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What’s the Difference Between Steel Sheet and Steel Plate?

Published by Lucy Thurston on

Steel is one of the most common types of metal and is produced in many different alloys and forms to suit all manner of needs. From stainless steel that is used for kitchen appliances to steel beams that are used in construction, it’s one of the most useful types of metal and can be found almost everywhere. 

At Rapid Metals, we supply two of the most widely used forms of steel: galvanised steel sheet metal and steel plate metal. The two look the same because they’re both flat sheets of metal and they’re both rolled to achieve a smooth finish, giving the illusion of being the same product when, in fact, they are two different things. 

As one of the premier steel plate and galvanised steel sheet suppliers in the UK, we are best placed to advise you on the differences between the two to ensure you make the right choice for your project. 

What is a steel sheet?

Steel sheet is, as the name suggests, the name given to steel that is rolled into flat metal sheets. It is useful for a number of applications that require increased strength without too much weight. Occasionally, steel sheets may be corrugated (creased at specific intervals) or diamonded (diamond ridges added) to increase the strength without adding additional weight. 

What is steel plate?

Steel plate is essentially a steel sheet, but it is thicker. Due to the increased thickness, steel plate is more durable and is used in more intense applications. Steel plates can sometimes be finished in a specific way, such as to form tread plates that have a ridged top for added grip. 

What’s the difference? 

The difference between steel sheets and steel plates is the thickness. Steel sheets are widely regarded as being between 0.5mm and 6mm. If the sheet is thinner than 0.5mm, it is considered a foil, and if the sheet exceeds 6mm in thickness, it becomes a plate. There are other measurements that can be used to measure steel sheets and plates, including gauge, though this is more commonly referenced in manufacturing and industrial applications. 

As a general rule of thumb, the higher the gauge number, the thinner the metal is, and this will determine whether it’s a foil, sheet, or plate. The thickness can also determine the way in which the metal is produced. For example, hot rolling is more cost-effective and is ideal in scenarios where the metal doesn’t need to be finished to exact dimensions. This is because when hot-rolled metal cools down, it may shrink or distort slightly. In large-scale construction projects, this isn’t as much of an issue, so plates are commonly hot rolled. 

In contrast, cold rolling is used mostly for sheets, though it can be used for plates if precision is needed. Cold rolling gives the manufacturer more control over the final size and finish, though it’s more expensive. With regards to construction, cold rolling typically only applies to metals that are 3mm thick (sheets). After this, it is more cost and time-efficient to use hot rolling. 

Due to the difference in thickness, the metals differ in their acceptable uses and applications, as well as cost. 

Uses of steel sheet metal

Sheet steel can be used across all manner of industries, though the exact use will depend on the finish. For example, galvanised steel sheet is resistant to corrosion due to the zinc oxide coating, making it ideal for use in the manufacturing industry. The advantageous nature of the galvanised steel sheet specifications also makes it a common choice for objects that may be exposed to high levels of water. This includes things like metal buckets, irrigation pipework, greenhouse structures, and more. 

In essence, sheet metal is ideal for applications where you don’t necessarily need too much durability, although, as mentioned before, additional strength can be added through corrugation or adding diamond edges. 

Uses of steel plate metal 

Plate metal is thicker and is, therefore, more durable than steel sheet. With this in mind, steel plate is commonly used in the automotive manufacturing industry. The thicker nature means plate steel can withstand higher impacts, making it a top choice for cars and other vehicles that need to tolerate a safety crash test. 

Choosing between steel sheet and steel plate 

If you’re unsure whether you need steel sheet or steel plate, the main question you need to ask yourself is, how strong does the final product need to be? If you require a high level of strength, a steel plate will be the most ideal choice for you. In contrast, if you want something lighter, less strong, and more malleable, consider steel sheet. 

Buy steel sheet online today 

At Rapid Metals, we are among the leading suppliers of steel sheet, including galvanised steel sheet to size and stainless steel sheets, in the UK. You can browse our range of sheet steel and place an order online today. Alternatively, contact us if you want more information about which finish and thickness will best suit your needs. 

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