and flexible as compared to stainless steel.
So Why and Where do we use Mild Steel?
Mild steel is preferable if you are not going to see the steel surface. For example, if the steel surface is going to be painted over or coated in such a way that the surface is not visible, then this is the more cost effective option.
If you need steel for structural applications to components that are internal to the piece and not visible or contrasting with the overall visual concept.
If your aim is to weld the metal, mild steel is a great conductor of electricity and as such functions more effectively for welding. This is why in construction, mild steel is the more preferable option as it saves a lot of cost and energy.