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Engineering SteelsEngineering Steels

The engineering industry is heavily dependant on steel, and it’s used in a huge range of applications from shipbuilding, the automotive industry, architecture and machinery building

Steel is an alloy of iron that contains a small amount of carbon, much less than cast iron and usually less than 1.7%. In general the tightly controlled carbon content determines how easily the steel can be hardened by heat treatments. Other alloying elements such as nickel or chromium can also be added to steel to create a wide variety of desirable characteristics. Steel is usually separated into at least three groups. The most common groupings are: mild steels, carbon steels and alloy steels, each group having different overall attributes.

Suitability to almost any product application can be found within these groups, although research continues to develop new alloys within the groups or to ‘fine tune’ those alloys which already exist.

Steel groups

The mild steels are low in carbon content and are best suited to applications where heavy loads or stresses are not involved. These alloys are most suited to use in the manufacture of products where their easy workability and weldability make them ideal for a range of fabricated products. Carbon steels are generally stronger than mild steels. Their ability to accept hardening treatments is their greatest attribute. Alloy steels complete the range, with specific alloying elements added to make them suitable for a variety of high-strength and other applications.

Steel standards & specifications

There are literally hundreds of specifications relating to steels. British, German and American specifications are commonly found in the UK, however, European harmonisation has added more. In practice most steel users will come across a relatively small number of specifications as part of their work and indeed many users will know of only a few steels that meet all of their requirements.

BS 970 was revised in 1970 and the EN designation was replaced by a six digit system. In this system the first three digits refer to the alloy type, the fourth digit (letter) indicates if the steel is supplied to Analysis, Mechanical property or Hardenability requirements and the fifth and sixth digits represent a value that is 100 times the (mean) carbon content. EN3B was not included in this 1970 revision as the specification was considered too loose. The nearest equivalent to EN3B is generally considered to be 070M20 or similar.

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