When designers require rugged, tough materials for their projects, steel and titanium are the first options that come to mind. These metals come in a wide assortment of alloys – base metals imbued with other metallic elements that produce a sum greater than its parts. There are dozens of titanium alloys and hundreds of more steel alloys, so it can oftentimes be challenging to decide where to begin when considering these two metals. This article, through an examination of the physical, mechanical, and working properties of steel and titanium, can help designers choose which material is right for their job. Each metal will be briefly explored, and then a comparison of their differences will follow to show when to specify one over the other.
Many businesses and industries utilize titanium and/or stainless steel during their daily operations. The primary difference between these two substances is that titanium is metal while stainless steel is a metal alloy. Keep reading to get a better understanding of the implications of this difference as well as to form a clearer picture of other differences existing between titanium and stainless steel.
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What is Titanium?
Titanium was first purified into its metallic forms in the early 1900s and is not as rare as most people believe it to be. It is the fourth most abundant metal on Earth, but it is difficult to find in high concentrations or its elemental form. It is also difficult to purify, making it more expensive to produce than to the source.
Elemental titanium is a silver-grey nonmagnetic metal with a density of 4.51 g/cm3, making it almost half as dense as steel and landing it in the “light metal” category. Modern titanium comes either as elemental titanium or in various titanium alloys, and all made to increase both the strength and corrosion resistance of the base titanium. These alloys have the necessary strength to work as aerospace, structural, biomedical, and high-temperature materials, while elemental titanium is usually reserved as an alloying agent for other metals.
Titanium is difficult to weld, machine, or form, but can be heat-treated to increase its strength. It has the unique advantage of being biocompatible, meaning titanium inside the body will remain inert, making it indispensable for medical implant technology. It has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, providing the same amount of strength as steel at 40% its weight, and is resistant to corrosion thanks to a thin layer of oxide formed on its surface in the presence of air or water. It also resists cavitation and erosion, which predisposes it towards high-stress applications such as aircraft and military technologies. Titanium is vital for projects where weight is minimized. Still, strength is maximized, and its great corrosion resistance and biocompatibility lend it to some unique industries not covered by more traditional metals.
A metallic element, titanium has silver-to-grey colouring. Its atomic number is 22, and its symbol as a chemical element is Ti. It offers a high strength-to-weight ratio, creating an extremely strong substance. The titanium also offers a high heat transfer efficiency as well as being highly resistant to corrosion. As a result, it is highly desirable for use in certain industries such as construction, where temperature changes and the elements of weather can create adverse effects on structural components.
Titanium offers a high level of mechanical resistance, making it extremely durable. Its low density makes it lightweight, adding to its desirability in certain industries. Its corrosion resistance is found across a wide field, making it highly resistant to corrosion created by a wide assortment of alkalis, acids, industrial chemicals, and natural waters.
What is Stainless Steel?
Perfected during the onset of the 20th century, steel has quickly become the most useful and varied metal on Earth. It is created by enriching elemental iron with carbon, which increases its hardness, strength, and resistance. Many so-called alloy sheets of steel also use elements such as zinc, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and even titanium to improve its resistance to corrosion, deformation, high temperatures, and more. For example, steel with a high level of chromium belongs to the stainless steels or those who are less prone to rusting than other alloys. Since there are many kinds of steel, it is hard to generalize its specific properties, but our article on the types of steel gives a good introduction to the various classes.
To speak generally, steel is a dense, hard, yet workable metal. It responds to the heat treatment strengthening process, which allows even the simplest of steels to have variable properties based on how it was heated/cooled. It is magnetic and can conduct both heat and electricity readily. Most steels are susceptible to corrosion due to its iron composition, though the stainless steels address this weakness to some degree of success. Steel has a high level of strength, but this strength is inversely proportional to its toughness, or a measure of resilience to deformation without fracture. While there are machining steels available, there are other steels that are difficult, if not impossible, to machine due to their working properties.
It should be clear that steel can fit a lot of different jobs: it can be hard, tough, strong, temperature or corrosive resistant; the trouble is that it cannot be all these things at once, without sacrificing one property over the other. This is not a huge problem, though, as most steel grades are inexpensive and allow designers to combine different steels in their projects to gain compounding benefits. As a result, steel finds its way into nearly every industry, being used in automotive, aerospace, structural, architectural, manufacturing, electronics, infrastructural, and dozens of more applications.
Stainless steel is alloy steel, which means that it is steel combined with one or more elements in order to change its characteristics. Alloying refers to the process of mixing more than one metal. In the case of stainless steel, it is often made with approximately ten to thirty per cent chromium and seventy per cent iron to give it corrosion resistance as well as the ability to hold up well to temperature changes.
When other elements are added to the mix, it is usually done to enhance the steel’s ability to resist corrosion or oxidation. In some cases, a specific element is added in order to encourage a unique characteristic in a particular type of stainless steel. Although they are not always added to alloy steel, one or more of the following elements are sometimes included in the mix of metals: titanium, copper, aluminium, sulphur, nickel, selenium, niobium, nitrogen, phosphorus, or molybdenum. The specific metals that have been added to the steel to produce stainless steel are known as alloying elements.
What is the difference between Titanium and Stainless Steel?
The main difference between stainless steel and titanium is simply that stainless steel is an alloy metal while titanium is a metal. The unique characteristics of stainless steel are created by adding alloying metals to it, while titanium’s characteristics are naturally found within it.
Circumstances exist that often suggest one substance is better suited than the other for use in a specific project or activity. For example, titanium is often preferred by some manufacturers due to its unique qualities that deliver strength and durability along with low density. Therefore, when weight is a more important consideration than strength, titanium is often preferred. Conversely, stainless steel is preferred by industries that place higher importance on weight than strength. While titanium is not as dense as steel, it is just as strong, making it highly suitable for specific industries, such as aerospace, an industry that requires lower density in addition to strength.
Titanium is more expensive, though than stainless steel, making it cost-prohibitive for some industries, such as construction, which requires large quantities. Therefore, when money is an important part of the equation, stainless steel is sometimes chosen over titanium if both substances are deemed suitable.
Titanium is extremely biocompatible, meaning that it is non-toxic to the human body. Therefore, it is used regularly in the medical industry as an excellent source for replacement parts such as hip implants, knee replacements, cases for pacemakers, and craniofacial plates for the human body. It is also utilized in the dental industry for dental implants, a growing area of the dentistry field. Due to its biocompatibility, titanium is commonly used to make jewellery, corrosion resistance, and lightweight nature compared to stainless steel.
Stainless steel offers both weldability and formability, allowing it to be easily shaped, adding to its popularity for use in a number of industries. Due to its shiny appearance, stainless steel is often used to make household items, such as kitchen pots and pans, as well as to make healthcare products, such as sinks, countertops, portable carts, shelving, and tables.
Stainless steel is subject to fatigue and shattering, while titanium is highly resistant to fatigue caused by fluctuating changes in temperature. Therefore, titanium is a better choice when variations in temperature lead to extreme highs or lows.
Stainless steel and titanium are used in various industries around the world. Both are highly durable, corrosion-resistant, and strong. Typically, it is the nature of its use that determines which metal is chosen.
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Uses of steel stainless-steel-passivation-cutlery
Stainless steel is very commonly used in modern construction as it is hard, flexible, and easily welded. Steel is also used in products with blades such as knives, as it is harder than titanium. Blades made from high-grade steel last for longer than titanium blades. This is because steel often takes longer to deform than titanium. In terms of metal finishing, stainless steel can be passivated to reduce the chemical reactivity of its surface. It can also be used as a parent metal and covered with a metal plating.
Uses of titanium crystals
Due to its impressive strength-to-weight ratio, titanium alloys are often used in strong products that need to be light, such as tennis rackets and bicycles. However, it is also used in ship hulls and propeller shafts due to its resistance to seawater. In terms of metal plating, electroplating services can be applied to titanium; for example, platinum can be added to improve its appearance.
What Is the Strongest Metal in the World?
Steel and alloys top the list for overall strength. Steels, alloys of iron, and other metals are much harder than anyone type alone. The following are the strongest metals in the world:
- Carbon Steels have a carbon content up to 2.1 per cent by weight, yield strength of 260 megapascals (MPa), and tensile strength of 580 MPa. They score about six on the Mohs scale and are extremely impact-resistant.
- Maraging Steels are made with 15-25 per cent nickel and other elements (like cobalt, titanium, molybdenum, and aluminium) and low carbon content. They have yield strength of between 1400 and 2400 MPa.
- Stainless Steel, with a yield strength of up to 1,560 MPa and a tensile strength of up to 1,600 MPa, is made with a minimum of 11 per cent chromium and often combined with nickel to resist corrosion.
- Tool steels (used to make tools) are alloyed with cobalt and tungsten.
- Inconel (a superalloy of austenite, nickel, and chromium) can endure extreme conditions and high temperatures.
What Is the Strongest Non-Alloy Metal in the World?
While the aforementioned alloys can be considered the strongest metals in the world, the following metals are the strongest pure, non-alloy, metals:
- Tungsten has the highest tensile strength of any natural metal, but it’s brittle and tends to shatter on impact.
- Titanium has a tensile strength of 63,000 PSI. Its tensile-strength-to-density ratio is higher than any natural metal, even tungsten, but it scores lower on the Mohs scale of hardness. It is also extraordinarily resistant to corrosion.
- Chromium, on the Mohs scale for hardness, is the hardest metal around. It scores 9.0, but it’s extremely brittle. So unless it’s combined with other metals, it isn’t very useful if you need yield and tensile strength.
Steel vs Titanium
Physical qualities of titanium make it a preferable material used by automobiles, aerospace, jewellery and many other industries. It has been known for its high strength and toughness, durability and low density, and ability to withstand high and low temperatures. The corrosion resistance and biological compatibility of titanium are another two attributes very useful in a variety of applications like surgical implants etc. it is precious and costly when compared to steel. Steel is corrosive, rusts, stains, and is heavier than titanium. Steel’s density is 7.85 g/cm3, and titanium has 56% that of steel.
When compared to steel, titanium has exceptional resistance to a broad range of acids, alkalis, natural waters and industrial chemicals. Titanium is considered a superior combination of high strength and low weight ratios when compared to steel. Another reason it is preferred in surgical implants and deep good tube strings is that titanium based alloys are lightweight and stronger. Steel is preferred in industries where strength is more important than weight. Titanium is used for surgical implants because the human body accepts it, and it is nonpoisonous and biologically inert. Stainless steel metal implants are prone to develop some serious medical conditions and diseases. Titanium is in high demand by computer manufacturers for making computer components. Another popular use of titanium is for jewellery making. Titanium is in strong competition with steel in the automobile industries. Steel is used where there is a need for a hardened material, like axles for cars or trucks, whereas titanium structures do not guarantee longevity and have a fatigue limit.
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Comparing Steel & Titanium
The first striking difference between titanium and steel is their densities; as previously discussed, titanium is about half as dense as steel, making it substantially lighter. This suits titanium to applications that need the strength of steel in a lighter package and lends titanium to be used in aircraft parts and other weight-dependent applications. The density of steel can be an advantage in certain applications such as in a vehicle chassis, but most of the time, weight reduction is often a concern.
The modulus of elasticity, sometimes referred to as Young’s modulus is a measure of the flexibility of a material. It describes how easy it is to bend or warp a material without plastic deformation and is often a good measure of a material’s overall elastic response. Titanium’s elastic modulus is quite low, which suggests it flexes and deforms easily. This is partly why titanium is difficult to machine, as it gums up mills and prefers to return to its original shape. Steel, on the other hand, has a much higher elastic modulus, which allows it to be readily machined and lends it to be used in applications such as knife edges, as it will break and not bend under stress.
Elongation at break is the measure of a test specimen’s initial length divided by its length right before fracturing in a tensile test, multiplied by 100 to give a percentage. A large elongation at break suggests the material “stretches” more; in other words, it is more prone to increased ductile behaviour before fracturing. Titanium is such a material, where it stretches almost half its length before fracturing. This is yet another reason why titanium is so difficult to machine, as it pulls and deforms instead of chips off. Steel comes in many varieties but generally has a low elongation at break, making it harder and more prone to brittle fracture under tension.
Steel and titanium are both strong metals that are commonly used. But which one is better and what are they good for? Here at metal plating company, Dorsetware, we intend to help you answer these questions with a helpful guide to the two metals.
Which is stronger?
When alloyed with other metals such as aluminium or vanadium, titanium becomes dramatically stronger than many sheets of steel. In terms of sheer strength, the best titanium alloys beat low to medium grade stainless steels. However, the highest grade of stainless steel is stronger than titanium alloys. We recommend sticking with a common titanium alloy if you’re looking for strength.
Which is lighter?
Given its strength, titanium is remarkably light. When compared to steel in a strength-to-weight ratio, titanium is far superior, as it is as strong as steel but 45% lighter. titaniumTitanium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all known metals.
Certain claims by marketing associates and companies gave way for the controversy to rise that titanium is stronger than steel, but unlike the claim, the best steel is stronger than titanium alloys. In unalloyed condition, titanium is 45% lighter and as strong as steel. We can presume that the same rod of steel will be 5% stronger than titanium, but titanium will be 40% lighter. Another difference is the ability of titanium to withstand high heat without any reduction of weight. Carbon steel cannot bear higher degrees of heat. Steel may bear around 2,700 degrees F, whereas titanium can bear 3,300 degrees F. If we compare the heat and cold stability of titanium versus steel, titanium is more thermally stable than steel; which is 800 degrees F, which makes it an excellent choice for subzero weather material because it does not break, whereas steel can shatter. Another advantage that titanium has over steel is that it can be flexed or bowed repeatedly, and it is flexible enough to not to rupture like steel.
- Titanium is a nonpoisonous and biologically inert metal.
- Steel is stronger but has a more fatigue life than titanium.
- Steel can shatter, whereas titanium can withstand high and low temperatures.
- Steel is magnetic and corrosive when compared to titanium that is nonmagnetic and anti-corrosive.
- Steel is preferred when strength is needed in a hard material, and titanium is preferred where a lightweight and strong material is required.
When comparing the tensile yield strengths of titanium and steel, an interesting fact occurs; steel is by-and-large stronger than titanium. This goes against the popular misconception that titanium is stronger than most other metals and shows the utility of steel over titanium. While titanium is only on par with steel in terms of strength, it does so at half the weight, which makes it one of the strongest metals per unit mass. However, steel is the go-to material when overall strength is the concern, as some of its alloys surpass all other metals in terms of yield strengths. Designers looking solely for strength should choose steel, but designers concerned with strength per unit mass should choose titanium.