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What is the difference between a

steel pipe and a steel tube?

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What is a steel tube?

Steel tube can be divided into seamless steel tube and welded steel tube. Generally
speaking, the outer diameter is less than 89 mm but the steel tube larger than 4 mm is
referred to as the small diameter seamless steel tube.

Seamless steel tube is a kind of hollow steel, with round, square and seamless
rectangular shape. Seamless steel tube consists of steel ingot or solid tube, and then hot
rolled, cold rolled or cold drawn seamless steel tube. Cross section, mainly used for
conveying fluids. Compared with solid steel such as round steel, the bending and torsional
strength of seamless steel tube are lighter. Seamless steel tube is widely used in
manufacturing structural parts and mechanical parts, such as oil drill pipe, automobile
transmission shaft, bicycle bracket and steel structure scaffold.

According to different production process, seamless steel tube can be divided into hot
rolled steel tube, cold rolled steel tube, cold drawn steel tube and extruded steel pipe.
Usually, the hot rolled seamless tube is produced by the automatic rolling mill.

Check the solid tube and process its surface defect, and cut the tube into the required
length to make the center point on the perforated surface of the solid tube; The solid tube
is fed into a heating furnace. Drilling holes in the solid tube with a perforating machine;
The solid tube of the solid tube is formed by grinding roller and perforating plug. The solid
tube with empty cavity will be machined by automatic tube grinder. Use the rewire
machine to make the pipe wall thick and uniform; The pipe is processed by the sizing
machine or reducer to meet the specifications. It is an advanced method to manufacture
hot rolled seamless steel tube with continuous tube rolling mill.

If you want to get a smaller, more high-quality seamless steel tube, you must use cold
rolling process, cold drawing or combination of two processes. The cold rolling process is
carried out in the double – roll rolling mill. The cold drawing process is carried out in single
– chain or double – chain cold drawing machine. Extrusion can produce smaller diameter
steel tubes.

Manufacturing Steel Tubes

There are three main methods of manufacturing tubing that lend their names to tubing

· Seamless. Seamless steel tubes are produced through extrusion. Extruded tubes can
be formed in a hot or cold process. Long sections of steel bar are forced through a die that
blocks out the intended shape of the tube.

· As-welded or electric resistant welded (ERW). This method involves passing a

rolled sheet of steel through two weld rollers. The weld rollers have a groove around their
circumference, through which the steel roll passes. There is a contact at the roll seam that
transmits electricity at a high enough current to weld the seam closed. The resulting weld
is very small.

· Drawn-over-mandrel (DOM). A mandrel is a small piece of metal inserted into the

tube to define a shape. It gives the tube extra support to prevent unwanted wrinkling
during drawing. The tube is passed through a die that has a smaller diameter than the
current tube size. As the tube is drawn, it shrinks to match the size of the die’s diameter.
This process allows for tight tolerances and specifications.

Each of these manufacturing processes allows manufacturers the ability to form varying
tube shapes and sizes. Tubes are not always cylindrical, and can be made in triangle,
square or other polygonal shapes. Steel tubes destined for certain applications require
extra processes as well. Applications involving hydrogen must be factory pre-cleaned or
certified as instrument grade due to hydrogen’s reactive characteristics that can cause

metal embrittlement or even explosions.

Generally, a steel tube manufacturing process is chosen for its interaction with the type of
steel to be used. Certain types of steel react poorly to heat because of carbon content, so
they can’t be easily welded. Steel types also play a role in decisions regarding use in
volatile applications.

Steel Tube Applications

Steel tubing is used in high numbers in plumbing applications. The reasons are threefold.
One, stainless steel is very sturdy, composed of 80-90 percent steel and 10-20 percent
chromium. Steel tubing can handle the types of pressures exerted by water upon
plumbing structures. Additionally, the surface of stainless steel does not allow for much
adherence by particles or bacteria, so purification processes will not pass on unintended
detritus. Finally, steel does not contaminate drinking water.
Steel tubes are also used in a wide variety of structural applications, such as industrial
and residential construction. Examples include fences, gates, railings, playground and
athletic equipment. Steel is often used for construction tubes over other metals like
aluminum when extra stress resistance is necessary. Steel tubes can also be used in
automotive applications and even as parts of furniture.

What is a steel pipe?

Steel pipe is long that are used for a variety of purposes. They are produced by two
distinct methods which result in either a welded or seamless pipe. In both methods, raw
steel is first cast into a more workable starting form. It is then made into a pipe by
stretching the steel out into a seamless tube or forcing the edges together and sealing
them with a weld. The first methods for producing steel pipe were introduced in the early
1800s, and they have steadily evolved into the modern processes we use today. Each
year, millions of tons of steel pipe are produced. Its versatility makes it the most often
used product produced by the steel industry.

Steel pipes are found in a variety of places. Since they are strong, they are used
underground for transporting water and gas throughout cities and towns. They are also
employed in construction to protect electrical wires. While steel pipes are strong, they can
also be lightweight. This makes them perfect for use in bicycle frame manufacture. Other
places they find utility is in automobiles, refrigeration units, heating and plumbing systems,
flagpoles, street lamps, and medicine to name a few.

The Manufacturing Process Of Steel pipes

Steel pipes are made by two different processes. The overall production method for both
processes involves three steps. First, raw steel is converted into a more workable form.
Next, the pipe is formed on a continuous or semicontinuous production line. Finally, the
pipe is cut and modified to meet the customer’s needs.


 1 Molten steel is made by melting iron ore and coke (a carbon-rich substance that
results when coal is heated in the absence of air) in a furnace, then removing most
of the carbon by blasting oxygen into the liquid. The molten steel is then poured
into large, thick-walled iron molds, where it cools into ingots.
 2 In order to form flat products such as plates and sheets, or long products such
as bars and rods, ingots are shaped between large rollers under enormous


 3 To produce a bloom, the ingot is passed through a pair of grooved steel rollers
that are stacked. These types of rollers are called ―two-high mills.‖ In some cases,
three rollers are used. The rollers are mounted so that their grooves coincide, and
they move in opposite directions. This action causes the steel to be squeezed and
stretched into thinner, longer pieces. When the rollers are reversed by the human
operator, the steel is pulled back through making it thinner and longer. This
process is repeated until the steel achieves the desired shape. During this
process, machines called manipulators flip the steel so that each side is
processed evenly.
 4 Ingots may also be rolled into slabs in a process that is similar to the bloom
making process. The steel is passed through a pair of stacked rollers which
stretch it. However, there are also rollers mounted on the side to control the width
of the slabs. When the steel acquires the desired shape, the uneven ends are cut
off and the slabs or blooms are cut into shorter pieces.


 5 Blooms are typically processed further before they are made into pipes. Blooms
are converted into billets by putting them through more rolling devices which make
them longer and more narrow. The billets are cut by devices known as flying
shears. These are a pair of synchronized shears that race along with the moving

billet and cut it. This allows efficient cuts without stopping the manufacturing
process. These billets are stacked and will eventually become seamless pipe.
 6 Slabs are also reworked. To make them malleable, they are first heated to 2,200°
F (1,204°C). This causes an oxide coating to form on the surface of the slab. This
coating is broken off with a scale breaker and high pressure water spray. The
slabs are then sent through a series of rollers on a hot mill and made into thin
narrow strips of steel called skelp. This mill can be as long as a half mile. As the
slabs pass through the rollers, they become thinner and longer. In the course of
about three minutes a single slab can be converted from a 6 in (15.2 cm) thick
piece of steel to a thin steel ribbon that can be a quarter mile long.
 7 After stretching, the steel is pickled. This process involves running it through a
series of tanks that contain sulfuric acid to clean the metal. To finish, it is rinsed
with cold and hot water, dried and then rolled up on large spools and packaged for
transport to a pipe making facility.


 8 Both skelp and billets are used to make pipes. Skelp is made into welded pipe. It
is first placed on an unwinding machine. As the spool of steel is unwound, it is
heated. The steel is then passed through a series of grooved rollers. As it passes
by, the rollers cause the edges of the skelp to curl together. This forms an
unwelded pipe.
 9 The steel next passes by welding electrodes. These devices seal the two ends
of the pipe together. The welded seam is then passed through a high pressure
roller which helps create a tight weld. The pipe is then cut to a desired length and
stacked for further processing. Welded steel pipe is a continuous process and
depending on the size of the pipe, it can be made as fast as 1,100 ft (335.3 m) per
 10 When seamless pipe is needed, square billets are used for production. They
are heated and molded to form a cylinder shape, also called a round. The round is
then put in a furnace where it is heated white-hot. The heated round is then rolled
with great pressure. This high pressure rolling causes the billet to stretch out and
a hole to form in the center. Since this hole is irregularly shaped, a bullet shaped
piercer point is pushed through the middle of the billet as it is being rolled. After
the piercing stage, the pipe may still be of irregular thickness and shape. To
correct this it is passed through another series of rolling mills.


 11 After either type of pipe is made, they may be put through a straightening
machine. They may also be fitted with joints so two or more pieces of pipe can be
connected. The most common type of joint for pipes with smaller diameters is
threading—tight grooves that are cut into the end of the pipe. The pipes are also
sent through a measuring machine. This information along with other quality
control data is automatically stenciled on the pipe. The pipe is then sprayed with a
light coating of protective oil. Most pipe is typically treated to prevent it from
rusting. This is done by galvanizing it or giving it a coating of zinc. Depending on
the use of the pipe, other paints or coatings may be used.

Quality Control

A variety of measures are taken to ensure that the finished steel pipe meets specifications.
For example, x-ray gauges are used to regulate the thickness of the steel. The gauges
work by utilizing two x rays. One ray is directed at a steel of known thickness. The other is
directed at the passing steel on the production line. If there is any variance between the
two rays, the gauge will automatically trigger a resizing of the rollers to compensate.

Pipes are also inspected for defects at the end of the process. One method of testing a
pipe is by using a special machine. This machine fills the pipe with water and then
increases the pressure to see if it holds. Defective pipes are returned for scrap.

What is the difference between a steel pipe and a steel tube?

One of the most frequent questions we get from customers is ―What’s the difference
between pipe and tube‖? Although pipes and tubes may look similar, they are in fact quite
different in nomenclature and sizing. Remember that pipes and tubes are rarely
interchangeable. Here are some of the main differences between the two products:

Pipes are always round in shape. Tubes can be square, rectangular or round, as shown in
the image to the right.

Tube is stronger than pipe.

Metal Types
Tube is available in hot rolled steel and cold rolled steel. Pipe is typically black steel (hot
rolled). Both items can be galvanized.

Although copper and brass tubes can be shaped relatively easily, tubes are are typically
rigid. Pipes, on the other hand, are invariably rigid and cannot be shaped without special


Tubing is generally used for structural purposes and the OD is an important and exact
number. Tubing size is specified by OD and the wall thickness (WT); and the measured
OD and stated OD are generally within very close tolerances of each other. Tubing is
usually more expensive than pipe due to tighter manufacturing tolerances.

Interestingly, while the stated and measured OD’s of tubing are almost exact most of the
time, copper tubing generally has a measured OD that is 1/8‖ larger than stated OD. As
such, maybe it should be called copper pipe. However, stainless steel, aluminum, and
steel tubing all have measured and stated OD’s that are exact or very close.

Pipes are categorized as tubular vessels used in pipeline and piping systems, and
commonly transport gases or fluids. They are specified by ―Nominal Pipe Size‖ (NPS) and
Schedule (wall thickness). NPS is a size standard established by the American National
Standards Institute (ANSI), and should NOT be confused with the various thread
standards such as NPT and NPSC.

The manufacturing of Nominal Pipe Sizes from 1/8‖ to 12‖ is based on a standardized
nominal outside diameter (OD) that is different from the measured OD. NPS pipe 14‖ and
up have measured OD’s that correspond to the nominal size.

The reason many people, including plumbers, engineers, and others, mistakenly believe
NPS refers to the ID on smaller pipes is because of how the standard was originally
defined. The standardized OD was originally defined so that a pipe with a standardized
OD and wall thickness typical of the period, would have a pipe ID that was approximately
equal to the nominal size of the pipe. For example, 3‖ Schedule 40 NPS has an outside
diameter and wall thickness that very, very roughly gives it an inside diameter of 3‖.
Regardless of the wall thickness the nominal OD of a pipe will not change.

There you have the differences explained as simply as possible. Of course if something
isn’t clear certainly let us know.

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Pipe is typically available in larger sizes than tube.

Only steel pipes are pressure rated and intended to be used for the transference of fluids
or gas. Tubes, on the other hand, are used in structural applications.

Telescoping abilities
Tube can be telescoped. Remember to account for the flash weld inside the tube. Pipe, on
the other hand, does not have a flash weld. DOM (Drawn over Mandrel) Tube is the best
material for telescoping because the inside flash weld has been removed.

Pipes are only provided with an inside (nominal) diameter and a ―schedule‖ (which means
wall thickness). There’s an easy way to remember this: since pipe is used to transfer fluids
or gas, the size of the opening through which the fluids or gas can pass through is
probably more important to you than the outer dimensions of the pipe. Tube
measurements, on the other hand, are provided as an outside diameter and set ranges of
wall thickness.

Source: China steel pipes Manufacturer – Yaang pipe fitting Industry Co., Limited

(Yaang Pipe Industry is a leading manufacturer and supplier of nickel alloy and stainless
steel products, including Super Duplex Stainless Steel Flanges, Stainless Steel Flanges,
Stainless Steel Pipe Fittings, Stainless Steel Pipe. Yaang products are widely used in
Shipbuilding, Nuclear power, Marine engineering, Petroleum, Chemical, Mining, Sewage
treatment, Natural gas and Pressure vessels and other industries.)

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Please notice that you might be interested in the other technical articles we’ve published:

• The standard and application of stainless steel seamless pipe and welded pipe

• Manufacturing process of cold rolled steel pipe

• Knowledge of the purge pipes

• The Introduction of Cold Rolled Seamless Pipes

• Cold Working Processes of Steel Pipes

• Introductions of Cast Iron Pipes