The most important metal in industry is iron and its alloy – steel. Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. It is strong but corrodes easily through rusting, although stainless and other special steels resist corrosion. The amount of carbon in steel influences its properties considerably. Steels of low carbon content (mild steels) are quite ductile and are used in the manufacture of sheet iron, wire and pipes. Medium-carbon steels containing from 0.2 to 0.4 per cent carbon are tougher and stronger and are used as structural steels. Both mild and medium-carbon steels are suitable for forging and welding. High-carbon steels contain from 0.4 to 1.5 per cent carbon, are hard and brittle and are used in cutting tools, surgical instruments, razor blades and springs. Tool steel, also called silver steel, contains about 1 per cent carbon and is strengthened and toughened by quenching and tempering.
The inclusion of other elements affects the properties of the steel. Manganese gives extra strength and toughness. Steel containing 4 per cent silicon is used for transformer cores or electromagnets because it has large grains acting like small magnets. The addition of chromium gives extra strength and corrosion resistance, so we can get rust-proof steels. Heating in the presence of carbon or nitrogen-rich materials is used to form a hard surface on steel (case- hardening). High-speed steels, which are extremely important in machine-tools, contain chromium and tungsten plus smaller amounts of vanadium, molybdenum and other metals.
English for Students of Mechanical Engineering
Compiler Galina Kubõškina
Layout by Ingrid Baumeister
Edited by Tallinn College of Engineering, 2005