Types of structural steel and their uses

Where would the world be without structural steel? It is one of the most popular construction materials for big building projects in the world. However, that isn’t the only industry you will find this metal. It’s flexibility in the types of steel you can get, and the wide range of beneficial properties lend well to a variety of uses that we will be exploring in more detail in this article.  

What are the different types of structural steel? 

As mentioned above, structural steel doesn’t just come in one form and the different types emphasise different benefits that allow the steel to fit in with various applications and uses in industries. The most commonly use type commercially is carbon steel. This is because when more carbon makes up the metal (up to 2% earns the title of ultrahigh carbon steel and is the maximum) it improves its overall strength and durability. We’ll look at some other examples of popular steel types below.  

High strength micro-alloyed steel 

In this type of steel, alloys like manganese, nickel, or chromium are added to improve its strength, ductility, and corrosion resistance. Different elements can be added to alter the properties of the metal to the desired effect.  

Weathering steels 

Weathering steels are a sub-category of the previous steel in this list and focus on creating the best possible resistance to outdoor elements. Given that many industries need their metal to be weather-resistant, this is one of the most valuable forms of steel and is largely used in fabrication and construction.  

Quenched and tempered steel 

Heat treatment is used to create this steel with the outcome being increased strength, which is why it is often used in buildings.  

Fire-resistant steel 

When using steel for structural purposes there are situations where they could be more at risk to fires. To combat this, a fire-resistant steel is created by thermos mechanically treating the metal.  

Real-world uses of structural steel 

Thanks to its broad range of useful benefits like low cost, high strength and longevity, corrosion resistance and more, structural has found its place in many key industries and efficiency has improved because of it.  


Aircraft undercarriages, anchor chains, trains, rails, and ships are just a few examples of the essential products structural steel is used to manufacture in the transport sector.  


The energy sector uses structural steel in a wide variety of applications. It can be found in many industrial buildings as well as several different energy sources like transmission towers, pipelines, wind turbines, electromagnets, and more.  


Structural steel is a big part of the mining industry with a significant part of the substructure being reinforced using steel. Other important parts of mining that feature structural steel include offices, workshops, and mining screens. The main reason behind this is that the smooth surface of the metal makes it easy to clean, meaning it won’t interact with any elements found in the mine.  


Structural steel is resistant to external pressure and stay in their required shapes for the long term. This is particularly advantageous in the marine industry where the products are often exposed to the natural elements. Submarines, boats, ladders, and stairs all include structural steel in some way.  

Where can I find structural steel fabricators near me? 

If you’re looking for professional and experienced structural steel fabricators for your project in Sheffield, the team at FEM are here to help. We have worked with clients in a wide range of industries to create high quality bespoke steel fabrication products that perfect fit with their requirements, and we can do the same for you. Contact us today to discuss your bespoke metal fabrication needs. 


The thermal efficiency of aluminium framework

Energy efficiency is an essential consideration for all construction projects, now more than ever with the effort to reduce climate change and carbon footprint. When it comes to buildings whether they are residential or commercial, doors, windows, and frameworks are key contributors to heat loss and high energy costs, so choosing the right material is extremely important. In this article, we will be exploring the impressive thermal efficiency of an aluminium framework and why aluminium fabrication is so important in maintaining thermal efficiency.  

Why does thermal efficiency matter? 

Thermal efficiency and the performance of framework is important in two ways: high thermal efficiency will help to save money on energy bills thanks to less heat escaping and, as mentioned above it reduces carbon footprint by keeping a building warmer, so the heating doesn’t need to be on as much. Equally, the thermal performance of aluminium windows and doors can be beneficial in the summer too by preventing heat from getting in, so the property can be kept at a reasonable temperature no matter the season.  

Explaining R and U values 

You might have already heard of R and U values as they play a key role in measuring the energy efficiency of both windows and doors. If you can’t decide which materials to use on a project the R and U values could be the influencing factor as the better the measurements, the more energy efficient the finished product will be. All parts of a product can be given these values so you can fairly compare aluminium with other materials like uPVC or timber.  

The difference between a U-value and an R-value is a U-value measures how good the product is at stopping heat from escaping. So, the lower the U-value is the less heat that has been lost and the better the efficiency is. By contrast the R-value comes from things like the type and thickness of the material and ultimately measures to what degree the material can prevent heat loss. Therefore, in the case of R-values, the higher the number the better.  

U-value is the most important measurement with the legal requirement being 1.6 W/(m2K) or below when new windows are being installed onto an existing building. High quality aluminium frames will almost always have a U-value that is less than this.  

How important is the framework for saving energy? 

The type of glass you use can make a significant difference to how thermally efficient your finished product is. Even though it might not seem like it because it is a smaller area than the glass and its main function is providing structural integrity, the frame is just as important in aluminium fabrication door designs and windows for maintaining heat.  

Aluminium frames on windows and doors are fairly new to the market and haven’t always had the best reputation for thermal efficiency, especially in comparison to materials that have always been widely used like wood. However, time and advancements in technology have led to aluminium being fabricated in a way that achieves and even exceeds the standard for energy efficiency and is a much more cost-effective option than its timber counterparts.  

This is thanks to a process called thermal breaking which utilises a resin filled channel and placing a reinforced polyamide bar in between the aluminium profiles to form an insulated wall in the framework. As a result, temperature and sound will escape at a much slower rate than with normal aluminium.  

Other benefits of aluminium 

As well as modern aluminium fabrication leading to high levels of thermal efficiency, the metal has many other properties and benefits that make it ideal for use in windows and doors. The most valued examples include its reduced cost (particularly when compared to market alternatives), its sustainability and easy recyclability that benefits the environment, and its overall strength and durability which is useful not only against various weather conditions and corrosion but also helps with security and making it more difficult for a building to be broken into.  

You can find out more about the benefits of aluminium, particularly in relation to windows and doors, in one of our other guides. Click here to learn more.  


Aluminium is one of the best materials on the market for thermal efficiency thanks to the fabrication work that goes into it to make it that way. If you’re looking for the highest quality aluminium fabrication services for your next project, our team at FEM can help. Contact us today to discuss your requirements and learn more about what we can do for you with our bespoke fabrication processes. 

FEM sponsor local football team

FEM are proud to announce we’ve sponsored our local football team Kiverton miners FC U12’. We are keen to support local kids’ clubs with sporting activities at their centre.

This newly created team are in their first season and are already top of the league and aiming for promotion!

The passion of the coaching staff and the time they invest are a massive part of the success of the team and the positive environment they have created:

Manager: Adam Travis
Assistant manager: Dougie Travis
Coach: Ali Nicklin
U12 treasurer: John Watkinson

Catering staff:
Jackie Travis
Kim Travis
Christine Watkinson

Good luck for the rest of the season lads!

Sheet metal hemming explained

Hemming is a sheet metal fabrication process in which the edges are folded over each other. The aim of it is to give the edges more strength, improve the visual aesthetic, join different parts together, and cover any rough edges or burrs/defects. In this article, we’ll be exploring everything you need to know about sheet metal hemming including the benefits of the process and the different types of hem. Let’s start by looking at hemming in more detail.  

What is sheet metal hemming? 

Like the name suggests, sheet metal hemming does resemble edge stitching on clothes. When the edge of sheet metal is hemmed, its strength is reinforced to give it better longevity and accuracy during the process is essential for a better surface quality and appearance ahead of its application upon completion. A common use for sheet metal hemming is in the production of car parts, including the doors, bonnet, and boot lid. This is because it is extremely useful for connecting two metal parts together.  

What are the benefits of hemming? 

There are several benefits to using sheet metal hemming including strengthening the edges of the metal, covering imperfections, making the edges easier and safer to work with, and joining parts together. This all works together to create a product that will be high-quality and long lasting in various industries.  

Breaking down the main hemming processes 

Conventional die hemming 

This type of hemming is the most commonly used for fabrication of straightforward and flat panels on a mass production scale as it is more restricted to simple pieces. It requires several stages, often referred to as pre-hemming and final hemming to bend the complete length of the metal and predetermined angles with a hemming tool. Despite the production of conventional die hemming being very costly, especially when buying the equipment, there are ways to minimise cycle times significantly.  

Roll hemming 

A hemming roller is used to carry out this process in small parts. Due to the accuracy and technicality required it is often done with robots so the roller can precisely create the flange. By contrast to die hemming, roll hemming is considered to be much more flexible, economical, and less expensive, but the cycle times can be a lot higher due to the roller needing to follow a vert strict path to achieve its goal to the highest possible standard.  

What are the different types of hem? 

Closed hem 

In a closed hem, the folded over part of the metal lies completely flat on top of the other metal surface with no air pocket or gap in between them. More tonnage is needed to make a closed hem than other hems, meaning thicker sheets of metal should be avoided in this process as they could start to crack.  

Open hem 

When the metal is folded over, a gap or air pocket is left between the metal, with the bend sitting at an angle of 180 degrees. Not as much tonnage is required to create this hem in comparison to a closed hem.  

These are the two main types of hem that you need to know about, there are others, but these are the most commonly used.   

What is the difference between hemming and seaming? 

As well as hemming, there is another similar process in this area of metal fabrication called seaming. You will often find seaming being used in the food industry as it is very effective in sealing tinned items thanks to its ability to cut off one side of the sheet metal from another. Even though they can be considered as quite similar, seaming is different to hemming in a few notable ways including: 

  • In most cases they will be used differently for example, the hemming process features heavily in vehicle production and some other general uses. Seaming on the other hand is more specialised and has its role in food and roofing sectors for which hemming would not be suitable.   
  • There will always be a gap in the seaming process, it doesn’t create a fully flat style of hem.  
  • The goal of seaming is simply to join two parts together, the strength of the edges, the look and quality of the end result is not as important as it is with hemming.  

Where can I find sheet metal fabrication near me? 

If you’re looking for high quality bespoke metal fabrication, our team at FEM can help. The range of products we make are diverse and span across a range of sectors from structural fabrications, offshore oil, and gas, nuclear, and many others. We have accreditations in place to ensure there is full traceability of all materials while manufacturing metal to a specified standard. Contact us today to discuss the specific requirements of your project. 





Why you should use mild steel for fabrication

When it comes to factors like versatility and cost-effectiveness, not many metals can offer as good a performance as mild steel. As the world’s most common type of steel, it has broad applications and is relied upon in daily life, thanks to its ability to be cut exactly to size and modified to suit where it is needed during the mild steel fabrication process. In this article, we will be exploring the benefits of mild steel as well as why it should be used for fabrication. 


First, what is mild steel? 

Mild steel is a form of low carbon steel, meaning it contains only a small percentage of carbon. Carbon content in steel can vary depending on the desired characteristics; with low carbon steels containing 0.05 – 0.25% carbon, increasing the properties of pure iron. 

Even though there are different grades of mild steel, they all have carbon levels that fall within the above-mentioned range. Inclusion of additional components enhances useful characteristics of steel, like anti-corrosion, abrasion-resistance, and strength. 


What are the benefits of mild steel? 


Mild steel is the least expensive of all steel types with many everyday objects being created from it such as vehicle chassis, motorbike frames, and a lot of kitchenware. The reason for its affordability is its carbon content, making it strong enough for a variety of jobs without being costly tensile. When it is needed for large orders, high quality mild steel fabrication companies like FEM can produce it en masse with a much lower cost than other steels, ensuring the best possible results and happy customers. 


In comparison to high-carbon steel, it is far easier for mild steel to be coalesced. Due to certain properties the metal has, electric currents can move through it without altering its ‘makeup’. This is different to other metals like stainless steel, where special techniques are required to ensure it is welded to a professional standard. This lessens expenses for labour and electricity, plus provides a solid end product from its simple fabrication. 


Ductility measures how much a material can be deformed by elongation without it breaking. These materials can stretch up to 15% of their original form before irreversibly changing and no longer returning to their initial shape. Along with materials like copper and thermoplastics, mild steel is able to bend, stretch and have reasonably large forces applied to it, making it easier for form, shape, and weld as needed. 


A key benefit of most steels, including mild steel, is that it can be indefinitely recycled without losing its quality. Thanks to its magnetic properties as well, mild steel is especially easy to recover from unsorted waste and scrapped mild steel is essential to be able to produce more of it. Recycling scrap metal as much as possible is much cheaper than mining iron ore and processing it to create more. 


Why should mild steel be used for fabrication? 

When considering the benefits of mild steel above, it’s easy to see why mild steel is used in fabrication. It’s a key part of a wide range of industries and its useful properties and cost effectiveness make it a popular choice over other types of steel. To understand the importance of why it is used in fabrication, take a look at the list of a few examples of mild steel products and uses in various industries: 

  • Steel frame buildings- mild steel is commonly used for construction frame materials because of the high strength beams. 
  • Gates and fencing- two products where high security and aesthetic appeal are important, mild steel offers both of these important qualities. Low carbon steel is difficult to break and can be painted, primed, or galvanised to be corrosion resistant and provide a decorative finish. 
  • Machinery parts- one of the most sought-after traits of low carbon steel is malleability, which makes it well suited to use during production of sheet metals within car body kits and other key machinery components. 
  • Pipelines- mild steel is a top choice for creating steel pipes for various projects. This is because of their impressive ductility and being easy to weld whilst flexible enough not to break under pressure. Mild steel pipes can also be insulated to ensure their performance in colder weather, improving the long-term quality of the pipework. 
  • Structural steel- Low carbon steel is suitable for structural steel fabrication as it has consistent yield strength and is malleable. These properties and the cost-effectiveness of the metal means mild steel can sometimes be preferable over structural steel in smaller applications. 


If you’re looking for high quality mild steel fabrication UK, our team of experienced engineers at FEM can help. Contact us today to discuss your project requirements and we will deliver impressive, bespoke metal work that goes above and beyond your expectations.