Alloy steels: characteristics, uses and examples

Do you know what alloy steels are and what they are used for? This industrial input stands out for its versatility, making it perfect for forging tools and parts for both households and industry. Read on for a wealth of important information about this special class of steels.

What are alloy steels?

When we talk about alloys, we are referring to steels made up of two or more elements. This results in a material that has properties different from those of pure metals. Alloys have the basic components of steels —phosphorus, silicon, carbon, manganese and sulfur— in addition to other alloying elements such as nickel or molybdenum.

The purpose of alloys is to improve the characteristics of the metal, such as strength or toughness. Alloy steels can also include steels that have certain of their basic components in higher proportions than carbon steels.

Types of alloy steels and their characteristics

The range of alloy steels is very wide and they are usually classified according to their structure, which is responsible for their characteristics and properties:

  • Boron: optimizes tempering.
  • Chromium: increases resistance to corrosion and wear.
  • Copper: improves resistance to erosion.
  • Manganese: makes rolling easier, while increasing its toughness and corrosion resistance.
  • Nickel: lowers the temperature for hardening and for deformation when tempered. In addition, it increases its toughness without compromising malleability.
  • Titanium: prevents oxidation and improves the material’s resistance to high temperatures.
  • Tungsten: provides hardness at very high temperatures.
  • Molybdenum: increases hardness and makes it easier to harden in air or oil.
  • Aluminum: deoxidizes molten steel.
  • Vanadium: improves hardness and strength, and reduces fatigue in alloys.

What are the uses of alloy steels?

Due to their advantageous characteristics, alloy steels have multiple uses, especially in industry. They fall into two main categories: construction and tool steels.

Alloy steels for construction

The construction industry relies on certain alloys to provide the material properties they need. Examples include high hardness and strength, ductility, toughness, low corrosion, and resistance to wear and high temperatures, among many other things. In the main, these are steels alloyed with nickel, chromium, chromium-molybdenum, chromium-nickel and chromium-nickel-molybdenum. They are used in:

  • Cementation
  • Springs
  • Nitriding
  • Magnetic plates
  • Magnets

Alloy tool steels

Other steels are more suitable for the manufacture of tools. These often contain nickel, chromium, tungsten, vanadium or molybdenum. The following properties are important in these applications:

  • Wear resistance
  • Oxidation/rust resistance
  • High impact and shock resistance
  • Resistance to high temperatures
  • Resistance to deformation
  • Suitability for non–high speed cutting

Examples are hammers, pliers, standard wrenches, Allen wrenches, files, saws, clamps, and gouges, among many others.

Other types of steels

Steel is widely used in industry and forging, mainly due to its strength and durability. However, it is important to bear in mind that there are up to four main types of steel. Although they all contain iron and carbon, other elements also enter into the equation that differentiate them from each other and give them specific characteristics:

Carbon steel  stands out for its great durability, which is why it is used, for example, in knives and car parts. It can be divided into the following subcategories:

    • Low carbon
    • Medium carbon
    • High carbon
  • Tool steel stands out for its hardness and excellent resistance to shocks and high temperatures.
  • Stainless steel undergoes polishing and contains between 10 and 20% chromium. It is resistant to corrosion and highly mallea
  • Alloy steel contains mixtures of different metals. Their properties depend on the material with which they are combined.

ULMA has been manufacturing forged components for more than 50 years, with product quality as our top priority. Our extensive experience and the satisfaction of our customers are our greatest endorsement. We guarantee the excellence of all our products, always complying with the highest quality standards. If you are looking for quality forged parts, do not hesitate to take a look at our web page.