The important features of free cutting steels are their high machinability and high quality surface finish after finishing. These properties are due to higher sulphur and phosphorus. Sulphur exists in the form of manganese sulphide (MnS) which forms inclusions in steel. These inclusions promote the formation of discontinuous chips and also reduce friction on the surface being machined so produces good surface finish easily. Phosphorus is dissolved in the ferrite and increases hardness and brittleness. Lead up to 0.35% can be added to improve the machinability of steel. These have high sulphur content present in form of manganese sulphide inclusions causing the chips to break short on machining. Mn and P make steel hardened and brittle. Lead (0.2% to 0.35%) is sometimes added to steel improving machinability properties of steel. This consists of three Bessemer grades B1111, B1112, B1113 which differ in sulphur content and the sulphurised steels from C1108 to C1151. The tool life achieved in machining free cutting steels is from 2 to 2.5 times higher than when carbon steels of the same carbon content. However, it must be noted that free cutting steels have lower dynamic strength characteristics and are more susceptible to corrosion. Free cutting steels are frequently supplied in the cold drawn or work hardened form. These cold drawn steels have a high tensile strength and hardness but less ductile when compared to other kind of steels.
Applications of free cutting steel
These steels are used for manufacturing axles, bolts, screws, nuts, special duty shafts, connecting rods, small and medium forgings, cold upset wires and rods, solid turbine rotors, rotor and gear shaft, armature, key stock, forks and anchor bolts screw stock, spring clips, tubing, pipes, light weight rails, concrete reinforcing etc.