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Steel Vs Titanium: 8 Major Differences Between the Two Popular Metal Choices

Sep. 30, 2022

Both steel and titanium are strong materials that are common in a variety of applications. The question is that in a matchup of steel vs titanium, which one comes out on top, steel or titanium? 

The right answer depends on the application and the constraints of your design. Sometimes, steel would be the better choice because of the functional requirements or the available budget. However, titanium’s superior physical properties can also be what you need in multiple applications as well. 

Here are 8 of the most important differences that you can consider while comparing titanium and steel for your application


Steel Vs Titanium: 8 Major Differences Between the Two Popular Metal Choices

 

1 – Elemental composition

The elemental composition is the first major difference in the matchup of titanium vs steel. As stated before, titanium is a naturally occurring element and is available in both pure forms and as an alloy. In most cases, Ti 6-4 – an alloy containing aluminum and vanadium – is the most common titanium alloy you’ll find. 

Steel, on the other hand, is not naturally occurring. It’s primarily a combination of iron and carbon with varying amounts of other elements added to tweak the properties depending on the application. This is why you won’t find the technical properties of steel anywhere. For detailed information, you’ll have to specify the alloy like stainless steel (even that has many types), high carbon steel, or specific alloys such as 4130, 4140, or A36. 

 

2 – Weight

The defining characteristics of titanium are its low density and high strength-to-weight ratio. That’s why this metal is a preferred material choice in the CNC machining aerospace industry and other similar applications where you need to reduce weight without compromising on strength.

Contrarily, steel alloys are generally durable and possess great strength but lose out in the weight department. They are a perfect choice for applications where weight is not among the primary design constraints. 

 

3 – Hardness

Hardness is among the areas where steel outperforms titanium. The low Brinell number is one of the reasons why titanium is so hard to machine. It is common to see titanium alloys in the industry as trace amounts of other metals offset the low material hardness of titanium. 

 

4 – Elasticity

This is another area where steel generally outshines titanium as most of its alloys are more elastic. Once again, greater elasticity makes the steel easier to machine and create custom parts, which is an extremely important characteristic as it directly affects the processing cost. 

The debate on steel vs titanium will never give you a straightforward answer. In all cases, your project, conditions, and the available budget will determine which one is the better choice. 

 

5 – Durability

Durability is a multi-faceted parameter with several aspects depending on the application. In the strength and longevity department, many steel alloys perform as well (sometimes even better) as titanium. However, titanium stands out because of its ultimate corrosion resistance and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures.

While steel alloys generally perform quite well in many conditions, the presence of iron means that they will corrode eventually. Titanium, on the other hand, performs significantly better and is hence used in many harsh conditions where constant exposure to moisture, chemicals, and other elements is expected. 

 

6 – Tensile yield strength

In any titanium vs steel comparison, you’ll see that titanium offers more strength per unit mass. However, steel is still the better choice when overall strength is concerned and that fact becomes apparent when you compare their tensile yield strengths. 

If the strength of your selected metal is the sole concern, then steel is a natural choice. Titanium is ideal for situations where you are concerned about the strength along with the weight. That’s why construction and industries rely on steel while automotive and aerospace designs favor titanium. 

 

7 – Common applications

Titanium is generally used for high-performance applications where you need excellent thermal proprieties, corrosion resistance, and a high strength-to-weight ratio. Some of the most common applications of titanium are: 

● Surgical Tools and Applications

● Prosthetics

● Aerospace

● Tennis Rackets 

● Motorsports Vehicle

 

Steel and its alloys are one of the most widely used metals because of their variety. From metal parts manufacturing to simple construction, and machinery development. You’ll find it everywhere. Here are some of its most common uses:

● Construction 

● Electrical Appliances

● Manufacturing Pipes 

● Trains and Cars 

● Different Types of Common tools  

 

8 – Price

Price is a significant consideration in any titanium vs steel comparison and steel will always win in that department. As stated before, titanium is quite abundant but its high melting point and processing requirements make it significantly expensive to purify and machine. In many cases, using something as expensive as titanium simply doesn’t make business sense.

Contrary to titanium, steel is an extremely cost-effective option. It’s easier to produce, as there is no shortage of iron and carbon in the world. Furthermore, steel doesn’t have any elaborate processing requirements. Steel prices, however, vary greatly due to the sheer number of its variants. An alloy with only carbon and iron would be the cheapest while those enriched with chromium, zinc, or even titanium would require more capital.

 

Interested in a quick answer? Here's a brief table to give you a steel vs titanium comparison at a glance. 

CharacteristicTitaniumSteel
Elemental compositionIt’s a naturally occurring element that you can find in its pure form and as an alloy as well.Steel is primarily an alloy of iron and carbon and has to undergo numerous processes. Its properties can be tweaked using other elements, depending on what your requirements are. 
WeightTitanium is far lighter compared to several of its alternatives and offers a better weight-to-strength ratio.It losses out in the weight department. Steel is ideal for applications where weight is not a concern. 
HardnessTitanium is hard to machine as it has a low hardnessSteel is far better compared to titanium in this regard and usually has a high Brinell number.
ElasticityThe elasticity of titanium is low, making it difficult to machine as it deforms easily. Having a much higher elasticity, steel is easier to a machine.
DurabilityGenerally, titanium has better corrosion and temperature resistance.Steel can, under perfect conditions, perform better than titanium but it is susceptible to corrosion.
Tensile yield strengthDespite offering more strength per unit, titanium has a lower tensile yield strength compared to steel.Steel has a high yield strength, making it a favorable choice for designers whose primary focus is on strength only. 
ApplicationsHigh-performance applications like aerospace, motorsports vehicles, marine engines, etc.  Most used metal with varying applications in industrial equipment, construction, and other areas.
PriceGenerally, more expensive because of high extraction and processing requirements.A more cost-effective choice because of simple production and processing requirement.


Now you may understand the differences between titanium and steel more deeply so that you would know how to choose the better material for your project. If you're designing a metal part, KLS Metal is your choice. Get started now!


Steel Vs Titanium: 8 Major Differences Between the Two Popular Metal Choices

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