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What’s the Difference Between Iron and Steel?

What’s the Difference Between Iron and Steel?
What’s the Difference Between Iron and Steel?

Many fields, such as construction, manufacturing, and metallurgy, depend on the knowledge of differentiating between iron and steel. They are both common materials with particular attributes, uses, and benefits. Steel is more resilient and flexible than iron and more robust. This article seeks to explain the differences between these two essential metals by looking at what they are made up of chemically, their physical properties, and how they can be applied in practice. Therefore, through this, readers will get an all-round comprehension of the roles played by iron and steel in modern technologies and structures.

What Is the Basic Difference Between Iron and Steel?

What Is the Basic Difference Between Iron and Steel?

Pure Iron vs Steel: What are the Key Differences?

In terms of composition and properties, pure iron and steel are not the same thing at all. Pure iron is composed almost entirely of atoms of iron with few to no impurities. It is different from ordinary alloy irons, which have other elements mixed in for better properties. These alloys are usually soft, ductile, and easily worked, but they are also weak and do not have a lot of hardness. In contrast to this definition, steel refers to any variety of iron that contains a carbon content ranging from 0% up to about 2%. The primary component present in most steels is still iron; however, it can be combined with other metals such as manganese or nickel, among others like chromium (which gives them greater strength), thus making them suitable for use in structures where resistance against wear or corrosion is required.

How Do the Composition and Properties of Iron and Steel Compare?

The chemical composition of iron and steel impacts their properties and applications. Pure iron is made up almost entirely of atoms of iron, which is why it is flexible and easy to shape but not strong or hard. On the other hand, carbon and other elements are alloyed with iron to make steel. Usually, carbon makes up between 0.2% and 2.1% of it, and this inclusion causes a change in its properties at its basic level. Carbon also increases the hardness as well as tensile strength without compromising on ductility so that it can be used for various purposes from constructing beams to making parts for cars that bend easily without breaking apart too soon enough. Machines and tools often use high-carbon steels while additional alloying elements such as nickel, chromium, or manganese impart specific qualities like toughness against heat resistance, unlike in pure irons, which rust easily due to lack thereof. Thus, although softness along with being easily worked limits the usefulness industrially for pure irons because they are too brittle when compared with harder materials such as metals, they still steel possess great versatility owing to these improved attributes of different industrial processes where diverse requirements exist in terms of hardness levels among other things.

Is Steel Stronger Than Iron?

Definitely, iron is much weaker than steel. As per several authorities, the main factor behind the increased strength of steel is carbon in it, and others like manganese, chromium, and nickel that are used as alloying elements. They provide not only higher tensile strength and hardness but also better resistance to wear and corrosion. Pure iron, on the other hand, does not have these improved features despite being ductile and malleable, thereby limiting its usefulness. Therefore, steel is many times stronger than iron, which makes it preferable for construction and industrial purposes in relation to structural soundness and longevity.

What Are the Different Types of Steel and Iron?

What Are the Different Types of Steel and Iron?

Categories of Steel: Carbon Steel, Stainless Steel, Alloy Steel

  1. Carbon Steel: Carbon steel is the most regular sort of steel, which typically has a small amount of other alloying elements besides carbon. It can be divided into three categories, namely low carbon steel (mild steel) with a carbon content of about 0.3%, medium carbon steel containing between 0.3% and 0.6% carbon, and high carbon steel having a percentage range from 0.6% to 1.4%. The good strength and toughness of this material make it appropriate for construction applications as well as automotive parts.
  2. Stainless Steel: Stainless steels contain minimums of chromium equal to or greater than 10.5%, giving them excellent resistance against corrosion in many environments. Austenitic, ferritic, and martensitic stainless are its typical groupings, each having unique properties associated with them; for example, austenite is non-magnetic, whereas ferrite is magnetic but less corrosion resistant than other types like martensite, which is highly so. Being the most common type used due its general versatility coupled with an ability not rust easily makes stainless ideal choice for various sectors such as health care facilities where hygiene must be maintained during processing foods besides constructing structures under harsh conditions like marine environments.
  3. Alloy Steel: Alloy steels are made by adding different metals, including silicon, manganese, nickel, copper, chromium, and aluminum, in specific proportions to achieve desired mechanical properties such as hardness or strength, etc. They exhibit much better toughness along with wear fatigue resistance compared to ordinary carbon, which only offers limited benefits under certain conditions. This is why they are widely employed within engineering fields where materials have encountered extreme forces continuously, like those found in automobile components subjected to heavy loads during operation.

The above mentioned divisions demonstrate how adaptable steel can be used since each one provides specific advantages for particular industries depending on their requirements that should be met through use of these products.

Various Types of Iron: Pig Iron, Cast Iron, Wrought Iron

Various types of iron are available for use in different industries. This metal comes in a range of forms which differ greatly in their carbon content as well as other characteristics:

  1. Pig Iron: Pig iron is the crudest kind of this element that can be produced by smelting it with coke or charcoal fuel in a blast furnace. It contains about 3.5%–4.5% carbon alongside small quantities of silicon, manganese, sulfur, and phosphorus, among impurities like these. Being very brittle and hardly usable directly, pig iron serves mostly as raw material for cast iron or steel industry.
  2. Cast Iron: Cast iron is made when pig iron is re-melted together with some scrap metal – typically wrought or structural steel – plus certain alloying elements (such as chrome). This results in an alloy mainly composed of Fe and C where carbon content ranges from 2% up to even 4%. Such composition makes cast irons strong enough to withstand heavy loads while still being easily castable since they have excellent fluidity during molten state; they also wear resistant due to hard carbide particles formed throughout the matrix so that shape-giving ability becomes possible even for intricate shapes like engine-blocks etc., hence its popularity among many applications requiring high compressive strength combined with wear resistance such as pipes or cookware.
  3. Wrought Iron: Wrought iron differs from other types because it contains less than 0.08% carbon, which means that there is practically no cementite present as a separate phase – all solid solution instead (α-form ferrite + δ-form austenite). In addition, some slag remains trapped within metal during the forging process, making this material look fibrous when broken apart under tensile stress, thus giving rise to its name, “fibrous.” The manufacturing method involves heating pig irons repeatedly in a forge until desired properties are achieved, i.e., low brittleness together with high malleability necessary for decorative purposes like gates, fences, or even furniture.

Knowing these kinds of irons and their peculiar characteristics would greatly enhance the utilization of such materials in various industrial sectors as well as manufacturing enterprises.

How Does Carbon Content Affect Steel and Iron?

How Does Carbon Content Affect Steel and Iron?

Understanding Carbon Content in Steel and Iron

Carbon levels play a vital role in changing the properties and uses of both iron and steel. The carbon content in steel ranges from 0.02% to 2.1%. Mild steels (up to 0.3% carbon) have good ductility and can be easily shaped, which makes them suitable for wire products, automotive panels, and structural shapes. Medium-carbon steels (0.3%-0.6% carbon) offer a good combination of strength, ductility, and wear resistance, so they are used for forging applications as well as machinery components. High-carbon steels (0.6%-1.4% carbon) are very hard but brittle because they have less ductility than other types; thus, these steels are typically employed as cutting tools or blades.

Variations in carbon content determine the formability and usefulness of iron, too. Cast iron, with its 2%-4% carbon content, becomes hard and brittle, thus making it fit for casting intricate details required metals. Wrought iron has less than 0.08%carbon, which accounts for its malleability and corrosion resistance; hence, it is suitable for decorative purposes, as well as being used structurally.

The mechanical properties of different types of steel and iron are adjusted by varying their levels of carbon, thereby making them more appropriate for different industrial applications. The relationship between the quantity of this element present in these metals during production coupled with other metallurgical treatments gives rise to various materials having the desired properties necessary to solve specific engineering problems during construction works around us today, without which life could not go on as we know it.

Impact of High Carbon Content on Steel

The mechanical features of steel are affected greatly by high carbon content, making it hard and strong but less ductile. This kind of steel usually contains between 0.6% to 1.4% carbon and thus has better resistance against wearing out because of the increased hardness. Consequently, these steels find wide application in manufacturing cutting tools, blades, springs, and wires with high strength that require durability as well as toughness. On the other hand, since materials become more brittle when they are harder therefore, flexibility becomes limited for them where it is needed most such as this case may be so too with some other things made out of them like springs or wires that need to be bendable during use sometimes. Additionally, high-carbon steels should be heat treated correctly in order not only to achieve desired properties but also to avoid cracking while being processed further due to their increased hardnesses.

Role of Carbon in Iron Alloys

Their properties and applications are defined by carbon in iron alloys. Mechanical features of these alloys, like hardness, strength, ductility, and malleability, are changed when the carbon content is adjusted in them. This makes them ideal for decorative and structural uses that require complex shapes because they become ductile and malleable due to low levels of carbon which are usually found in wrought irons. Medium carbon steels contain between 0.3% to 0.6% carbon, thus balancing strength with pliability, making them good for automotive components as well as machine tools, among others. Higher amounts (from 0.6% up) give high hardness levels but reduce ductility, so it becomes suitable for cutting implements, while more than 1.4% can only be used where extreme hardening is required, such as special dies or cutting tools made from ultra-hardened steel, which has an increased amount of carbon. Iron-carbon alloys like steel and cast iron indicate that the presence or concentration of carbon affects the structural integrity, performance and suitability of materials for different industrial processes.

How Are Iron and Steel Produced?

How Are Iron and Steel Produced?

Production Process of Steel: From Iron Ore to Steel Products

The process of creating steel starts with extracting iron ore. After this, several steps are followed to produce different types of steel. Initially, the raw ore is extracted from different points and then crushed into powder so that the iron particles are separated from the rest of the rock. The next step involves increasing its concentration by methods like magnetic separation or flotation.

The concentrated iron ore then has a process called sintering or pelletizing done on it, which creates bigger lumps that can be effectively handled in the blast furnace. In this particular furnace, high temperatures are used on the sintered or pelletized ore along with a reducing agent such as coke to remove oxygen easily (reduction). Sometimes iron acts as one, too, and both cases result in getting liquid metal, also known as hot metal.

The hot metal obtained from the blast furnace is transferred to another vessel for further purification. Basic oxygen furnaces (BOFs) or electric arc furnaces (EAFs) are some examples of these vessels where molten pig iron undergoes refining. Impurities like carbon, silicon, and manganese are oxidized by injecting pure oxygen into BOF, while in EAF, scrap steel is melted together with molten pig iron.

When refined, liquid steel takes the shape of slabs, billets, or blooms through a continuous casting method. These forms are semi-finished products that can be directly used for making sheets, bars, beams, etcetera during the rolling stage, i.e., without any need to do additional processing. Sheets, bars, beams, etcetera are finished steel items that can be directly used in various applications after being produced by hot/cold rolling mills using slabs, billets, blooms, etc., as feedstock. To achieve desired mechanical properties and quality throughout every stage of producing steel, utmost care must be taken so that the entire process is controlled properly, including continuous casting where the solidification rate affects the final structure(Properties).

Iron Production: From Iron Ore to Pure Iron

Various vital steps are required in the production of iron from iron ore. The first step is to mine the ore, crush it and increase its iron content by either magnetic separation or flotation. After this, the concentrated iron ore is sintered or pelletized into suitable masses for processing in a blast furnace. In the blast furnace, very high temperatures, along with some reducing agents such as coke, facilitate the removal of oxygen, thereby resulting in molten iron or hot metal.

The hot metal is then refined using a basic oxygen furnace (BOF) or an electric arc furnace (EAF). In the BOF process, pure oxygen is blown into the molten iron, which oxidizes and removes contaminants like carbon, silicon, manganese, etc., to form slag while reducing carbon content at the same time. On the other hand, in the EAF method, recycled scrap steel is melted together with molten iron. Refined liquid steel produced during continuous casting is transformed into semi-finished shapes, which are further rolled to produce finished products that can be used for various applications. These steps are controlled systematically so that steel products can have the desired mechanical properties and quality.

Mixing Iron and Carbon to Make Steel

Mixing iron with carbon to form steel is a key step in making it. Two main furnaces are used for this purpose- Basic Oxygen Furnace (BOF) and Electric Arc Furnace (EAF). In the BOF method, molten iron from the blast furnace is mixed with recycled scrap steel. Pure oxygen is blown into the mixture at high speeds, which makes a chemical reaction take place, reducing impurities such as carbon, silicon, and phosphorous, therefore giving different grades of steel. This lowers the carbon content until we get liquid steel. In the EAF method, recycled scrap steels are melted using powerful electric arcs while adding molten iron as required. Carbon content can be adjusted by adding anthracite coal or other forms of carbon source materials into it. Both methods pay close attention to controlling chemical composition and temperature so that desired mechanical properties are achieved while ensuring good quality final steel products.

What Are the Main Uses of Iron and Steel?

What Are the Main Uses of Iron and Steel?

Common Steel Products and Their Applications

Steel is among the most flexible materials in current industry, which can be used almost anywhere. Common steel products include I-beams, rebars, steel pipes and tubes, sheet metals as well as plates.

  1. Structural beams: Structural beams are used extensively in construction to support buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure. They provide frameworks that ensure stability and strength.
  2. Reinforcement bars (rebar): Rebars are used in reinforced concrete structures, where they enhance tensile strength, thus improving the overall durability of buildings; roads and bridges also become more stable.
  3. Steel pipes and tubes: These items transport fluids or gases by utilizing various grades of steel for their different properties. Plumbing works, the oil and gas industry, and water supply systems widely appreciate them due to their corrosion resistance and strength.
  4. Sheet metal: It is easily workable making it highly versatile hence its use in automotive bodies; aircraft panels or even appliances among others. This allows shaping into different forms without losing any strength, such as cutting or welding, which opens up endless possibilities for designs.
  5. Steel plates: Heavy machinery requires strong materials like this during the manufacturing process, along with shipbuilding activities and industrial storage tanks, where impact resistance should not be compromised against wear resistance. Therefore, steel plates are preferred over other types here due to their superior qualities in both areas mentioned above.

All these items have specific standards set forth during production so that they can perform well wherever applied appropriately.

What Iron is Used For in Various Industries

Iron is used in many sectors because of its flexibility and characteristics. Construction mainly uses it to make steel that supports residential structures, offices, and other infrastructure projects, including bridges or railway lines. Engine blocks and crankshafts, among other essential parts, are made from this metal, thus increasing the durability and efficiency of cars. The manufacturing sector also utilizes iron by employing it during the production of machines, tools, and duty equipment due to its toughness and ease of being worked on by machines while making appliances such as washers, refrigerators, gym facilities, etc., which demonstrates how important iron is in today’s industries.

Reference sources




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the primary difference between steel and iron?

A: Iron is an element while steel is an alloy produced by combining carbon and iron. To be more specific, it should be noted that some quantity of carbon is infused into steel during its making which enhances its strength unlike pure iron.

Q: How does one change iron to steel?

A: Steel can be made from mixing small quantities of carbon with other materials into iron. It is this process that produces different types of steels whose properties depend on their specific compositions as alloys containing various elements alongside Fe (iron). Different steel grades are tailored for specific uses.

Q: Why is iron not as strong as steel?

A: Carbon and other additional components used in manufacturing steel increase its durability, hence making it stronger than pure iron.

Q: Are there different types or grades of steel?

A: Yes, there are various grades of steels distinguished by the amount of carbon content and other elements they contain, which give them unique qualities; for example, mild steels have low-carbon levels, among others.

Q: What are some characteristics of steel compared to those exhibited by iron?

A: Hardness, resistance against corrosion & wear, higher hardness together with greater strength such features belong exclusively to steels but not irons which are relatively soft materials susceptible to environmental degradation.

Q: Is the usage of pure iron frequent for product manufacturing?

A: The usage of pure iron is rare in manufacturing products because it is malleable. The majority of iron goods are produced by transforming it into steel or other alloys which enhance their properties.

Q: What makes steel easier to cast than iron?

A: Steel is commonly easier to cast as compared to iron since it has a lower melting point and flows better when melted, thus being applicable for different methods of production.

Q: How does the amount of carbon affect steel?

A: The quantity of carbon present in steel affects its properties considerably. Steel that’s low in carbon is more ductile, whereas high-carbon steel is harder. For instance, low-carbon steel is more ductile and can be easily welded while high-carbon steel is harder and stronger but less malleable.

Q: Can iron or steel be recycled?

A: It is possible to recycle both iron and steel. However, among all materials worldwide, recycling of steel is highly practiced due to its magnetic nature which facilitates separation from waste.

Q: Why is steel preferred over iron for construction?

A: Steel instead of iron may be used in constructing projects because it has higher strength, durability as well as resistance against environmental hazards such as rusting caused by moisture content; hence making it more dependable and long-lasting.

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Greetings, readers! I’m Liang Ting, the author of this blog. Specializing in CNC machining services for twenty years now, I am more than capable of meeting your needs when it comes to machining parts. If you need any help at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Whatever kind of solutions you’re looking for, I’m confident that we can find them together!

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