Titanium and steel are among the strongest metals used in manufacturing. Titanium vs steel arguments has been on for a long time. Both metals have excellent chemical and mechanical properties. They may also be alloyed with different elements to enhance their properties.
There are many grades of titanium and steel available today. Thus, there is a need to choose the right metal for your application carefully.
Selecting the best out of the two great metals may be tricky. It is important to understand each metal’s properties and application.
This article explains the properties of titanium and steel, their differences, and their specific application. Continue reading to know the best option for your products.
What Is Titanium?
Titanium is a silver-colored metal known for its strength, low weight, and corrosion resistance. Due to its unique combination of properties, titanium is widely used in various industries, including aerospace, defense, medical devices, and sporting goods.
It is also a popular choice for jewelry due to its hypoallergenic qualities and its resistance to tarnishing. Additionally, titanium is a biocompatible material, making it suitable for use in surgical implants and other medical applications.
Characteristics of Titanium
One of the most important characteristics of titanium is its lightweight. Titanium is about 40% lighter than steel. Other properties of pure titanium are
- Density – 4.5 g/cm3
- Elastic Modulus – 116 GPa
- Tensile Strength – 220 MPa
- Yield Strength – 140 MPa
- Melting Point – 1666 0C
- Brinell Hardness – 70
- Thermal Conductivity – 17.0 W/m-K
- Percentage elongation – 54%
Advantages of Titanium
Titanium offers many benefits. For this reason, manufacturers use it for many applications. The following are some of the advantages of using titanium
- As stated above, titanium has a high melting point. Hence, titanium is more stable than most metals. You can find it in many outdoor applications.
- Titanium is highly corrosion-resistant. You can attribute this property to the protective oxide layer. This implies that titanium parts will not crack or peel after years of continuous usage
- Titanium’s strength is one of its most notable advantages. Its high strength-to-weight ratio has made it a popular choice for manufacturing structural frames in the aerospace industry. It is important to note that although titanium is lighter than steel, it offers similar strength.
- Titanium’s high strength does not restrict its fabrication property. You can safely machine this metal using different processes. Titanium may be the most ideal for parts with complex shapes and designs.
What Is Steel?
Steel is the most widely used metal though it does not occur naturally. Steel is an alloy of iron with varying amounts of carbon (0.4 to 4%). The carbon content enhances hardenability and improves the surface finish.
Additionally, you can add other elements to improve the properties of steel. For instance, steel containing up to 10% chromium is highly resistant to corrosion.
There are 4 different grades of steel; carbon steel, stainless steel, tool steel, and alloy steel. Each of them has different compositions and properties.
Characteristics of Steel
Because steel is a blend of different elements, it has many unique and important properties. Its excellent corrosion and wear resistance is one of the most important properties of steel. They are the go-to material for many mechanical applications. Other properties of carbon steel include
- Density – 7.85 g/cm3
- Elastic Modulus – 200 GPa
- Tensile Strength – 540 MPa
- Yield Strength – 415 MPa
- Melting Point – 1425 to 1540 0C
- Brinell Hardness – 163
- Thermal Conductivity – 51.9 W/m-K
- Percentage elongation – 10%
Note: These values may be different for other steel types
Advantages of Steel
The different grades of steel offer unique benefits. However, the following are common to all types
- Steel has excellent weldability properties. It may be the right material when the ease of fabrication is a determining factor. You can also improve this property by subjecting the part to a heat treatment process.
- Steel is popular in manufacturing industries because of its high strength and hardness. This advantage is essential in construction and tooling. Parts that contain steel are long-lasting and require little maintenance.
- Steel is cheap yet durable. Steel is often the first choice for many operations because of the low cost of fabrication and processing. Hence, using steel for production may increase the overall profit of your business.
- After a long life, you can recycle steel parts. This makes the use of steel environmentally friendly.
Steel vs. Titanium: A Detailed Comparison Between The Two Popular Metal Choices
Material Properties Differences Between Titanium and Steel
Is titanium harder than steel? Which metal is more resistant to the effect of corrosion? Does steel crack during welding? Many of these questions often come to mind during metal selection. Read on for a detailed metal comparison.
You can find titanium in nature as its oxide. However, manufacturers use titanium as an alloy. The most common titanium compound is titanium dioxide (TiO2). Furthermore, titanium alloys contain small amounts of iron, aluminum, vanadium, cobalt, chromium, nickel, niobium, and copper
Steel does not occur naturally. As stated earlier, steel contains mainly iron with varying amounts of carbon. Some steel grades also contain minute quantities of sulfur, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, oxygen, and many more.
Corrosion resistance is a major difference between titanium and steel. Titanium’s corrosion resistance property is top tier. When exposed to the atmosphere, titanium forms a protective oxide layer. This layer helps to prevent further corrosion reaction
Because of the iron content, steel will corrode when in contact with air. However, the addition of chromium to steel enhances this property. Chromium forms a stable layer of Cr2O3 as a surface coating in an aerated environment
For a material to be durable, it must be strong and withstand damage due to high temperature, wear, corrosion, and harsh weather conditions.
By virtue of its excellent corrosion resistance property, titanium is more durable. However, this property varies amongst different titanium alloys. Nickel-based alloys are stable at extreme temperatures.
The strength and hardness of steel are not debatable. However, steel is less durable when compared to titanium. Thus, steel may not perform optimally in certain applications. This may limit the use of steel generally.
Titanium vs steel weight is another factor to differentiate both metals. The weight of metal affects its functionality. Titanium is a lightweight metal with commercial significance. Typically, titanium has a relatively low density and is lighter than steel.
This property is fundamental in the aerospace and automotive industries. This is because lighter material weight increases fuel efficiency without compromising strength.
Steel weighs more because of its carbon content. However, you can choose to reduce the carbon content by adding other stronger alloy elements.
When it comes to ease of machinability, titanium takes a back seat. You may find it difficult to machine titanium parts. Because of its low elasticity property, it does not return to its original shape after applied stress. This may result in deformed or broken workpieces.
On the contrary, steel is compatible with many manufacturing processes. With the right tools and software, it is easy to machine steel.
However, the addition of some alloying elements like molybdenum decreases machinability and may wear out cutting tools with time.
Here, titanium has the edge over steel. You can join titanium with other metals using suitable welding operations.
However, contamination with atmospheric nitrogen increases the risk of cracking and breakage at the welded joint. Using shielding gas like argon is advisable to finish with a good weld.
However, it may be difficult to weld carbon steel because of its high carbon content. You need to weld steel grades with a carbon content greater than 0.2% with caution. Because of their hardness, they may crack during the welding process.
Strength Differences Between Titanium and Steel
The strength of metal may determine where you can use it. Strength is a major distinguishing factor considering titanium vs steel. Let us consider two essential strength types:
The tensile strength of a material determines its mechanical properties. The tensile strength of the common grade titanium alloy manufacturers use is 220MPa.
This is low when compared to high-carbon steel. However, titanium has a greater strength-to-weight ratio.
The carbon content of steel influences tensile strength. The tensile strength of low-carbon steel is approximately 540MPa. This value may be as high as 1100MPa for high-carbon steel. Hence, tensile strength is ideal when comparing titanium vs high-carbon steel.
The yield strength gives you an estimate of the maximum permissible load. Pure titanium has a yield strength of approximately 140MPa. However, you will find the yield strength of titanium alloys to be higher.
The yield strength of some steel grades may be as high as 550MPa. This implies that steel workpieces will not deform permanently, provided that the stress does not exceed the above value.
Ability to Form
The melting point and formability properties define a metal’s ability to form. Here are the things to know:
Formability is the ability of titanium or steel metal to be deformed into various shapes without significant cracking or damage. The metal’s elongation determines its overall formability property.
Titanium metal is relatively flexible. You will find it returning to its original shape after applied stress. Hence, titanium may be the go-to material for intense applications.
The formability of steel is excellent as well. However, just like most metal properties, the degree of formability depends on the carbon content.
High-carbon steel is stronger. But they are also more brittle. Hence, they tend to crack easily. You must take the necessary precaution when forming this steel type.
For many forming operations, you have to melt metals at appropriate temperatures. You can form metals better when they are molten. Titanium metal has a strong metallic bond.
Hence, a higher melting point. This implies that you need more heat energy to mold titanium to the desired shape.
Pure carbon steel has a lower melting point when compared to titanium. Keep in mind that the melting point further decreases as the carbon content increases.
Appearance and Touch
Let’s compare the way steel and titanium metals feel and look below:
Differentiating titanium and steel using just their color may not be appropriate. However, there is a slight difference in how they appear.
Titanium has a greyish-silver-white color. Pure titanium is a few shades darker than silver or white gold. Additionally, you can anodize titanium in different colors for a lustrous and glossy appearance.
Steel comes in different colors, with the most common being gray or silver. But, this color changes based on the temperature you use when heat-treating steel.
For instance, the steel turns purple at 520 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these different color changes do not affect the metal’s functionality.
Titanium and steel are both hard metals. However, titanium is a little softer than steel. This attribute contributes to the poor machinability of titanium. For this reason, it is common to see titanium cracks during certain machining operations.
Many manufacturing industries use steel for its hardness. You can further increase this hardness by increasing the carbon content.
However, an increased carbon content may not always be a blessing. Too high a carbon content may leave you with a brittle workpiece.
Pricing and Options
When considering titanium vs steel cost, it is not surprising that titanium is more expensive. Titanium is abundant yet costly. This high cost is mainly due to its extraction and fabrication processes. It is expensive to extract titanium oxide from its ore.
Additionally, the process of reducing it to the usable metal form produces waste and requires considerable human labor.
Steel does not require any complex fabrication process. Coupled with this, most of the raw materials are readily available and accessible.
However, the addition of other alloying elements to steel may affect the overall cost. Carbon steel containing only iron and carbon is the cheapest grade. Stainless steel containing chromium may not be cost-effective.
Titanium vs Stainless Steel Applications
Titanium and stainless steel are distinct metals. So, different industries use them for various applications.
Because of their lightweight, titanium alloys are ideal for aerospace applications. Additionally, they have a high tensile strength-to-density ratio with excellent corrosion resistance properties. These properties make them suitable for high-stress applications.
They are the first choice of material for the manufacture of fan and compressor blades, aircraft structural components, and landing gear.
Titanium alloys are very attractive materials for many industrial applications. More than half of all processed titanium is used in engine applications.
Furthermore, the mixture of other alloying elements with titanium is gaining popularity. These alloys are strong and have excellent wear resistance. Armor plating, spacecraft, engines, and many more rely on titanium for their strength and durability.
Architecture and Consumer
The use of titanium for manufacturing everyday items is not uncommon. Automotive parts, electronic appliances, and most metallic parts you can think of all contain titanium. Titanium is the first choice of material where weight reduction without sacrificing durability is critical.
Titanium offers many benefits, including biocompatibility and nontoxicity. For this reason, its use in the manufacture of jewelry is becoming usual. Titanium is a cheaper alternative to gold and silver. Unlike most other metals, titanium jewelry does not cause significant allergy reactions. This makes it very safe for body jewelry and piercings
The use of titanium in the medical industry is endless. From wheelchairs to forceps and dental drills, you can find titanium in many medical applications. As stated above, titanium is non-toxic and biocompatible.
This means that it does not trigger the body’s immune system when you use them as joint replacement. They are durable and can be used as a single implant for as long as 20 years.
Also, manufacturers mainly use titanium for dental implants. In addition to their nontoxicity, they also have excellent hard-tissue compatibility.
Storage of Nuclear Waste
One of the leading benefits of titanium is its excellent corrosion resistance. Many of titanium’s chemical and mechanical properties make it suitable for manufacturing nuclear waste containers.
Titanium does not react with other elements. Hence, using titanium containers prevents leakage. This reduces the risk of exposure to these harmful wastes.
The following are some of the applications of steel:
Steel provides a means for architects to express themselves structurally. Steel is an excellent construction material where durability and strength is a major concern. Of all grades, carbon steel is the most common for building construction.
This steel type is malleable, and you can form it easily. Bridges, residential metal buildings, and parking garages contain steel as the primary material.
Paper, Pulp, and Biomass Convention
Stainless steel is an essential component of the paper and pulp industry. Manufacturers here use highly-corrosive chemicals extensively. Stainless steel is perfect because it protects against both microbial and chemical corrosive attacks.
When comparing high conductivity steel vs titanium, it can withstand extreme temperatures that come with the conversion of wood chips to paper.
You will find stainless steel in digesting components, waste paper recycling components, standard bleaching components, and many more
Processing of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Attack from chemical compounds and deterioration of equipment is a major concern in the chemical and petrochemical industries. Steel is a popular metal in the chemical industry because its chemical and mechanical properties remain intact when it comes in contact with corrosive chemicals.
Stainless steel is a cheaper alternative to titanium and nickel alloys. Tanks, structural components, subsea pipelines, heat exchangers, and pressure vessels are some examples. These stainless steel parts have proven to be reliable with a long life span.
Food and Beverages
Materials in the food industry must be safe, non-toxic, and sterile. Steel meets all these requirements. Canned food and drink packaging have complex shapes and undergo various sterilization reactions for optimum preservation.
Because of the chromium alloy, stainless steel can withstand the rigors that come with sterilization. Also, it does not alter the color or taste of the food product. It is not a surprise that most cookwares and other household utensils are all steel products. These products neither rust nor react with the chemicals in food.
Steel plays a role in energy production. This metal will continue to remain significant in supplying the world with energy. Steel is an important construction material for transformers, power plants, electric motors, and mining equipment.
In addition to the production and distribution of electricity, you can also use steel components in renewable energy applications
Guns are the most common type of weaponry used in forces all over the world. A heavy pistol will eventually become a burden for an officer. Steel comes into play here because of its light weight and strength. Additionally, the production and fabrication process of steel is easy and fast. This means that you can produce thousands in a day.
Though the automobile industry keeps evolving, the importance of steel remains constant. Steel makes up more than 50% of a vehicle. Steel is durable and can withstand extreme conditions. Hence, its use in the car body, chassis, and engines. Furthermore, steel is continuously recyclable.
There are many reasons why the use of steel is common in the medical industry. Firstly, steel does not react with body fluids. This means that it is relatively safe for different surgical procedures.
Secondly, equipment in different medical fields must be sterile. Steel is ideal here because it can withstand the extreme temperature that comes with sterilization. Lastly, steel is cheap and readily available.
It is not surprising that steel makes up 15% of equipment and machines worldwide. In addition to manufacturing them, you will often find them as casings. In cases of accidental fall, steel is strong and can absorb shock without breaking.
Titanium vs Steel: Conclusion
Choosing the right material is the most important step for a successful manufacturing process. A mistake in the material selection will affect the functionality of the final part. In this article, we have successfully explored the properties and applications of titanium vs steel.
Amongst other properties, it is safe to say that steel parts are cheaper and stronger, and you can machine them easily. If weight, durability, and corrosion resistance are determining factors, titanium will be a wise choice.
However, it is not certain that the combination of both metals as titanium steel alloy enhances their properties.
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