ferrous vs non-ferrous metals

Ferrous vs. Non-Ferrous Metals for Castings

When determining the ideal materials for your casting project, determining your need for ferrous vs. non-ferrous metals is a good place to begin. Raw material performance of the metal is influenced by the presence (or absence) of iron. 

When comparing the use of ferrous vs. non-ferrous material, make a note of the role these factors will play in your finished project:

  • workability
  • product usage
  • strength
  • weight
  • price
  • conductivity
  • resistance to corrosion

Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals are those that contain iron. These metals are prized for their tensile strength and are used in both industrial and architectural components. Ferrous metals like steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, and cast iron provide the necessary strength and toughness to reliably construct safe and sturdy bridges, railroads, vehicles, skyscrapers, and aerospace components. Its magnetic properties also make ferrous metal ideal for appliances, engines, and other automotive parts. Due to high carbon content, some varieties of ferrous materials are prone to rust and corrosion, so this must also be considered when choosing the right material for your project.

Generally, ferrous metals provide great mechanical properties like exceptional strength, ductility, and durability to your final product. They are also versatile – well-suited to a variety of applications and performance specifications. In addition to these advantages, ferrous materials are relatively inexpensive and widely available, making them an invaluable option for many products and industries.

If ferrous metals sound like the right choice for your project, you can refer to this Science Direct article to help you narrow down the material choices.  If you’re at the beginning stages of a casting project but you’re unsure of whether to choose stainless steel casting, alloy steel casting, or other options, reach out to an experienced casting foundry to help you make the final selection. 

Non-ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron. This makes non-ferrous metals intrinsically less prone to rust and corrosion than ferrous metals. They’re also commonly lightweight, non-magnetic, and highly malleable with low tensile strength, which makes them ideal for aircraft, electrical components, piping, roofing, and gutters.  These metals are also prized for their exceptional heat-and-electrical conductivity and low melting point. 

Examples of non-ferrous metals include aluminum alloys, copper, gold, nickel, brass, silver, lead, and zinc. Many of these metals have been used for thousands of years and across countless industries like construction, structural engineering, jewelry, electrical, munitions, and coin minting. These materials are versatile and reliable multi-taskers – workable options for any applications where friction, wear, and corrosion-resistance are factors to consider.

If weight and cost are a concern, copper casting is a popular choice for those who are looking for a combination of the best price and sustainability. For example, copper rotors result in less power consumption than aluminum rotors, and they run at a lower temperature, increasing the lifespan of the motor itself. 

Choosing Between Ferrous vs. Non-ferrous

Clearly, there are many elements that may influence your choice of ferrous or non-ferrous metals. Some of these considerations are as follows:

Use Requirements 

Which properties are important in the finished part or component? Strength? If you’re producing parts for automobiles or railroad projects, then ferrous metals are the way to go.

Is weight important? If you require lightweight metals for an aerospace project, consider non-ferrous metals. If your project is an electrical one, copper is probably the best choice for its conductivity. 

Again, an experienced casting foundry with a focus on customer service will help you identify the right type of metal. If you’d like to work with recycled materials, a scrap yard may also be able to help you select the right metal.

Process Requirements 

Does the material need to be malleable? Consider non-ferrous metals. If your project requires strength and durability, ferrous metals are the way to go. A casting foundry will be able to help you identify the best process for your project, pointing you in the right direction when choosing a ferrous vs. non-ferrous metal.

Economic Requirements

Relative cost and availability of materials should always be considered. If you’re looking for the best price available for the type of metal, consider scrap metal. Non-ferrous scrap is usually higher priced than ferrous metals due to limited volume.  

We Can Help

We are here to help you navigate the many options, ask the right questions, and determine which materials will guarantee the quality and success of your final project.  Request a Quote online or give us a call to discuss your project.