The differences between ferrous & non-ferrous metals

Ever wondered about the differences between ferrous and non-ferrous metals? The very short answer is that ferrous metals contain iron and non-ferrous metals don’t contain iron. In practice, ferrous and non-ferrous metals have their own very distinct properties which determine which applications they’re use for. Copper is probably the first non-ferrous metal you’ll think of – the discovery of this metal sparked the end of the Stone Age and the beginning of the copper age around 5000 BC. The bronze age followed that – as you probably know, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. The wider use of ferrous metals started around 1200 BC when iron production became widespread and so began the Iron Age.

Well known ferrous metals you may have encountered are cast iron, wrought iron, tool steels, and engineering steels. Carbon steel is the most common structural steel and used in tallest sky scrapers and longest bridges. You’ll also find ferrous metal in everything from cars & shipping containers to domestic whitegoods & cutlery. Stainless steel is resistant to rust due to its chromium content and wrought iron is resistant to rust due to its purity. An easy way to find most ferrous steels is to see if they’re magnetic.

The most common ferrous metals include:

  • Carbon steel – a higher carbon content than other types of steel making it very hard.
  • Cast iron – made from iron, carbon and silicone. Hard and resistant to wear
  • Steel – made by adding carbon to iron to harden the iron. The properties can be further adjusted by adding elements like chromium and nickel (to make engineering steel)
  • Wrought iron – so little carbon it’s near pure iron. Has excellent resistance to corrosion and oxidisation

Non-ferrous metals include common materials like aluminium, copper, lead, zinc tin, gold and silver – many precious metals are now commonly used in electronics besides jewellery. Non-ferrous metals are normally more malleable than ferrous metals, and as they don’t contain iron, they normally have a higher resistance to corrosion and don’t rust. The other main benefit is that they’re not magnetic so can be used in electronic applications.

The most common non-ferrous metals include

  • Aluminium – lightweight but low strength – easily cast, forged, welded and machined.
  • Copper – high conductivity of both electricity and heat.
  • Lead – soft, heavy with a low melting point. Withstands corrosion from moisture
  • Tin – soft and malleable. Is often used to coat iron to prevent corrosion or used in alloys
  • Zinc – low strength butr very commonly used in galvanising or protective coating to steel or iron

If you’re looking for a specialist in non-ferrous metals, supplier of welding consumables, supplier of good tin ingot, or moreover zamak alloys, you could give the Metaconcept Groupe a call or get in touch with them via their website