When comparing titanium and steel, it’s important to note that steel is an alloy while titanium is an element. The characteristics of steel can be changed depending on what it is blended with. While titanium can also be alloyed, those who need a strong metal that is very lightweight will want it pure. Titanium is much more expensive than steel.
To get an idea of the price difference between titanium and steel, it’s a good idea to compare sheet products. Unless you have a waterjet or a CNC lathe, cutting steel or titanium block will be extremely difficult.
As of August 2022, a 24-inch by 36-inch sheet of steel, 11 gauge, is just over $100.00 US. A thinner sheet of titanium retails for more than $250.00 US. Depending on what you need it to do, either product may be a necessary investment. However, if you are not skilled at working with steel, investing in titanium may be a waste of your money.
Facts About Titanium
One of the biggest benefits of working with titanium is that it is extremely strong in relation to weight. It is more malleable than steel, meaning it will take dings and scratches more easily. However, because it will bend and flex under extreme pressure, the chance that it will buckle, tear or perforate under stress is much smaller.
The melting point of titanium is also much higher, so heat damage is less of a risk. While titanium melts at over 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, steel melts at just under 1,400 degrees depending on the alloy combination.
Titanium can be hardened through anodizing, or oxidizing the surface of the material via electric current. Because titanium is used in decorative settings, the look of anodizing may not be what you want. However, anodizing in industrial settings is common practice.
As a general rule, titanium is cut within a liquid environment. Titanium chips can burst into flames. Cutting titanium in the open air can also harden the material, leading to inaccurate cuts and a change in strength across the sheet. This remarkable material can be successful in many different settings, but you will need training and tools to safely shape and cut titanium.
Finally, titanium is biocompatible with human tissue. If you need a new knee or a pin in a broken bone, it will likely be titanium.
Facts About Steel
When comparing titanium and steel in industrial settings, the steel in consideration is generally stainless steel. Elements such as chromium, carbon, and nickel are blended with iron to make stainless steel harder, lighter, and more resistant to corrosion. While stainless steel can corrode over time, the risk is much lower than iron.
If you’re buying sheet steel for an industrial setting or for personal welding work, keep an eye on the copper content. Anything more than 0.50% can impact the strength of your welds and the heat tolerance of your steel; you may end up blowing through the material instead of a controlled melt and strong connection.
When comparing steel alloys, it’s critical to pay attention to words such as hardness, strength, and toughness. Hardened steel can take a lot of abuse, but under extreme pressure can shatter. If you’re using hardened steel tools, never work without eye protection.
Strength refers to the amount of stress a stretch of steel can tolerate. Very strong sheet metal can be extremely strong, but if the material tears it can quickly rip all the way across a joint under pressure. Toughness refers to the ability of steel to absorb the energy of shock or perforation damage, particularly when under heavy load.
All three factors should be considered when choosing steel for a particular application. Steel beams are often the basis for tall buildings. A beamed steel building in the midst of an earthquake needs to be tough first, then strong and finally hardened. The ability to slightly deform can be the difference between a standing steel building and a collapsed concrete one. Very hard materials can also be brittle and lead to catastrophic failure.
Steel can be hardened through a process called heat treating. When heat treating steel, the material is heated until the carbon is dissolved or burned away. In this case, the steel object is then dipped into liquid for rapid cooling. Alloyed steels are formulated to include carbon with an eye toward future heat treating.
For example, if you are building metal components that need to maintain a strong cutting edge, such as for the agricultural or construction industries, you would like to cut, shape, and weld the material, then heat treat the finished tines or rake spears for the maximum harness and cutting power.
When you work with either material, they will get hot. As noted above, titanium chips can catch fire and will burn hot enough to damage your shoes if you try to stamp out the fire! When working with either metal, make sure you have gloves to protect your hands, clamps to hold the work, and a charged fire extinguisher just in case.