The Difference Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Metals are found naturally and are mined from the earth, extracted from the natural ore using heat furnaces. Most metals can be recycled to save natural resources. This blog will look at ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as some of their advantages/disadvantages.

Ferrous metals

Ferrous metals are metals containing iron. The word ‘ferrous’ originates from the Latin word ‘Ferrum’, which means ‘containing iron. Ferrous metals are typically magnetic by nature and have high tensile strength, which makes them ideal for construction jobs.

Ferrous metals also are prone to rust and often require a protective finish to prevent rust and improve the aesthetics of the product. Any form of steel or iron are considered ferrous metals and small amounts of other elements can be added to iron in order to get the desired property. For example, copper is often added to increase resistance to corrosion.

Advantages of ferrous metals

  • Less corrosive
  • Higher thermal resistance
  • Magnetic
  • Durable
  • Recyclable

Disadvantages

  • Corrodes easily
  • Not as easy to shape.

The most common ferrous metals:

  • Alloy steel
  • Cast iron
  • Wrought iron
  • Carbon steel

Across the world, carbon steel is used in thousands of construction projects and is possibly the most widely used material by engineers and in the construction industry. Carbon steel is used to make skyscrapers, trains, train tracks, shipping containers, nails, tools, etc. All ferrous metals that are exposed to the elements must be anodized.

Non-ferrous metals

Ferrous metals are metals that do not contain iron and are not magnetic. Primary examples of non-ferrous metals are copper, aluminium, nickel, zinc, lead, and tin, but also precious metals. Such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Non-ferrous metals have advantages over ferrous metals because they are lighter and more malleable.

Non-ferrous metals are typically more expensive than ferrous metals as they are in higher demand.

Aluminium is a good example of a non-ferrous metal. Aluminium is lightweight, can be easily cast, forged, machined, and welded. Because aluminium is so useful, it is used across several industries and is used to build skyscrapers and aircrafts.

Advantages

  • Malleable
  • Recyclable
  • Good strength to weight ratio
  • Lightweight

Disadvantages

  • Nonmagnetic
  • Cost more than ferrous metals

Alloys

Alloys are metals that are mixed with an element to improve their properties or aesthetics. Brass, for example, is a mixture of copper and zinc. Alloys can also be classified as ferrous or non-ferrous, and non-ferrous metal may require a protective finish in order to improve the alloy’s functionality and appearance.

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