Material numbers and standards

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Numbers games: what material numbers and standards are all about

Europe, mid-19th century: industrialization is getting more and more rolling, the railway network is growing, wooden ships are becoming obsolete, steam engines are becoming an everyday sight.

Steel is the engine of this new development. As a flexible and resilient material, it allows the construction of ever more powerful factories, deeper mines, faster trains and ocean liners. But steel is no longer just steel.

Already 200 years ago there were different grades of the material, due to its chemical composition and different processing methods, which decide about its hardness or its corrosion and heat resistance and thus its optimal application. Industrialized Europe threatens to lose track of its multitude of steel grades until 1860 when the Secret Commerce Councilor Rudolf Haas came on the scene - yes, at that time the titles still had weight.

It is this man who founds the Steel Institute VDEh, the technical and scientific community organization of the German steel industry. Together with the German Institute for Standardization, the Steel Institute begins to classify the material and sort it according to a unique number: the material number.

These material numbers are still valid today and are still assigned by the steel institute VDEh.

We would like to explain how to read them.

Material numbers: Five digits that explain the steel

According to the regulations of the European standardization, the material number of a steel is usually five digits and reveals a lot of information about its composition and its material properties to the initiated. For better readability, the first digit is separated by a point. A material number for steel could look like this:


The first digit and the combined second and third or the fourth and fifth digit each have their own meaning. The structure works as follows:


The leading number indicates the main group of materials. Steels always carry the 1, heavy metals the 2 and light metals the 3.

So if you take a look at the overview of our materials, you will immediately notice that the numerical designation of our engineering steels, tool steels or stainless steels all start with a 1.

Alloys based on the heavy metal nickel, on the other hand, have a 2 at the beginning, a titanium alloy has the leading number 3 as a light metal.


The next two digits in combination represent the so-called type number of the material and provide information about its purity, its area of application or special physical properties.

The numbers 15 to 18 stand for container steel, 20 to 28 for tool steel or 47 for heat-resistant steel.

We have compiled a complete overview of all digit combinations for you in a separate table below.


The last two digits of the material number serve as a counting number. This means that they provide an indication of how much steel it is that has been produced in exactly this composition.

Should it ever happen that the counting number exceeds 99, it can be expanded by two digits according to the currently applicable rules and looks like this: 1.2345 (67).


In older publications and material lists you will sometimes come across two additional digits, which are separated from the material number by a further point, the so-called appendices.

The sixth digit describes the steelmaking process and the seventh digit describes the state of treatment of the material. However, the associated DIN standard has since been withdrawn and, even when it was still active, was rarely taken into account.


To give you a final example: Our stainless steel with the name X5CrNi18-10 has the material number 1.4301. From this you can read the following information:

1. First digit (1): It is a material from the main material group of steels.

2. Second and third digits (43): It is a stainless steel with a nickel content of more than 2.5 percent.

3. Fourth and fifth digits (01): It is the first steel that was produced in this composition.

Not that complicated at all, but quite helpful if you are looking for a steel that has to meet very specific material properties or is suitable for a special purpose.

DIN and other standards: What emerges from a material

For us as a processor, however, material numbers are only half the battle. After all, we do not produce crude steel, but rather subject it to a wide variety of forming, treatment and machining processes in order to manufacture our multitude of products

In our factory, for example, flat or bar steels are produced, which have a wide variety of properties in terms of quality and purpose and can be processed directly - and as it should be for a high-performance material, our products are of course standardized.

Why? Because, for example, buildings, power plant turbines or aircraft are made from our steel and it is essential that essential tolerance values are adhered to. We personally would not drive over a bridge that was built from non-standard steel.

Well-known classic: DIN standard

The German Institute for Standardization, better known as DIN, is initially responsible for standardization. This is why you can legitimately speak of a DIN standard because, contrary to what is commonly assumed, DIN does not stand for German Industrial Standard.

The name of a DIN standard is always made up of the designation DIN and a number up to six digits and can regulate pretty much anything you can imagine. DIN 16551, for example, specifies the properties of envelopes, DIN 5487 deals with the Fourier transformation from mathematics and DIN 67523 deals with the lighting of road tunnels.

The most important standards for our steel bars include, for example, DIN EN 10058 for hot-rolled flat bars made of steel, DIN EN 10059 for hot-rolled square bars made of steel and for our drawn bright steel, DIN EN 10278 for bright steel products.
The essential mechanical properties and dimensions of these products are specified there; as nominal dimensions, limit dimensions and shape tolerances such as the straightness and the deviation from the perpendicularity of a steel bar.

European zeal for regulation: EN standard

But wait a minute! Why is there suddenly an EN in the name of the standard? Quite simply: Because the German Institute for Standardization is not the only body that makes specifications before it issues its approval and awards its seal. EN refers to the European standards.

These are defined by the European Union; more precisely from the three European committees for standardization: the Comié Européen de Normalization (CEN), the Comité Européen de Normalization Électrotechnique (CENELEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

A product according to DIN EN 10059 not only fulfills all German, but also the European requirements at the same time. However, this is not the end of the story. After all, our customers not only include compatriots and European neighbors, but companies all over the world.

International dimensions: ISO standard

The ISO standard is specified by the International Organization for Standardization, based in Brussels, and is recognized worldwide. Even extremely isolated countries like North Korea correspond to ISO.

So when you buy a product that complies with the ISO standard, you can always assume the same properties. It doesn't matter if it was made in Australia, Canada or Finland.
By the way: ISO is not an abbreviation for the International Organization for Standardization, it would not make sense in German, English or French. The name is derived from the Greek word isos, which simply means "equal".

Across the Atlantic: ASME and ASTM standards

However, we are still not at the very end of the list of standards. Because parallel to the development of the German Institute for Standardization, a few bright minds across the ocean had a similar idea.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) were founded in the United States. Both associations devoted themselves, among other things, to compliance with industrial standards in order to ensure the smooth colonization and industrialization of the vast country. In particular, the construction of the railway line from the east coast to California was the trigger for the foundation of the associations.

Both ASME and ASTM still exist today and continue to be of great importance as institutes for standardization in many countries, especially on the American continent. This is why you will also find the US standard designation on many of our products.

Aiming high: AMS standard

Finally, we would like to introduce you to the very last standard. Because, as you can imagine, the major national and international standardization bodies find it more difficult to make meaningful specifications every year due to the increasingly rapid technological development.

Certain industries need materials that have to meet very special requirements and that only experts in their respective field actually know - the average graduate engineer, for example, will have rarely dealt with the stresses that materials are exposed to during a stratospheric flight.

That is why more and more organizations have emerged over the course of time that concentrate on standardization work in their respective specialist areas. The most important standard for us is the Aerospace Material Specification (AMS) of the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Everything here revolves around aerospace specifications. Only materials that carry the AMS seal are used by the major aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus and Boeing or companies from space and satellite technology. You can probably imagine how strict the requirements of an AMS standard are.

The AMS is just one of numerous qualifications that a company must meet before it is approved as a supplier for aerospace technology. In addition, it is important to observe dedicated manufacturer approvals or material performance sheets. As a result, there are only a few companies that are able to produce materials for this branch. That we are among them is therefore a very special honor for us.

Steel - future material with diversity

If you take another look at our material list, then the material numbers listed there are probably no longer a mess of numbers, but rather helpful information about the quality and composition of our steels.

At the same time, you now know what the DIN standards of our products are all about and that we are strictly committed to maintaining this high quality standard.

Because it is only through strict compliance with these specifications and constant monitoring of our products and machines that you, the customer, receive a material that is guaranteed to meet your requirements and that you can use without hesitation even for the most demanding project.

We will be happy to provide you with information on the exact content of the various standards on request.

You can place your order almost at a professional level. Should you still have any questions, our team will of course be happy to assist you.

So what can we do for you? Just get in contact, we look forward to hearing from you!

Contact us now!

Variety number

Steel grade

00, 90


01, 91

General structural steel with Rm<500 N mm−2

02, 92

Other structural steel; not suitable for heat treatment; with Rm < 500 N mm−2

03, 93

Steel with carbon content = <0,12 % or Rm < 400 N mm−2

04, 94

Steel with carbon content = 0,12…0,25 % or Rm=400…500 N mm−2

05, 95

Steel with carbon content = 0,25…0,55 % or
Rm = 500…700 N mm−2

06, 96

Steel with carbon content ≥ 0,55 % or Rm ≥ 700 N mm−2

07, 97

Steel with a higher phosphorus or sulfur content


Steel with special physical properties


Construction, engineering, container steel with carbon content < 0,5 %


Mechanical engineering steel with carbon content ≥ 0,5 %


Construction, mechanical engineering, container steel with special requirements


Container steel

08, 98

Steel with special physical properties

09, 99

Steel for various uses


Tool steel

32, 33

High speed steel


Roller bearing steel


Steel with special magnetic properties


Steel with special magnetic properties; alloyed with cobalt


Steel with special physical properties


Steel with special physical properties; alloyed with nickel


Stainless steel with < 2,5 % nickel


Stainless steel with < 2,5 % nickel; with molybdenum


Stainless steel with ≥ 2,5 % nickel


Stainless steel with ≥ 2,5 % nickel; with molybdenum


Stainless steel with special additives


Chemically resistant and highly heat-resistant nickel alloy


Heat-resistant steel


Heat-resistant steel with ≥ 2,5 % nickel


Highly heat-resistant material


Nitriding steel


Construction, mechanical engineering, container steel; high strength and suitable for welding

50…84, 86

Structural, mechanical and container steel classified according to alloy elements

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