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    Table of Contents

    Let’s talk about steel tubes or steel tubing. Steel tubing is commonplace in construction and manufacturing projects across India. It’s versatile, strong and durable, making it indispensable in several applications. There are different steel tubing sizes and shapes, that determine its industrial usage and price. Let’s take a closer look at manufacturing and steel fabrication process for different steel tubing types, its properties, and what factors to consider when purchasing steel tubes for business.

    What is steel tubing?

    Steel is a versatile metal. It can be bent and molded into different shapes and forms, making it essential for various applications. Steel tubes or steel tubing is one such steel product that’s extensively used in the construction, automotive, medical equipment, and manufacturing sectors. From building high-rise apartments to intricate machinery in factories, steel tubing is used.

    Steel tubing is strong, durable and anti-corrosive. It can also withstand high temperatures and is highly adaptable. Steel tubings are hollow steel sections and can be of different shapes and sizes. Commonly available shapes are round (oval or circular), square and rectangular. They can common be seen in steel railing designs for balconies, railway tracks, and conveyor systems.

    Steel pipes vs steel tubing

    As a business owner, using steel in your projects, it’s helpful to understand the key differences between steel pipes and steel tubes and when to use which.

    Parameters Steel pipes Steel tubes
    Shape Always round and hollow Various shapes usually round (circular or oval), square and rectangular
    Measurement criteria Nominal pipe size (NPS) standards used for measurement Measured using inches and millimeters
    Durability and rigidity Less durable but more rigid More durable and may or may not require tools for shaping/bending
    Manufacturing Usually hot rolled steel is used Hot or cold rolled steel can be used

    Types of steel tubing

    There are different types of steel tubing that are used based on their size, weight, and shape. This is important, as it determines industrial applications and can impact the performance, durability, and strength of the structures. Let’s take a quick look at the different steel tube types and their applications.

    Steel tube type by material

    • Stainless steel tubing: Stainless steel contains chromium, making it corrosion resistant. It’s also strong, durable, and long-lasting. The composition of stainless steel also gives it a sleek and elegant look that makes it ideal for use in medical, food processing, and architectural applications especially modern infrastructure projects across India.
    • Carbon steel tubing: The carbon content in steel impacts its properties such as weldability, ductility, and malleability. Low carbon steel tube is strong and durable, and the preferred option for structural and engineering applications, shipbuilding, and more. It’s also cost-effective, especially when used in large infrastructure development projects such as bridges, highways and buildings. (Also read: Difference between carbon steel and stainless steel)
    • Alloy steel tubing: When different metals are added to steel, it enhances or changes its properties. This enables different steel alloys tubing to be suitable for different purposes. For instance, steel alloy tubing can be used in high-pressure environments, like power plants and chemical processing where ordinary steel would not function or perform optimally. Common alloys in steel include vanadium, chromium, manganese, nickel, etc.
    • Galvanised steel tubing: Galvanised steel tube is standard steel coated with a layer of zinc to prevent corrosion and rust. Galvanised steel is often used for outdoor fittings as it can withstand diverse weather conditions. Galvanised steel tubing is used to make fences and railings, and also in plumbing works.
    • Precision steel tubing: This form of steel tubes are often used in aerospace and automobile applications where high precision is required. It offers minimal tolerances for accuracy is vital in advanced manufacturing projects.

    Manufacturing process of steel tubing

    When it comes to manufacturing steel tubes, it can be categorised into – welded or seamless.

    • Welded steel tubing manufacturing: Begins with taking steel sheets, plates or strips, and rolling it into a tube. The point or edges where the sheets meet, is then welded.
    • Seamless steel tubing manufacturing: Steel billets are required for this process. A hollow space is created in the centre of a cylindrical billet, to create a tube.

    In general, steel tubing can be manufactured using any of the above techniques based on the desired outcome. Here’s a quick snapshot of steel tubing manufacturing process:

    • Steel making: This involves melting scrap steel and iron ensuring the quality of the raw materials
    • Forming billets: Steel is then melt and used to make billets (small solid blocks) instrumental for various tubing shapes and sizes
    • Seamless tubing process: If following the seamless tubing process, the billets are then pierced to create tubes (Note: This method enhances the strength, making tubing suitable for high-pressure applications)
    • Welded tubing process: If following the welded tubing method, the steel sheets are rolled into tube, and the edges welded (Note: This method adds flexibility in diameter and wall thickness)
    • Cold drawing: The next step aims to improve the tubing’s precision and finish, where tubes are drawn through dies to specific dimensions and enhance the surface quality
    • Heat treatment: This step involves processes like annealing and quenching, and is what changes the mechanical properties of steel tubes to make it suitable for specific applications
    • Surface finishing: And finally, the tubing is cleaned or even coated as per requirements

    Industrial applications

    We already understand the different applications of steel tubing. From outdoor fittings to construction, medical equipment, and automobiles, steel tubing is used in various industries. Let’s take a closer look.

    • Construction: Provides structural strength and durability, for infrastructure projects such as skyscrapers and bridges and dams
    • Oil and Gas pipelines: Since tubes are corrosion-resistant, it is suitable for making leak-proof pipelines to move these liquid and gaseous resources through long distances
    • Automotive industry: It’s strong, resilient, high-performing, shock-resistant, and can provide vehicle safety, making them suitable for vehicle frames and components
    • Medical devices: Often used for making hospital beds and surgical tools (especially with stainless steel) due to its properties of malleability, ductility, and corrosion-resistance
    • Energy sector: Steel tubing is a popular choice in wind and solar power projects, for the metal’s stability, durability, and longevity
    • Agricultural implements: Steel tubes are used for making strong and durable farming tools and machinery, that can withstand impact, weather conditions (humidity, high temperatures), and perform optimally

    This brings us to the vital question of innovation in steel tubing and how its production process can align with sustainability initiatives. Here’s a quick look.

    Innovation and trends

    Steel production in India has witnessed significant changes in recent years especially in manufacturing techniques and materials science. New lightweight alloys used in steel tubing, enhance properties making it suitable for advanced architectural and engineering applications.

    Additionally, new age digital manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, is removing scope of errors, making room for greater accuracy and precision. This also leads to less wastage, cost reducing, and efficiency.

    Sustainability and steel recycling

    Sustainability is a priority for the government and the recycling of steel can contribute towards minimising environmental impact. The sector is committed to reducing its carbon footprint through the adoption of eco-friendly green steel manufacturing processes and recycling.

    Steel is recyclable, without loss of quality, making it a key player in maintaining a circular economy. Steel tubing can be made from steel scrap or discarded steel, to reduce wastage, optimise energy usage, and create high-quality products. It can further be coated with eco-friendly products for a greener outcome. (Also read: Steel scrap recycling policy).

    Purchasing tips and considerations

    It’s evident that when you purchase steel tubing for business, it’s imperative to consider factors such as size, thickness, grade, and quality. This will ensure that the tubing meets the specific project requirements.

    The grade of steel you select will also impact the tubing’s properties. As such, take care to match the grade with the requirements, and availability before purchasing.

    What is also recommended is finding the right steel supplier. Since, infrastructure, construction and manufacturing projects, are often for the long term, ensure your supplier has the credibility and stock for the long-term. You should also verify the quality of steel being offered, to ensure that it does not impact the overall quality of your structure.

    At Tata nexarc, we can help you here. We have partnered with leading steel sellers in India and offer quality steel for you to buy. Credit facility and door-step delivery available. To get a quote or discuss details of your steel requirements, contact us now.

    Sohini Banerjee

    Sohini is a seasoned content writer with 12 years’ experience in developing marketing and business content across multiple formats. At Tata nexarc, she leverages her skills in crafting curated content on the Indian MSME sector, steel procurement, and logistics. In her personal time, she enjoys reading fiction and being up-to-date on trends in digital marketing and the Indian business ecosystem.