Steel Plate Basics: How They’re Made & Used

June 1, 2022 | Categorized in:

stack of steel plates

In some of our other resources, we’ve discussed the basics of other structural steel shapes such as beams, pipes, angles, and rebar. While steel plates are about as simple as steel products come, there’s still plenty to discuss about what defines them, what they’re used for, as well as their sizing conventions.

What is plate steel?

Steel plates are generally rectangular, flat steel products that are used in a variety of structural applications. They are often cut or transformed into different steel shapes to fit a number of different applications. The most common steel alloys used for these products are A36, A572 (Grade 50), and A786, all of which are available in our inventory.

What’s the difference between steel plate & sheet?

It’s not uncommon to think of steel plates and steel sheets as closely related. The boundary that separates the two is primarily the thickness, where the product is considered a “plate” if its thickness is greater than ¼” (6mm). If the thickness of the steel is less than that, it’s considered a steel sheet. Another way you can tell is that steel plates are stored by stacking them, while sheet steel is coiled.

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How is a steel plate made?

The most common way that steel plates are manufactured is through hot rolling, where steel slabs are heated until they are more malleable. The steel is then run through a series of rollers that flatten and thin them out to the desired thickness. When making these plates, it’s common to start with multiple layers of steel that are slowly compressed into one plate. The plate is then cut to the required dimensions for a given project.

What are they used for?

Because of their simple nature, steel plates are used for a wide range of applications in a variety of industries. Some common uses include:

  • Bridge and building construction: Plates are used primarily to strengthen the foundations of large structures such as bridges and warehouses, as well as for anchoring steel beams in these situations.
  • Military shielding: Many military vehicles and buildings use steel plates for protection against gunfire and other dangers.
  • Ship construction: Due to their strength and ease of welding, steel plates are also common in large ships, and are one of the most common materials used in the building of these boats.
  • Road plates: While construction is being done on streets, steel plates are commonly used as a temporary surface for traffic to pass over, and can cover potholes, trenches, excavations, and other damage to the normal road surface.
  • Shipping containers: Lots of the large shipping containers used to transport goods across the globe are made from steel plates to preserve the life of the containers.

There are many more applications for steel plates, but these are some of the top situations where this critical steel shape is used.

Steel plate measurements

Unlike steel sheets, which usually use gauge numbers to measure thickness, steel plates almost always use inches. This makes it easy to not only understand plate sizing charts, but also to visualize the size of the plates. Besides metrics such as thickness, width, and length, weight is also a common consideration with steel plates. The weight per square foot will obviously change with the thickness, but also with the steel grade and finishing services (such as painting, galvanizing, and tread pattern).

Get strong plates for your project today

No matter what type, size, or specification of steel plates you need, Service Steel can supply it. Even better, our experts can help you decide what the best choice is for your project so you don’t need to feel pressured to be an expert in steel plates and standard sizing.


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