The Metallurgy of Carbon Steel

Carbon steel with an ultra-high carbon content, commonly known as “cast iron” exhibits great hardness and brittleness and is ideal steel with major applications.

What is Carbon Steel?

Carbon steel is considered a cast iron – a metal alloy that consists of carbon and iron. But other elements like manganese and carbon are also present in the composition of the steel though they make few contributions to its properties.

Carbon steel plays a wide variety of roles in many industries. They are primarily used in crimping, bending, and swaging processes since they are by nature highly malleable, weldable, and machinable.

Carbon steel has earned an impeccable track record and high demand in the industry these days due to its availability in almost all compositions. Though it is utilized in various industrial applications, carbon steel is particularly useful in heat exchangers and boilers.

The Different Compositions of Carbon Steels


  • Mild Low Carbon Steels These steels are less strong but they are cheap and easy to shape. Their hardness is increased through carburizing. Strengthening low carbon steels is not done through heat treatments but through cold working. These types of steels are weak and malleable but they do possess excellent toughness and ductility. Moreover, they are weldable, machinable, and fairly inexpensive in production.
  • Medium Carbon Steels These steels have balanced ductility and strength. They also boast good wear resistance. Medium carbon steels are used for forging, manufacturing large parts, and car parts. They are processed through heat-treated conditions including quenching, austenitizing, and tempering to achieve enhanced mechanical properties. Once the medium carbon steel is heat-treated, it can have tremendous load-carrying ability.
  • High Carbon Steels These steels are very strong and are often used in high-strength wires and springs. The higher strength and hardness are obtained through an increase in carbon content. These steels tend to have an economical approach for improving performance.
  • Very High Carbon Steels These steels are already very strong. They are often specially processed and intended for the production of specific atomic and molecular microstructures.

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Applications of Carbon Steel Carbon steel has a lot of applications and uses such as forging grades, spring steels (both round and flat-rolled), wire rope, rail steels, tire reinforcement, wear-resistant steels (plates and forgings), pre-stressed concrete, and high strength bars. There are common processes implemented to charge and increase the performance of carbon steel by maximizing hardness and strength. The rise in carbon levels is one factor behind the increasing use of carbon steel in large manufacturing industries and market sectors nowadays.

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