Comparing Ferrous to Non-Ferrous Metals
What usually comes to mind when you hear the word “metal”?
Steel beams in a skyscraper? Railroads and bridges? Your favorite jewelry or tools around the house, perhaps?
If you’re in the business of manufacturing, constructing, or repairing various products and equipment, then you understand how important metals are. That’s why knowing which types to use for specific tasks is crucial – especially considering metals can be placed into two distinct categories: ferrous and non-ferrous.
Let’s delve into the differences between these two types of metals so you can make an informed decision when choosing one for your metal fabrication projects. Whether you need something lightweight yet robust or something corrosion-resistant, there is almost certainly a metal between ferrous and non-ferrous that will meet your requirements.
Table of Contents
What are Ferrous Metals?
The term ferrous derives from the Latin word ferrum, meaning “iron-containing.” So naturally, these types of metals have iron in them. These are stronger and more durable, which is why many of our clients favor these types of metals. They are often found in construction and industrial projects, etc.
The following metals are among those deemed ferrous:
- Carbon Steel
- Alloy Steel
- Wrought Iron
- Cast Iron
What are Non-Ferrous Metals?
Non-ferrous metals are those that don’t contain iron. They have been used since the dawn of civilization when copper was discovered in 5,000 BC. Therefore, they are more malleable and lightweight.
Moreover, they are used in applications where weight and rust considerations must be taken into account in addition to strength requirements.
Some metals that are considered non-ferrous are the following:
- Stainless Steel
Ferrous vs. Non-Ferrous Metals: What’s The Difference?
The fundamental distinction between the two is the presence of iron in ferrous metals as opposed to non-ferrous metals. But identifying what makes the two metals different helps you choose the one best for a particular application.
Resistance to Rust
Because of their high carbon content, ferrous metals such as steel and iron rust when exposed to the elements. This implies they must be maintained on a regular basis to avoid rusting. However, stainless steel and aluminum resist rust due to their significantly lower level of iron content.
Non-ferrous metals, on the other hand, such as aluminum, copper, and brass, have a naturally stronger resistance to rust and corrosion due to their lack of iron content. This makes them ideal for applications requiring weather and water protection, such as roofing, hydro, and marine projects.
There is a significant variation in magnetic characteristics between ferrous and non-ferrous materials. Non-ferrous metals are not attracted to magnets, whereas ferrous metals are. This is because ferrous metals contain iron and, therefore, can be magnetized.
In contrast, non-ferrous materials such as copper, aluminum, and brass do not contain iron and are not attracted to magnets.
Ferrous metals are often heavier compared to non-ferrous metals. The main reason is that ferrous metals are higher in density. It can be beneficial for applications that require more stability, such as construction.
In contrast, non-ferrous metals are lighter, making them ideal for applications that focus on weight without compromising strength.
Ferrous metals are cost-effective because they are abundant and easily sourced. Iron is the fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust, making it a readily available material for construction and engineering projects. Additionally, ferrous metal fabrication processes are relatively inexpensive, allowing manufacturers to create high volumes of products at low prices.
On the other hand, non-ferrous metals are more expensive, which can be a disadvantage when dealing with large projects because they have become increasingly popular in various industries due to their desirable properties. The key features that make them attractive are their strength and durability, low weight, corrosion resistance, and electrical conductivity.
For instance, automotive manufacturers are shifting towards lighter vehicles that require more lightweight components from nonferrous materials such as aluminum or magnesium instead of heavier steel or iron alloys.
In general, ferrous and non-ferrous metals can be recycled. However, ferrous metals require a more detailed process since they need to be purified, melted, and made into blocks.
Meanwhile, you can recycle non-ferrous metals repeatedly without worrying about degrading or losing their chemical properties. Plus, they are relatively scarce. So recycling them is advisable.
What are the Common Uses or Applications of Ferrous Metals?
Because they are more prevalent, ferrous metals can be used in diverse applications. The most common is piping. Other applications are as follows:
- Machine tool parts
What are the Common Uses or Applications of Non-Ferrous Metals?
Non-ferrous metals are found in numerous manufacturing applications where they can be exposed to outside elements. A common example of non-ferrous metal application is signage. Other applications are the following:
- Aircraft Frames
- Automotive Applications
- Marine Technology
- Hydro Power
- Electric Vehicles
- Golf Clubs
- Food Grade Products
- Medical Instruments
- Electrical Wiring
Choose the Right Type of Metal for Your Next Project
Here at The Federal Group, we can help you find the proper metal for your next project. Whether you need non-ferrous metals for electric vehicle manufacturing, or ferrous metal for your piping projects, we are here to provide you with the best metal fabrication services.
If you have any questions about our metal fabrication process, contact us today or request a quote. We’ll be here to guide you and ensure you receive quality products that meet your expectations.