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The Lowdown on Low Alloy Steel

For high strength and durability, many engineers and manufacturers turn to low alloy steel. All steel is an alloy, a metal that is mixed with another metal. Regular steel (or carbon steel) is a mixture of iron and carbon, but low alloy steel has another element added in. There are also high alloy steels, but the definition between the two is somewhat vague. In general, the designation “alloy steel” refers to low alloy steel.

The properties of a low alloy steel will depend on the third type of metal added to it. For example, manganese, which is the most common alloy material, can increase hardenability (the ability to harden in heat) or make steel less brittle.  Adding chromium or boron also increases steel’s hardenability. Nickel makes steel more impervious to corrosion. The other most common alloyants are chromium, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium. Less frequently, low alloy steel may contain zirconium, lead, zinc, tin, aluminum, cobalt, copper, tungsten, titanium, niobium, and cerium. In low alloy steel these metals are added in increments of 5% or lower, which increases steel’s hardenability. Other properties include toughness, hardness, and increased resistance to wear. This makes low alloy steel incredibly durable and used in items like construction equipment, ships, oil drilling equipment, cross-country pipes, military vehicles, jets, oil equipment, spacecraft, and nuclear reactors. Because low alloy steel has high levels of carbon, however, it can sometimes be a challenge to weld, so material scientists may reduce the carbon down to somewhere between 0.1% and 0.3% to make the steel easier to weld. The resulting steel is called high-strength low-alloy steel.

Because there are so many different types of low alloy steel, it is important for an engineer, builder, or welder to know the properties of each before choosing the type to be used. Low alloy steels containing nickel, chromium, and molybdenum are often used for boats, subs, and bridges. These types of steel are known for their ability to stand up to gradual pressure (yield strength) and the ease with which they can be welded. Visit Ranger Steel for variety of steel steel services. High-strength low-alloy steel is incredibly durable so it is often used for battleships and structural material. The alloy steels ASTM A514, A517, and T1 are often used for boilers and heavy equipment due to their ductility (the ability to change shape without breaking) and great strength. Weathered steels are corrosion resistant and also have a weathered look popular in architecture. They are often used for bridges and the facades of buildings.

With the proper knowledge, engineers and builders can use low alloy steel to create machinery, buildings, bridges, military equipment, vehicles, and more that could change face of the planet and the course of history.

Ranger Steel has supplied North America’s low alloy steel needs for more than 50 years. Quality products, competitive pricing, and on-time delivery are hallmarks of the way Ranger Steel does business. Call Ranger Steel today at 800-231-5014 or visit us online at

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