What is Cold-Formed Steel?

In building construction, there are primarily two types of structural steel: hot-rolled steel shapes and cold-formed steel shapes. The hot-rolled steel shapes are formed at elevated temperatures while the cold-formed steel shapes are formed at room temperature. Cold-formed steel structural members are shapes commonly manufactured from steel plate, sheet or strip material. The manufacturing process involves forming the material by either press-braking or cold roll-forming to achieve the desired shape. Examples of the cold-formed steel are corrugated steel roof and floor decks, steel wall panels, storage racks and steel wall studs.

Press-braking is often used for production of small quantity of simple shapes. Cold roll-forming is the most widely used method for production of roof, floor and wall panels. It is also used for the production of structural components such as Cees, Zees, and hat sections. Sections can usually be made from sheet up to 60 inches (1.5m) wide and from coils more than 3,000 feet (1,000m) long.

During cold roll-forming, sheet stock is fed longitudinally through a series of rolls, each of which works the sheet progressively until it reaches the desired shape (Figures 1 and 2). A simple section may require as few as six pairs of roll, but a complex shape can require as many as 24 to 30. The thickness of material that can be formed generally ranges between 0.004 (0.10mm) up to 0.312 inches (7.7mm), although heavy duty cold forming mills can handle steel up to ¾ of an inch (19mm) thick.

Since cold work produced during forming increases the strength of the steel, it permits the designer to treat the formed steel as a stronger material than the original unformed steel. Often, it is possible to take a weighted average of the post-forming strength of the cross section and use this higher figure as the overall strength of the steel.

A shape that is cold worked to a higher degree will have a higher yield strength, which may make it more appropriate for certain applications. Sometimes cold work is added by over bending and straightening. The end result is that a more complex shape may have higher strength than a less complex shape. Other factors that can affect cold working include roll pressure, corner radius and the properties of the steel.

Depending on the type of cold-forming and the thickness of the steel, the amount of strength increase could reach 20% to 50%. However, the ductility of the steel is reduced as result of cold-forming process.

Properties of Cold-Formed Steel

Generally, the grades of carbon steel and high strength low alloy steel used for cold-formed steel products are characterized by two main properties: the yield point and the tensile strength. Other important properties are ductility, hardness

The yield point of the steels commonly used for cold-forming ranges from 33 to 55 ksi (230 to 380 MPa), and may be higher. Tensile strength and ductility are important because of the way they relate to formability, and because of the local deformation demands of bolted and other types of connection. In members that include bolted connection or that, because of special design, may be subject to high stress concentrations, the tensile strength often must be taken into account. The ratio of tensile strength to yield strength for cold-formed steels commonly ranges from 1.2 to 1.8. However, steels with a lower ratio can be used for specific applications.