What Are Steel Grades: A Guide to Types and Applications

Steel is often hailed as one of the most versatile and essential materials worldwide. While it’s primarily composed of iron (Fe) and carbon (C), today’s steel is far more intricate than this simple combination suggests. Its properties and strengths vary greatly depending on factors like carbon concentration, the presence of other elements, and manufacturing processes, making it suitable for an incredibly diverse array of uses.

Contrary to popular belief, steel isn’t just a one-size-fits-all material. There are over 3,500 different grades of steel. These grades are determined by analyzing the amount of carbon present and other alloying elements and production methods used.

Steel Grading Systems

Steel grading systems allow us to categorize steel varieties based on their use case. For example, the rate at which steel is cooled by steel manufacturers might affect its molecular strength. The time they can maintain steel at critical temperatures throughout the cooling process is also essential. Depending on the heat-treatment technique, two steel sheets with the same alloy content can have various grades.

ASTM Grading System

The ASTM Grading System categorizes steel based on a letter prefix denoting its general category, such as “A” for iron-based alloys and steel materials. Additionally, each metal is assigned a sequentially allocated number that reflects its unique qualities. This system takes into account factors like the rate of cooling during manufacturing and the maintenance of critical temperatures throughout the cooling process. Thus, steel sheets with the same alloy content may receive different grades depending on the heat-treatment technique applied.

SAE Grading System

In contrast to the ASTM system, the SAE Grading System utilizes a four-digit number for classification. The first two digits indicate the steel type and alloying element concentration, while the latter two digits specify the metal’s carbon concentration. This system provides a detailed breakdown of steel properties, making it useful for various applications.

What Is the Best Grade of Steel?

Choosing the best steel grade depends on the project’s specific needs, including application requirements, desired mechanical and physical properties, and budget considerations. While there isn’t a universal “best” grade of steel suitable for all situations, certain grades within each category are frequently recognized for their exceptional qualities and widespread use.

Prominent steel grades in each category are as follows:

  • Carbon Steels: Widely recognized grades include A36, known for its good weldability and machinability; A529 and A572, noted for their strength and toughness; and 1020, 1045, and 4130, valued for their versatility and balance of properties.
  • Alloy Steels: Popular choices like 4140 and 4150 are praised for their excellent strength and toughness; 4340 is renowned for its high strength and deep hardenability; 9310 is notable for its strength and wear resistance; and 52100 is well-regarded for its wear resistance and strength, especially in bearings.
  • Stainless Steels: Key grades such as 304 and 316 are celebrated for their corrosion resistance and versatility, making them staples in food processing and medical equipment; 410 and 420 are valued for their hardness and resistance to wear, often used in cutlery and surgical tools.
  • Tool Steels: Distinguished grades include D2, known for its high wear resistance; H13, which offers excellent toughness and resistance to thermal fatigue; and M2, a high-speed steel with a good balance of wear resistance and toughness, often used in cutting tools.

4 Major Types Of Steel

Steel is categorized into various types depending on its composition.  These include carbon steel, stainless steel, alloy steel, and tool steel. 

  1. Carbon Steels

Carbon steels, mainly iron and carbon, are the most basic steel variety. This category is renowned for its exceptional durability and cost-effectiveness. 

There are three main subclasses of carbon steels:

  • Low Carbon Steels: Also known as mild steels, these contain a small percentage of carbon (usually less than 0.25%). Their low carbon content renders them soft and flexible, making them ideal for use in sheet metal, wire, and car body parts due to their easy shaping and welding capabilities.
  • Medium Carbon Steels: With a carbon content ranging from 0.25% to 0.5%, medium carbon steels offer a good balance between strength and pliability. They are frequently utilized in making shafts, gears, and rail tracks, where a mix of robustness and flexibility is essential.
  • High Carbon Steels: These steels have a higher carbon percentage ranging from 0.5% to 1.25% and are celebrated for their hardness and resistance to wear. High carbon steels are typically used to manufacture cutting tools, springs, and other parts that demand high resistance to wear and abrasion.
  1. Alloy Steels

Alloy steels are produced by adding alloying elements such as nickel, copper, chromium, and aluminum to the base steel composition. Incorporating these elements significantly improves the steel’s properties, including its strength, ductility, resistance to corrosion, and ease of machining. Common applications include automotive parts, construction materials, pipelines, and tools, showcasing their versatility and critical role in various sectors.

  1. Stainless Steels

Stainless steels are primarily made with an 11-12% chromium content, along with additional elements such as nickel, silicon, manganese, and carbon. This composition gives them notable corrosion resistance, making them perfectly suited for outdoor construction, where they can withstand harsh weather conditions. 

Their corrosion-resistant properties also make them ideal for electrical equipment. A popular choice in this category is 304 Stainless Steel, known for its durability and effectiveness in protecting electrical components from environmental damage.

Apart from their application in construction and electrical industries, stainless steels are highly valued for their hygienic qualities. They are commonly used in the production of medical equipment, piping, cutting tools, and food processing equipment, demonstrating their wide-ranging utility and significance in sectors requiring high cleanliness and corrosion resistance standards.

  1. Tool Steels

As the name suggests, tool steels are engineered to create high-speed tools, which generate significant heat during use. Their ability to endure high temperatures and resist wear makes them particularly valuable in tool manufacturing. Key elements in the composition of tool steels include tungsten, chromium, and vanadium, each contributing to the material’s durability and resistance to wear and heat.

Steel Classifications

In addition to the four primary categories, steel can be categorized or graded according to various factors, such as:

Composition: This involves specific types like carbon, alloy, stainless steel, etc., based on the elements incorporated into the steel.

Finishing Method: Methods like hot rolling, cold rolling, and cold finishing impact the steel’s surface finish and dimensional precision.

Production Method: The manufacturing technique, whether it’s electric furnace production or continuous casting, affects the steel’s attributes and quality.

Microstructure: The internal configuration of the steel, including ferritic, pearlitic, martensitic, etc., influences its properties and suitability for different applications.

Physical Strength: Classified by strength according to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards, which determines its appropriateness for various uses.

De-oxidation Process: Steel production can involve full deoxidation (killed) or partial deoxidation (semi-killed), affecting its characteristics and performance.

Heat Treatment: Treatments such as annealing and tempering alter the steel’s properties to better suit specific applications.

Quality Nomenclature: Steel is also graded by quality types, such as commercial, pressure vessel, and drawing quality, which indicate its compliance with specific standards and intended applications.

FastMetals: Quality Steel for Every Project

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Square Tube 101: Everything You Need to Know

What is a Square Tube?

Square tubes are hollow, square-shaped metal profiles commonly used in construction, manufacturing, and other industries. Unlike traditional solid metal bars, square tubes offer versatility and structural integrity while being lightweight. They are typically made from materials such as steel, aluminum, or stainless steel, ensuring durability and resistance to corrosion.

Uses and Applications

Square tubes are utilized across various industries for their unique properties. Some common uses include:

  1. Projects

Square tubes are highly favored by DIY enthusiasts for many projects, ranging from furniture construction to home improvement endeavors. With their ease of handling and customization, square tubes are ideal for crafting shelves, tables, and storage racks. Those that do DIY projects often appreciate the ability to easily cut, weld, and assemble square tubes to fit their specific design requirements, allowing them to create customized solutions for their homes and workshops.

  1. Artistic Creations

Artists and craftsmen harness the creative potential of square tubes to bring their artistic visions to life. Whether sculpting intricate metal artworks or constructing abstract installations, square tubes offer a versatile medium for artistic expression. The geometric shapes and clean lines of square tubes lend themselves well to contemporary art styles, allowing artists to explore concepts of form, space, and structure in their creations. From small-scale sculptures to large-scale installations, square tubes provide artists with endless possibilities for pushing the boundaries of artistic innovation.

  1. Craftsmanship and Metalwork

Small-scale metalworking and craftsmanship benefit greatly from the versatility of square tubes, which serve as essential building blocks for creating custom metalwork pieces. From ornamental gates and railings to decorative fixtures and signage, square tubes add a touch of sophistication and elegance to architectural and landscaping projects. Craftsmen and metalworkers leverage the malleability and strength of square tubes to fashion intricate designs and patterns, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of their creations while ensuring durability and longevity.

  1. Automotive

In the automotive industry, square tubes are integral components used in chassis fabrication, roll cages, and structural reinforcements to enhance vehicle safety, performance, and durability. Their high strength-to-weight ratio enables manufacturers to design lightweight yet resilient chassis structures that withstand dynamic loads and impacts.

Additionally, square tubes are employed in roll cage assemblies to provide occupant protection in racing cars, off-road vehicles, and high-performance automobiles. Their ability to withstand bending, torsional, and impact forces makes them indispensable for ensuring the structural integrity and safety of automotive applications, contributing to safer and more reliable vehicles on the road.

Advantages of Square Tubes

Square tubes offer several advantages over other structural materials, including:

✔ Strength and Stability

The unique hollow structure of square tubes imparts exceptional strength and rigidity, enabling them to withstand heavy loads and harsh environmental conditions without deforming or compromising their structural integrity. 

✔ Versatility

Square tubes offer unparalleled versatility in fabrication and customization. They can be easily manipulated, cut, welded, and formed into various shapes and sizes to meet specific design requirements and functional needs. 

✔ Corrosion Resistance

Materials such as aluminum and stainless steel square tubes boast superior corrosion resistance properties, making them highly durable and well-suited for outdoor and marine applications where exposure to moisture, chemicals, and other corrosive elements is inevitable. 

✔ Aesthetic Appeal

Beyond their functional benefits, square tubes offer a clean, modern aesthetic that adds a touch of sophistication and contemporary flair to architectural and design-oriented projects. Their sleek lines, geometric shapes, and smooth surfaces complement a wide range of design styles, from minimalist and industrial to avant-garde and artistic, making them a popular choice to create visually striking spaces and structures that make a lasting impression.

✔ Cost-Effectiveness

Square tubes provide a cost-effective solution for structural and fabrication needs, balancing performance, durability, and affordability. Compared to solid metal bars or alternative materials, square tubes offer significant savings in material costs without compromising on quality or functionality. 

5 Types of Square Tubes

Square tubes have various types and specifications to accommodate different needs and applications. Some common variations include:

  1. Aluminum Extruded Square Tube 6061 T6

Renowned for its lightweight properties and excellent corrosion resistance, this grade of aluminum square tube is versatile and durable, making it ideal for architectural and structural applications.

  1. Architectural Bronze Square Tube 385

With its distinctive golden hue and decorative appeal, this bronze square tube is perfect for ornamental and architectural projects, adding elegance and sophistication to railing systems and artistic installations.

  1. Carbon Steel Square Tube Structural

Known for its robustness and structural integrity, carbon steel square tubes are essential in load-bearing applications across industries such as construction and manufacturing.

  1. Stainless Steel Square Tube 304/304L

Offering exceptional corrosion resistance, these stainless steel square tubes are ideal for harsh environments like marine and chemical processing industries, ensuring reliable performance and longevity.

  1. Stainless Steel Square Tube 304/304L Polished

Combining corrosion resistance with a polished surface finish, these stainless steel square tubes are suitable for architectural, decorative, and sanitary applications, providing a sleek and modern aesthetic.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Square Tubes

When selecting square tubes for a particular project or application, several factors should be taken into account:

  • Material: Consider the material’s properties, including strength, corrosion resistance, and aesthetics, based on the application’s requirements.
  • Size and Dimensions: Determine the square tubes’ size, wall thickness, and length to ensure proper fit and structural integrity.
  • Surface Finish: Choose between hot-rolled or cold-rolled square tubes based on the desired surface finish and tolerance levels.
  • Environmental Factors: Assess the environmental conditions, such as exposure to moisture, chemicals, or extreme temperatures, to select a material that can withstand these conditions.
  • Budget: Consider the overall project budget and weigh the cost-effectiveness of different square tube options without compromising quality and performance.

Tips for Working with Square Tubes

Working with square tubes requires careful planning and execution to achieve optimal results. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Proper Handling: Handle square tubes carefully to prevent damage or distortion, especially during transportation and storage.
  • Precision Cutting: Use appropriate cutting tools and techniques to achieve clean and accurate cuts without compromising the square tube’s integrity.
  • Welding Techniques: Employ suitable welding methods and equipment for joining square tubes, ensuring strong and durable connections.
  • Surface Preparation: Clean and prepare the surface of square tubes before welding or painting to remove any contaminants and improve adhesion.
  • Safety Measures: When working with square tubes, adhere to safety protocols and guidelines, including wearing protective gear and following proper handling procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions | FAQs

What are the standard sizes for square tubing?

Common standard sizes for square tubing include 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch, 1-1/4 inch, 1-1/2 inch, 2 inches, 2-1/2 inches, 3 inches, 4 inches, and larger. These sizes typically refer to the outside dimensions of the tubing.

What are the grades of square tubes?

Square tubes are available in various grades depending on the material used. Some common grades include aluminum (6061-T6), carbon steel (A500), stainless steel (304/304L), and architectural bronze (385). Each grade offers different properties and suitability for specific applications.

What is the strongest tube shape?

The square tube shape is often considered one of the strongest due to its efficient use of material and resistance to bending and torsional forces. Its symmetrical geometry distributes loads evenly along its length, enhancing strength and stability.

How strong is 3×3 square tubing?

The strength of 3×3 square tubing depends on various factors, including the material grade, wall thickness, and structural design. Generally, 3×3 square tubing made from materials such as carbon steel or aluminum can withstand substantial loads and is commonly used in structural applications requiring strength and rigidity.

Which is a stronger pipe or a square tube?

In terms of strength, square tubing is typically stronger than pipes of the same material and dimensions. This is because square tubing has uniform walls and corners, providing greater resistance to bending and torsional forces. However, the choice between the pipe and square tube depends on the application’s requirements, including load-bearing capacity, structural design, and aesthetic considerations.

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7075 vs 6061 Aluminum: What Sets Them Apart?

When selecting the right aluminum alloy for your project, the choice between 7075 and 6061 matters. Both aluminum-based alloys possess distinct properties and characteristics that make them suitable for various applications across industries. By exploring the unique strengths and limitations of each alloy, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how to make informed decisions when selecting the right aluminum for your specific needs.

7075 vs 6061 Aluminum: Chemical Composition

The chemical composition of an aluminum alloy is a critical factor that defines its properties, strengths, weaknesses, and suitable applications. When comparing 7075 vs 6061 aluminum, understanding their elemental makeup is essential.

Alloying Element7075 Aluminum Concentration6061 Aluminum ConcentrationDescription
Zinc (Zn)5.1-6.1%Not a primary elementIn 7075, zinc is the primary alloy ingredient, significantly contributing to the alloy’s exceptional strength.
Magnesium (Mg)2.1-2.9%0.8-1.2%Magnesium enhances strength through heat treatment in 7075 and improves formability and weldability in 6061.
Copper (Cu)1.2-2.0%0.15-0.4%Copper increases strength and plays a role in heat treatment responses in 7075, while in 6061, it enhances strength to a lesser extent and offers better weldability.
Silicon (Si)Not a primary element0.4-0.8%Silicon improves the alloy’s fluidity during casting and, along with magnesium, contributes to 6061’s heat treatability.
Chromium (Cr)0.18-0.28%0.04-0.35%Chromium is added to both alloys to control grain structure and improve stress-corrosion cracking resistance and toughness.

7075 vs 6061 Aluminum: Mechanical Properties

The mechanical properties of an aluminum alloy define how it reacts under applied forces, including its strength, ductility, hardness, and resistance to wear and fatigue. These properties are determined by the alloy’s chemical composition and manufacturing process. When comparing 7075 vs 6061 aluminum, it’s important to understand how their unique mechanical properties make them suitable for different applications.

Mechanical Property7075 Aluminum6061 Aluminum
Tensile Strength (MPa)Often exceeding 500Boasts high tensile strength, making it ideal for high-stress applications in aerospace and military.Ranging from 310 to 276While lower than 7075, it’s still excellent for various applications, including construction and automotive parts.
Yield Strength (MPa)Up to 430Indicates the ability to withstand significant loads without permanent deformation.About 270Shows good resistance to deformation under load and is suitable for structural applications.
HardnessHigher, due to high zinc contentMore resistant to abrasion and wear, enhancing stress-corrosion cracking resistance.Sufficient for many applications, contributing to good wear resistanceLower hardness improves formability and workability, which is beneficial for complex components.
DuctilityLess ductile, more prone to cracking under certain stress typesHigh strength comes at the cost of ductility.More ductile, easier to form and shapeSuperior ductility combined with excellent weldability favors extensive machining.
Fatigue ResistanceExcellent, critical for components under cyclic loadingVital for aerospace components like wings and fuselages experiencing cyclic loading.Good, suitable for repeated loading but not at levels 7075 can withstandAdequate for applications with less extreme fatigue requirements.

7075 vs 6061 Aluminum: Physical Properties

Physical properties are inherent characteristics of a material that can affect its behavior in different applications and environments. These properties of aluminum alloys like 7075 and 6061 include how dense the material is, how well it conducts heat and electricity, and its reaction to environmental factors. 

Property7075 Aluminum6061 Aluminum
Density (g/cm³)Approximately 2.81 g/cm³ This relatively low density makes 7075 attractive for high-strength, lightweight applications, notably in the aerospace and defense sectors.Approximately 2.70 g/cm³ Slightly lower than 7075, this density makes 6061 extremely useful for applications where weight reduction alongside good strength and corrosion resistance is crucial.
Thermal Conductivity (W/mK)Around 130 W/mK Moderate compared to other metals, this level of thermal conductivity is crucial for applications requiring heat dissipation, though not as efficient as some other alloys.About 167 W/mKHigher than 7075, making 6061 more efficient at dissipating heat. This is particularly beneficial in automotive and electronic applications where managing heat is critical.
Electrical Conductivity (% of Copper)About 33% that of copper It is less conductive than 6061 and is suitable for structural applications, but its lower conductivity may limit its use in electrical applications.
About 40% that of copperOffers better electrical conductivity than 7075, making it more suitable for electrical and electronic applications, such as enclosures and bus bars.

7075 vs 6061 Aluminum: Manufacturing and Machinability

The manufacturing and machinability of an aluminum alloy are crucial factors that determine its suitability for various applications. These characteristics affect not only the ease of producing parts but also the quality and performance of the final product.

Feature7075 Aluminum6061 Aluminum
MachinabilityChallenging due to hardness, requires careful tool and speed selection for the essential use of coolants.Excellent, with forgiving tool selection, faster speeds, and minimal tool wear.
WeldabilityPoor, prone to cracking; special techniques needed; post-weld heat treatment may not fully restore strength.Superior, compatible with most techniques, maintains strength well at weld points.
FormabilityLess formable, more force needed, limited bendability without cracking.Highly formable, suitable for intricate designs, and easier to bend and shape.
Anodizing QualityGood, but color and finish can vary; excellent corrosion resistance.Exceptional, with consistent color and finish; ideal for aesthetic applications.

7075 vs 6061 Aluminum: Cost Considerations

Cost is a significant factor influencing decision-making when selecting between 7075 and 6061 aluminum alloys for a project. Understanding the cost implications of each alloy is crucial for budgeting and ensuring cost-effectiveness. 

Cost Considerations7075 Aluminum6061 Aluminum
Material CostsTypically, it commands a higher price due to its superior strength and performance characteristics. Higher alloying element content increases raw material costs.Generally more affordable due to lower alloying element content, it is a cost-effective option for various applications.
Machining ExpensesIt is more expensive due to its hardness, requiring specialized tools and techniques. Higher labor and equipment costs may be incurred.Less expensive to machine due to superior machinability. Lower tool wear and faster machining speeds can reduce labor and equipment costs.
Overall Project EconomicsHigher initial material and machining costs. Exceptional strength and durability may save long-term costs by reducing maintenance, replacement, and downtime expenses.Lower initial material and machining costs. Additional expenses over the project’s lifespan may arise for specific applications. However, its versatility and availability often make it a cost-effective choice.

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The Basics of Metal Polishing

Metal polishing is a technique that smooths metallic surfaces using abrasive materials, enhancing their appearance by removing defects and increasing reflectivity. It can be followed by buffing for an even brighter finish. Beyond aesthetics, metal polishing also prevents corrosion and extends the lifespan of the metal by removing oxidation and protecting against future corrosion.

The Process

Metal polishing employs various abrasives chosen based on the material’s condition. Multiple stages are involved for unfinished surfaces. 

Initial Abrasive Stage: Rough abrasives remove imperfections from unfinished surfaces.

Finer Abrasives: Following the initial stage, finer abrasives smooth the surface further.

Achieving Mirror-like Finishes: For a glossy finish, high-speed polishers and polishing wheels, often lubricated with wax or kerosene, are used.

Special Treatment for Softer Metals: Brass and similar metals may be polished with copper-plated grit and airflow mops for enhanced smoothness.

Note that specific tools, such as chisels, hammers, and knives, undergo a distinct polishing process. They proceed with rough grinding to dry polishing, with optional greasing for an extra-fine finish. On the other hand, knives and cutlery may undergo fine or blue glazing for optimal results.


Different metals require different abrasives for polishing based on their strength. Low-tensile strength metals like aluminum, brass, and copper utilize gray silicon carbide abrasives. In contrast, high-tensile strength metals such as alloy and carbon steel prefer white and grey aluminum oxide abrasives.

Ferrous metals like steel use green chromium oxide abrasives. Polishing wheels are commonly made from canvas or leather. However, other materials like cotton cloth, felt, and rubber can also be utilized, with cotton or wool cloth typically used for buffing.


  • Enhancement in Manufacturing: Polishing improves the appearance and performance of architectural metal, cookware, and automobile parts.
  • Crucial for Repairs and Restoration: Polishing is vital in repairing and restoring various metal products.
  • Aesthetic Improvement: Beyond functional benefits, polishing significantly enhances the visual appeal of metal items.
  • Corrosion Prevention: In plumbing systems, polishing is essential for preventing corrosion.
  • Safety in Specialized Environments: Polishing eliminates bacteria, which is crucial in environments like dairy and pharmaceutical plants, contributing to workplace safety.

Specialized Polishing Applications 

Each industry requires specialized polishing techniques due to unique challenges, such as meeting stringent regulatory standards in medical device manufacturing and achieving sub-micron-level surface finishes in electronics.: 

  • Aerospace demands ultra-smooth surfaces to minimize aerodynamic drag.
  • Medical devices require special polishing to ensure biocompatibility and sterilizability.
  • Jewelry makers use polishing to enhance aesthetics
  • The Automotive sector needs precision polishing for engine components and body panels.
  • Electronics and semiconductor manufacturing demand defect-free surfaces for devices and components.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Metal polishing is essential for enhancing metal products but poses environmental challenges due to waste, energy consumption, and emissions. Companies can adopt strategies like recycling and reusing materials, treating wastewater, and proper waste management to mitigate these effects.

Energy efficiency is improved through advanced equipment and renewable energy, while emission reduction is achieved using low-VOC compounds and pollutant capture. Emphasizing recycling, waste minimization, and adherence to environmental regulations, these practices promote sustainable metal polishing by implementing closed-loop systems, resource conservation, and compliance with environmental standards.

Quality Control and Inspection

Quality control is pivotal in metal polishing to ensure that final products meet aesthetic, functional, and durability standards. Consistency in surface finish is vital for industries prioritizing appearance and performance. Rigorous quality control ensures uniformity in finish, identifying and rectifying deviations like scratches or contamination to maintain product quality.

Meeting customer specifications is a cornerstone of metal polishing, achieved through visual inspections, precision measurements, and surface assessments. Visual inspections, magnification tools, and non-destructive testing help detect defects and irregularities. Protocols for corrective actions and rework ensure prompt resolution of issues, are documented for compliance and continuous improvement efforts, and refine polishing techniques and product quality.

Pollutant Emissions

Reducing environmental impact in metal polishing involves tackling three main challenges: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), metal dust, and chemical residues. Transitioning to low-VOC or VOC-free compounds and implementing solvent recycling systems help minimize VOC emissions. Dust collection systems and enclosed workspaces effectively control metal dust, reducing respiratory risks and air pollution.

Moreover, containing chemical residues and treating wastewater prevent water contamination, emphasizing the importance of proper chemical handling and disposal practices. Advanced emission control technologies offer additional solutions for mitigating pollutant emissions from metal polishing. Catalytic and thermal oxidizers convert VOCs into less harmful compounds, while scrubber systems remove particulate matter from exhaust gasses.

Investing in these technologies ensures regulatory compliance and demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and responsible manufacturing practices, enhancing environmental stewardship in the industry.

Surface Preparation Techniques

Surface preparation is crucial in metal polishing, setting the stage for superior polished surfaces. It encompasses essential cleaning, degreasing, and pre-treatment methods such as pickling or phosphating.

CleaningSurface preparation begins with thoroughly cleaning to eliminate dirt, oil, grease, and other contaminants from the metal surface. This involves using detergents, solvents, or alkaline solutions tailored to the type and level of contamination. Cleaning ensures the metal surface is free from impurities that could disrupt the polishing process or cause defects in the final product.
DegreasingDegreasing is vital for eliminating oily residues and surface films from metal surfaces. Using solvents or alkaline cleaners, degreasing agents effectively dissolve and remove oil and grease residues. This step enhances the adhesion of polishing compounds to the metal surface and prevents surface defects like streaks or smudges in the final product.
Pre-treatment ProcessesPre-treatment processes may be needed based on the metal surface requirements and desired finish. Pickling, for instance, uses an acidic solution to remove surface oxides, scale, and corrosion products, leaving a clean metal surface. Phosphating adds a phosphate coating, enhancing adhesion and corrosion resistance.
Mechanical Surface PreparationMechanical surface preparation, chemical cleaning, and pre-treatment involve sanding, grinding, or shot blasting to ready metal surfaces for polishing. These methods remove imperfections and create a smooth, uniform texture, ensuring a high-quality, polished finish.
Enhanced Adhesion and DurabilityAdequate surface preparation is crucial for improving the polishing process. A clean, well-prepared metal surface ensures uniform adhesion of polishing compounds, leading to the removal of imperfections and a smooth, reflective finish. Furthermore, pre-treatment processes like pickling or phosphating enhance coating adhesion, improving corrosion resistance and durability.

Emerging Trends and Innovations

Recent advancements in metal polishing technology are transforming the industry, leading to higher precision, efficiency, and sustainability. Automated polishing systems, incorporating robotics and AI, offer increased productivity and consistency in surface finishes. Novel abrasive formulations, including nanomaterials, improve cutting performance and extend abrasive tool life, enabling finer surface finishes.

Innovations in surface analysis techniques like 3D surface profilometry accurately characterize surface topography, aiding in process optimization and defect identification. Green polishing technologies, such as water-based compounds and eco-friendly processes, reduce environmental impact while maintaining performance. 

Additionally, specialized finishing solutions for additive manufacturing, like laser polishing and chemical vapor polishing, ensure smooth finishes on complex components, advancing the capabilities of 3D printing.

Safety Benefits 

Metal polishing is not just about aesthetics; it is crucial in ensuring safety across various industries. Here are the critical safety benefits it offers:

Corrosion and Rust Prevention: Polishing prevents corrosion and rust, thereby maintaining the integrity and reliability of equipment, especially in marine, aerospace, and automotive sectors.

Minimizing Friction and Wear: Polished surfaces reduce friction and wear, lowering the risk of ergonomic injuries in clean environments like food processing and pharmaceuticals.

Enhancing Equipment Reliability: This leads to fewer equipment failures and safety hazards.

Improving Visibility and Safety in Industrial Settings: Polished surfaces make safety-critical components and warning signs more visible, enhancing safety in places like oil rigs and chemical plants.

Better Ergonomics and Handling: Smooth surfaces contribute to safer and more efficient manual handling, reducing the risk of injuries in assembly lines and construction sites.

Fire Safety and Heat Resistance: Certain polishing techniques improve metal components’ fire safety and heat resistance, which are crucial in the aerospace and building construction industries.

Ensuring Regulatory Compliance and Product Safety: Polishing is essential for meeting safety standards in various industries, ensuring regulatory compliance and product safety.

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Ferrous VS Non-Ferrous Metals: Essential Know-Hows

Exploring the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals reveals a fascinating aspect of material science integral to various industries and technological advancements. Here, we will examine their distinct properties, historical significance, and diverse applications, highlighting how these metals have shaped human civilization. From the early days of copper to the modern use of steel and aluminum, understanding these metals offers valuable insights into their practical uses and their role in historical development.

Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Metals: A Brief History

Human civilization has always been shaped by its ability to harness and manipulate materials. Among the pivotal categories of materials are ferrous and non-ferrous metals, each playing distinct roles in the development of technologies, industries, and societies

Non-Ferrous Metals

The journey of non-ferrous metals began with the discovery of copper around 5,000 BC, which marked the end of the Stone Age and the onset of the Copper Age. The evolution continued with the invention of bronze, a notable alloy of copper and tin, heralding the Bronze Age. Ancient civilizations utilized lead in various applications such as plumbing and cosmetics. Zinc also played a crucial role, with evidence of its production in ancient India and China dating back to 1400-1000 BCE, where it was used in medicinal applications and brass production. Aluminum, however, remained a rarity until the 19th century due to the complexities in its extraction, until advancements made it more accessible.

Ferrous Metals

The use of ferrous metals, primarily iron, began around 1,200 BC, signaling the start of the Iron Age. Iron production became widespread due to its abundance compared to copper and tin. This transition was significant as iron was more readily available from ore sources, and advancements in smelting and forging made it a versatile and essential material. Iron’s role was pivotal in shaping human civilizations, from being used in tools and weapons to its crucial part in construction and machinery. This metal’s widespread use eventually led to the Industrial Revolution, where iron and steel production became central to industrialization and modernization efforts.

What is Ferrous Metal?

Ferrous metals are primarily made of iron. These metals offer exceptional mechanical properties such as high strength, durability, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, making them invaluable in construction, automotive, and machinery manufacturing industries. However, when exposed to moisture and oxygen, their susceptibility to rust and corrosion requires protective measures like coatings or alloys. Despite these drawbacks, ferrous metals remain vital in various applications due to their reliability and performance. 

Which Metals Are Ferrous?


Steel is produced by combining iron with carbon, which strengthens it. Alloy steel becomes even more resilient with the addition of elements like chromium and nickel. The process involves heating and melting iron ore in furnaces and then pouring the molten steel into molds to create steel bars. Steel is found to be extensively used in construction and manufacturing.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel, with its elevated carbon content, is notably hard, making it a popular choice for manufacturing machine tools, drills, blades, taps, and springs. Its ability to maintain a sharp cutting edge is particularly valued.

Alloy Steel

Alloy steels, which blend elements like chromium, nickel, and titanium, enhance strength and durability without adding extra weight. Stainless steel, a significant alloy steel containing chromium, is crucially used in various applications, including construction, machine tools, and electrical components.

Cast Iron

Cast iron, an alloy comprising iron, carbon, and silicon, is known for its brittleness, hardness, and wear resistance. It finds applications in water pipes, machine tools, automobile engines, and stoves.

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is an alloy with so little carbon content it’s almost pure iron. During the manufacturing process, some slag is added, giving wrought iron excellent resistance to corrosion and oxidation; however, it is low in hardness and fatigue strength. Wrought iron is used for fencing and railings, agricultural implements, nails, barbed wire, chains, and various ornaments.

Applications of Ferrous Metals  

With their exceptional strength, durability, and magnetic properties, ferrous metals find diverse applications across various industries and contribute to the backbone of modern infrastructure and manufacturing. 

  1. Construction: Essential for structural elements like beams and columns, ensuring stability in buildings and bridges. 
  1. Automotive Manufacturing: Used for engine blocks, chassis, and suspension parts, guaranteeing vehicle safety and performance. 
  1. Machinery Manufacturing: Relies on ferrous metals for components like gears and shafts, providing strength and wear resistance for heavy-duty operations. 
  1. Infrastructure Development: Ferrous metals are crucial for pipelines, railways, and power transmission towers. They ensure reliability and longevity for essential systems and foster economic growth and societal advancement.

What is Non-Ferrous Metal?

A non-ferrous metal is a type of metal that does not contain iron in significant amounts or has iron content low enough to be negligible. Unlike ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals lack magnetic properties and are generally more resistant to rust and corrosion, making them ideal for applications exposed to moisture or harsh environments. These metals are essential in several industries, mainly when factors like electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and lightweight design are crucial. Their unique properties make them highly sought after in various applications.

Which Metals Are Non-Ferrous?


Aluminum is light, soft, and has limited strength, but it’s easy to cast, forge, machine, and weld. However, it could be better for high-temperature conditions. Its lightweight nature makes it great for aircraft and food can production, castings, pistons, railways, cars, and kitchen tools.


Copper, with its distinctive red hue, is extremely ductile and malleable and boasts excellent conductivity for electricity and heat. It is primarily used in electrical applications like wiring and conductors. Additionally, it’s utilized in sheet roofing, cartridge cases, statues, and bearings. Moreover, copper is a key component in brass production, an alloy blending copper with zinc.


Lead is a soft, dense metal with a low melting point and weak tensile strength. Despite this, it can resist corrosion from moisture and various acids. Lead is widely used in electrical cables, batteries, construction, and soldering applications.


Zinc has moderate to low strength and a notably low melting point. While it’s easy to machine, caution is needed when heating to prevent crystal cleavage. Its primary use is galvanizing, where a zinc coating is applied to iron or steel to prevent rust.


Tin, known for its softness, malleability, and low tensile strength, is commonly used to coat steel and create tinplate steel for food cans. While tin foil was once famous for food wrapping, aluminum foil has largely replaced it. Tin can also be combined with copper to form tin brass and bronze alloys.

Applications of Non-Ferrous Metals 

Non-ferrous metals, prized for their diverse properties and resistance to corrosion, play essential roles in a wide range of industries and contribute to developing advanced technologies and everyday essentials.

  1. Electrical and Electronics: Their excellent conductivity makes them ideal for wiring and circuitry, ensuring efficiency and reliability. 
  1. Aerospace and Aviation: Rely on lightweight metals like aluminum and titanium for fuel-efficient aircraft components that meet stringent performance standards.
  1. Marine: In corrosive environments, non-ferrous metals like stainless steel and aluminum are preferred for structures, ensuring longevity and reliability. 
  1. Food and Beverage Industry: These metals are valued for their hygienic properties and resistance to corrosion, with stainless steel being favored for food-grade equipment due to its ease of cleaning and sterilization.

Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous: In Comparison

Metals are broadly categorized into ferrous, rich in iron and offering strength but prone to corrosion, and non-ferrous, iron-free with qualities such as corrosion resistance and conductivity. Whether you require ferrous metals’ durability or non-ferrous metals’ resistance and conductivity, Fast Metals provides a wide range of metal materials.

Visit our online shop to find your project’s ideal ferrous or non-ferrous metal.

Ferrous MetalsNon-Ferrous Metals
Iron ContentFerrous metals have a high iron content, usually over 50% by weight.Non-ferrous metals have minimal iron, typically less than 50%.
Magnetic PropertiesHave high magnetic propertiesNon-magnetic
Corrosion SusceptibilityTheir iron content makes them prone to rust and corrosion, with the exemption of stainless steel and wrought iron.Good resistance to rust and corrosion is beneficial in applications where moisture is a factor (ex: roofing, gutters, piping, etc.)
DensityDenser and HeavierLighter and less dense
Strength and DurabilityStrong, durable, and used for structural and load-bearing purposes.Metals like copper and aluminum are excellent at conducting electricity and heat.

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Hot Rolled Steel vs Cold Rolled Steel

Hot-rolled and cold-finished steel products differ in their manufacturing processes, resulting in variations in properties and applications.

Hot Rolled Steel

  • Manufacturing Process: Hot-rolled steel is produced at high temperatures, typically above the recrystallization point of the steel, which makes it easier to shape and form. It goes through a rolling process where it’s compressed, stretched, and shaped into the desired form.
  • Surface Finish: Hot-rolled steel has a rough, scaly, and somewhat uneven surface. It has a characteristic oxide scale on the surface, which can be removed by pickling or abrasive processes.
  • Grain Structure: Hot-rolled steel has a larger grain structure due to the high temperatures involved in the manufacturing process. This can result in reduced strength and hardness compared to cold-finished steel.
  • Strength and Toughness: Hot-rolled steel tends to be less precise in dimension and shape but is generally less expensive. It is often used in structural applications, construction, and as a starting material for various manufacturing processes.
  • Applications: Hot-rolled steel is suitable for applications where surface finish and dimensional precision are less critical, such as structural components, railroad tracks, and automotive frames.

Cold Finished Steel

  • Manufacturing Process: Cold-finished steel is produced at or near room temperature. It is typically drawn, turned, or ground to achieve the desired dimensions and surface finish. This process enhances dimensional accuracy.
  • Surface Finish: Cold-finished steel has a smoother and more precise surface finish compared to hot-rolled steel. It often doesn’t require further surface treatment.
  • Grain Structure: Cold-finished steel has a smaller and more consistent grain structure, resulting in improved strength, hardness, and machinability.
  • Precision and Tolerance: Cold-finished steel products are produced with tight dimensional tolerances and are highly consistent in size and shape.
  • Applications: Cold-finished steel is commonly used in applications where precise dimensions, surface finish, and enhanced mechanical properties are crucial. These include shafts, fasteners, precision components, and tools.

In summary, the key difference between hot-rolled and cold-finished steel products lies in their manufacturing processes and the resulting properties. Hot-rolled steel is produced at high temperatures, tends to have a rough surface, and is less precise in terms of dimensions. Cold-finished steel, on the other hand, is manufactured at or near room temperature, has a smoother surface, tight dimensional tolerances, and improved mechanical properties, making it suitable for applications requiring precision and performance.

High Strength Aluminum: 2024 & 7075

2024 and 7075 are high-strength aluminum alloys that are commonly used in various applications, especially in aerospace, automotive, and structural industries.

2024 Aluminum

  1. Composition: 2024 aluminum is composed of aluminum (90.7%), copper (4.5%), and small amounts of other elements like magnesium (1.5%) and manganese (0.6%).
  2. Strength: It is known for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, making it suitable for structural applications.
  3. Machinability: 2024 aluminum has good machinability and responds well to various machining operations.
  4. Corrosion Resistance: While it is not as corrosion-resistant as some other aluminum alloys, it can be protected through surface treatments such as anodizing.
  5. Applications: 2024 aluminum is commonly used in aircraft structures, where its high strength and lightweight properties are crucial. It’s also used in various aerospace and transportation components.

7075 Aluminum

  1. Composition: 7075 aluminum is composed mainly of aluminum (87.1%), zinc (5.3%), copper (2.1%), and small amounts of other elements like magnesium and chromium.
  2. Strength: It is one of the highest-strength aluminum alloys available, with excellent tensile strength and toughness.
  3. Machinability: While it can be machined, it is less machinable compared to 2024 due to its higher hardness.
  4. Corrosion Resistance: 7075 has good corrosion resistance, but it is not as corrosion-resistant as some other aluminum alloys. Anodizing can be used to enhance its corrosion resistance.
  5. Applications: 7075 aluminum is used in applications where high strength is required. It’s also used in the manufacturing of high-stress components in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Both 2024 and 7075 aluminum are valued for their high strength. They are used in applications where lightweight and strong materials are essential. The choice between them depends on specific application requirements, machining considerations, and cost constraints.

Alloy 4130: A Common Choice for Automotive

4130 steel is commonly used in the automotive industry due to its excellent combination of mechanical properties and weldability.

Strength & Durability

4130 steel offers high strength and excellent durability, making it well-suited for components that need to withstand heavy loads, stress, and impact. This is particularly important in automotive parts like chassis frames, suspension components, and roll cages.


While 4130 steel is strong, it is also relatively lightweight compared to some other high-strength materials. This makes it advantageous for reducing the overall weight of a vehicle, which can improve fuel efficiency and handling.

Weldability & Machinability

4130 steel can be easily welded, which is essential for the manufacturing and repair of automotive components. Welding allows for the fabrication of complex structures and the modification of existing parts.

This type of steel is also known for its good machinability, making it easier to machine into intricate shapes and components used in automotive applications.

Corrosion & Fatigue Resistance

While not as corrosion-resistant as stainless steel, 4130 steel can still resist rust and corrosion to a reasonable extent. This is important for automotive components that are exposed to environmental conditions.

4130 steel exhibits good fatigue resistance, which is crucial for components subjected to cyclic loading, such as suspension parts and axles.

Heat Treatment

4130 steel can be heat-treated to enhance its mechanical properties further. This allows for customization to meet specific automotive requirements, such as achieving higher hardness or strength.


4130 steel is cost-effective when compared to some other high-strength materials, making it an attractive choice for various automotive components.

Common automotive applications of 4130 steel include suspension components (such as control arms and sway bars), chassis frames, roll cages, steering components, and various structural elements. Its versatility and favorable combination of properties make it a valuable material in the automotive manufacturing and performance industries.

Pipe vs Tube

Metal pipes and metal tubes are both cylindrical structures made of metal, but they have some key differences in terms of their design, purpose, and typical applications.

Purpose & Function

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes are primarily designed to transport fluids, gases, or solids from one location to another. They are used for conveying substances like water, oil, gas, and various chemicals. Pipes often have specific standards and regulations depending on their intended use.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes, on the other hand, are more versatile and can serve various purposes beyond the transportation of materials. They are often used for structural applications, heat exchangers, mechanical components, and as a framework for various structures.

Wall Thicknesses

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes typically have a uniform wall thickness. The wall thickness is designed to withstand the specific pressure and temperature requirements of the substance being transported. Pipe walls are often thicker than those of tubes.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes can have varying wall thicknesses, making them suitable for a wide range of applications. Some tubes have thicker walls for structural strength, while others have thinner walls for heat exchange purposes

Shapes & Cross-Sections

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes are generally designed with a round cross-section, which is ideal for maintaining consistent flow and reducing resistance in fluid transportation.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes can have various cross-sectional shapes, including round, square, rectangular, and oval, depending on the intended application.

Manufacturing Standards

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes are often manufactured to specific industry standards, such as ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) or ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) standards. These standards ensure that pipes meet the required quality and safety criteria.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes can also be manufactured to industry standards, but they are often more flexible in terms of size and shape, making them suitable for a wider range of custom applications.


  • Metal Pipe: Common applications for metal pipes include plumbing systems, oil and gas pipelines, and industrial processes where the conveyance of fluids and gases is essential.
  • Metal Tube: Metal tubes find applications in industries like construction, automotive manufacturing, aerospace, and engineering, where structural strength, heat transfer, or specialized shapes are required.

In summary, the key difference between metal pipes and metal tubes lies in their primary purpose and design. Pipes are mainly used for transporting materials, while tubes serve various structural and mechanical functions in addition to material conveyance. The choice between a pipe and a tube depends on the specific requirements of the application.

All About: Architectural Bronze C385

385 architectural bronze stands out as a remarkable material with a well-balanced chemical composition. It offers excellent corrosion resistance, strength, and machinability. Whether it graces grand buildings or intricate designs, 385 bronze significantly contributes to the beauty, durability, and functionality of architectural projects.

The Chemistry

This alloy primarily consists of copper, with smaller quantities of zinc and lead. The chemical composition of 385 architectural bronze typically comprises approximately 57% copper, 40% zinc, and 3% lead. This precise combination of elements gives the alloy exceptional properties and makes it suitable for various applications.

Characteristics To Know

Architectural bronze’s alloying elements make it desirable for architectural purposes. Its high copper content, which provides excellent corrosion resistance, it is widely used in outdoor environments where longevity and durability are critical. The addition of zinc enhances the alloy’s strength and hardness, making it suitable for structural components and decorative elements. Furthermore, the small amount of lead improves its machinability, allowing for intricate and precise detailing in finish work.

What is Architectural Bronze C385 Used For?

The uses of 385 architectural bronze are diverse and extensive. It finds common application in the fabrication of architectural hardware, including door handles, knobs, and hinges. The alloy’s corrosion resistance makes it an ideal choice for exterior components that are exposed to weathering. Additionally, 385 bronze is often utilized in ornamental features such as statues, plaques, and decorative panels, where its beautiful golden hue adds aesthetic appeal to buildings and public spaces.

This alloy’s versatility extends to its use in lighting fixtures, railings, and various other architectural details that require both functionality and visual appeal.