Whether you require it for construction or reinforcement, mild steel still stands tall as one of the best materials available. Cost-effective, hugely versatile and with big benefits for the planet, nearly every steel-based product makes use of this metal, from vehicle frames to a majority of the world’s pipelines. But what are the scientific reasons for the benefits of mild steel, and what have been some of its recent improvements?
Mild Steel in a Nutshell
Created through a variety of processes, mild steel mostly contains iron, with small quantities of other elements such as carbon, manganese, silicon, phosphorus and sulphur. The methods by which mild steel is produced will ultimately affect its quality and mechanical properties. The steel can either be manufactured as sheets or as a coil, where it is then to be flattened to a chosen thickness, either when it is still hot or once it has cooled. Mild steel can also be hot dip galvanised, which is often the preferred production method when you want metal that can be used for interior and exterior applications (where extra corrosion protection is beneficial).
Some of Mild Steel’s Benefits
With the right tools at your disposable, mild steel can be cut, bent and twisted into any desired shape. Whether it’s the shell of a new car or a pipeline designed to carry water or natural gas, mild steel can be magnetised and melded to purpose with more ease than other metals. Stainless or high carbon steel, for example, requires special methods in order to be ready for commercial use, which means more heat expenditure, machining and the purchase of special tools – all of which can be a costly strain for any business.
Speaking of unnecessary expenditure, mild steel’s eco-potential is one of its most admirable qualities. Like many other metals, it can be recycled endlessly without losing its strength and malleability, but because of its magnetic makeup it can be retrieved from a pile of scrap metal far more easily than other materials. Because burning metal in a waste-to-energy plant creates no energy, it makes far more sense to recycle mild steel as a means of saving energy and putting it to further good use.
Using mild steel does have some drawbacks, but luckily these can be corrected with further manufacturing processes. Whilst the metal rusts more easily than many others, it can be sealed through painting or by coating it in a corrosive-resistant material (an essential process for pipeline building). Due to its low structural strength, there are some projects that mild steel is impractical to use for, but for many others you can use a treatment process (known as carburising) to enhance its strength and wear properties.
Advancements in Mild Steel
Despite its heavy use for several decades, mild steel production is still being advanced to this very day. These new developments include new methods of adding protection to the metal, such as the recently announced form of thermal diffusion galvanization, which aims to further atone for mild steel’s structural weaknesses with lower environmental cost. The metal is also used in new applications across the world, from sturdier litter bins to cutting edge art exhibits!