Carbon steel, or plain-carbon steel, is a metal alloy. It is a combination of two elements, iron and carbon. Other elements are present in quantities too small to affect its properties. The only other elements allowed in plain-carbon steel are: manganese (1.65% max), silicon (0.60% max), and copper (0.60% max). Steel with a low carbon content has the same properties as iron, soft but easily formed. With more carbon the metal gains hardness and strength but becomes less ductile and more difficult to weld. Higher carbon content lowers steel’s melting point and its temperature resistance in general.

Steel can be heat-treated which allows parts to be fabricated in an easily formable soft state. If enough carbon is present, the alloy can be hardened to increase strength, wear, and impact resistance. Steels are often wrought by cold-working methods, which is the shaping of metal through deformation at a low equilibrium or metastable temperature.

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