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Titanium vs. Steel: Which Is Better for Your Project?

The best manufacturing materials aren’t just strong, long-lasting, and reasonably priced. Two such materials with high strength and corrosion resistance are titanium and steel. Selecting one over the other may be tough because of their similar qualities. 

Titanium Steel Which Is Better

The project’s unique needs will be the determining factor for choosing the best metal. Knowing the properties of these metals is crucial in making the right choice. Talking about the appearance, titanium looks better than steel. But because it’s a naturally occurring metal (0.63% of the Earth’s Crust), the price is higher. Steel, on the other hand, is an iron and carbon alloy. It is accessible with ease and provides structural stability. 

Titanium is biocompatible so that it can be used in medical procedures. But, processing it may be hard due to its high melting point. Steel is easy to process due to its low elongation at break. Since steel is an alloy, its properties can be altered with variations in carbon content. We’ll dive into detail about the characteristics of steel and titanium to help you make the right material choice for the project. 

Understanding Titanium and Its Properties 

Titanium is a naturally occurring element. This silver-gray element is known for properties like high strength, low density, and corrosion resistance. One notable property of titanium is its high melting point, which makes it durable and robust. 

The high melting point also has a downside, making processing harder and more expensive. Along with processing costs, titanium can only be used in high-budget projects because it is available in limited quantities, 

One way to prevent high costs is to use titanium alloys with iron and aluminum. These alloys make up a good choice for automobiles, marine equipment, and the aerospace industry. 

Properties of titanium: 

  • Titanium strength is twice the amount of low-carbon steel and thrice of aluminum.
  • It is light in weight while being strong compared to other metals. 
  • Titanium is shiny. 
  • It is less expandable and won’t change shape in high heat or sudden temperature changes.
  • Titanium does not corrode easily, leading to an extended life of the equipment and infrastructure. 
  • While strong, titanium is still flexible and easily bends into desirable shapes. 
  • The metal is best suited for use in the marine industry as it can withstand seawater while suffering the most negligible impact. 
  • Titanium makes up for a safe and comfortable choice in medical equipment as it is comfortable to touch.
  • It is a versatile material that can be used in various-sized projects. 

Titanium Pros and Cons

We have listed titanium’s pros and cons to understand its impact on manufacturing. 

Pros: 

  • Titanium is corrosion-resistant, making it great for outdoor use. These corrosion-resistant properties come from a thin oxide layer on the surface due to air exposure. This layer does not allow anything to penetrate the metal. 
  • Titanium has a very high melting point of around 1668 °C, making it perfect for jet engines, medical equipment, and turbine machines. 
  • It is a non-toxic element for animals as well as humans; hence, it has a great advantage in medical use. It may be used to repair bones and add dental braces. Since it is strong, it can withstand the strength requirements. 
  • The change in temperature will not impact titanium; hence, it can withstand extreme temperatures. So, the structural integrity of a component will remain the same. 
  • Titanium has a high strength-to-weight ratio, so small components with high strength can be made.

Cons: 

  • Titanium is high in cost, and retrieving it is a hard and long process. 
  • It may deform as it has a low modulus of elasticity. 
  • The low stress-to-strain ratio makes processing and machining difficult. 
  • Its high melting point makes it difficult to cast into desired components. 
  • It is also expensive to extract titanium from the earth. 
  • The extraction process may cause environmental damage, such as soil erosion. 
  • Different production stages of titanium make it expensive and complicated to process. 

Understanding Steel and Its Properties 

Steel is an iron alloy used in modern infrastructure and manufactured machines. Apart from iron, it contains carbon up to 2%. Steel may also contain manganese, silicon, and nickel in less than 1% composition. 

When the carbon content is high, steel is hard and strong but less ductile. Low-carbon steel is more malleable and can be welded easily. These specific properties, due to different compositions, are useful in construction and manufacturing. 

Here are some properties of steel that make it a valuable material:

  • Steel has high tensile, allowing it to bear heavy loads in machines and buildings.
  • The high compressive strength ensures steel can resist deformation.
  • Steel processing is easy, and it can be rolled, bent, welded, and cast. Daily life applications may range from making surgical instruments to massive marine platforms.
  • Items made from steel are recyclable. This sustainability aspect makes it an environmentally friendly choice.
  • Steel can withstand wear and tear. It is also a cost-effective choice for long-term applications.
  • Being an alloy of iron and carbon, steel does not combust. 
  • Steel and its alloy offer high thermal stability. 
  • Steel is a safe bet for buildings to make them fire-resistant.

Steel Pros and Cons

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using steel in manufacturing. 

Pros:

  • Steel is low in cost because of its easy processing and manufacturing. 
  • It is a durable construction material that can withstand high force while maintaining structural strength. 
  • Steel is a sustainable choice since it’s easy to recycle even after being used multiple times. 
  • The malleability and ductility of steel make it easy to customize and blend with other materials.
  • Steel is an inert metal alloy, so it does not corrode or react with chemicals. 
  • Various steel alloys with different features can withstand different weather conditions. 

Cons: 

  • Steel becomes low in strength at high temperatures. 
  • Steel structures may collapse and combust if they are too hot.
  • Steel requires annual maintenance with surface coatings as it may lose strength. 
  • A thin sheet of steel may buckle under stress. 
  • Steel may not look pleasing without the surface finishing. 

Titanium Vs. Steel

We have compared the two materials in detail below. 

Composition

Titanium occurs naturally in the environment. You’ll find it in two forms: pure and alloy. Pure titanium is available in five isotopes: titanium-46 (8.0 %), titanium-47 (7.3 %), titanium-48 (73.8 %), titanium-49 (%), and titanium-50 (5.4 %). As an alloying agent, it is combined with several metals and non-metals. 

Steel, on the other hand, is a man-made metal. 

In other words, it is an alloy that is manufactured using mainly two metals: iron and carbon. An example of this is mild steel, which is 99% iron, <.25% carbon, 0.25% manganese, traces of sulfur and phosphorus. It must also be noted that different manufacturers use some other elements to create different grades of steel. 

Appearance

Titanium is silvery-white in color as compared to steel, and steel looks matt gray or mottled to the naked eye. Steel is also known for its metallic sheen, which is not found in pure titanium. 

Durability 

Titanium is highly tolerant to cracking or bending. It is also not prone to scratches easily, which is why it can last a lifetime. When used to make jewelry, gemstone settings in titanium do not loosen to a large extent. Not only this, the high strength of titanium helps jewelers try embedding delicate stones in it, something impossible with softer metals. 

Steel is found to be more long-lasting than titanium. This property can be attributed to isotropy, meaning it has the same mechanical and thermal properties in all directions, also making it resistant to harsh external elements. An example of this is Arizona steel buildings; these structures have been handling Arizona’s strong winds for a long time.   

Tensile Strength

The tensile strength of pure titanium varies between 275 to 590 MPa and is dependent on the oxygen and iron content. The more oxygen and iron content, the more the tensile strength. For alloy grades of titanium, tensile strength varies greatly and may range from 600 MPa (found in Ti-3A1-2.5V) to 1250 MPa (found in Ti-15Mo-5Zr-3AI).

When compared with titanium, the tensile strength of steel was found to be higher. For instance, steel used in construction has a tensile strength of 36,000–50,000 psi and may reach up to 58,000–70,000 psi. 

Tensile Yield

When it comes to tensile yield comparison, steel is surprisingly stronger than titanium. We know titanium is stronger; however, it’s able to do that at half the weight of steel. Therefore, the per unit mass strength may be greater for titanium, but steel and its alloys are stronger. So, if the design requires a high-strength metal, steel is the ideal choice. 

Price

The cost of producing titanium is higher, which is also why this metal is more expensive than steel. In fact, the complexities in its manufacture have made it 20-40x costlier than steel.  Steel requires less processing, but there is a price variation seen in different grades. 

Density

As we know, titanium is a light metal; its density is also not very high and stands at approximately 4540 kg/m3. 

Steel is denser due to the alloying constituents. Generally, it is between 7,750 and 8,050 kg/m3, or 7.75 and 8.05 g/cm3.

Elongation due to break:

Elongation due to breaking is the length achieved by a material right before it fractures. Titanium is able to stretch up to half its length before fracturing. It makes titanium hard to process as it does not break easily but keeps on stretching when force is applied. 

Since steel alloys can be created for desired strength and flexibility, they become easier to process with low elongation before fracturing. The fracture in the material allows for easy, clean breaks when processing. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Material

Choosing between titanium and steel will depend on various factors. Despite their high strength, both materials have their features. Steel is better in sheer strength and is more affordable. Titanium has a good weight-strength ratio for lightweight projects. Here are some things to consider before making a choice. 

  • Strength needed
  • Budget of the project
  • Design weight
  • Ease in production
  • Lifespan of raw material
  • Alloy requirement
  • Durability 
  • Corrosion resistance

When to Use Titanium?

Titanium is lightweight and has substantial strength; therefore, it can be used in the aerospace industry and medical equipment. It is also less reactive and corrosion-resistant. The biocompatibility features make it suitable for medical use. Moreover, the material will not react or fail when used in the marine industry and chemical processing. For machinery that has unexpected changes in environment and temperature., titanium is an ideal choice. 

When to Use Steel?

When the budget is limited, steel is the better choice as it is more cost-effective. The processing costs can also be cut down as steel is easy to process. It also has a variety of alloys available to choose from. The cost of the end product will also be more affordable. Steel may be used in machines, construction, and automotive manufacturing.

On the other hand, steel may not be ideal for medical use or the aerospace industry as it is not biocompatible. Moreover, it will weigh more; hence, it won’t be useful for the aerospace industry. 

Wrapping Up 

Now you know the pros and cons of titanium and steel and their different properties. Steel is excellent for fabrication and construction while being more affordable. Titanium has high strength and is suitable for precision medical equipment or aesthetically pleasing designs. Consider the requirements of the project and study the impact of these materials. Choose the one that fits all the parameters for the best result. 

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