Categories and Properties of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Categories and Properties of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals contain iron, this means they corrode easily. They need to be protected by paint, or oil. They are magnetic.

  • Mild steel – Very malleable, rusts easily. Uses: Nuts, bolts and car bodies.

  • Cast iron – Melted down to pour into mould, it’s brittle but very strong. Uses: man holes, brake disks.

  • Stainless steel – Mouldable and resistance to wear. Uses: Kitchen sinks, cutlery, surgical instruments.

  • High carbon steel - increasing carbon in steel makes it harder and stronger but more brittle. Used in tools, drill bits and wheels.

  • Tungsten steel - has the highest melting point of all metal elements, used for light bulb filaments and heating elements.

Categories and Properties of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals, figure 1

Non-ferrous metals contain no iron, they don’t rust when exposed to moisture and are not magnetic.

  • Aluminium – Light grey in colour and lightweight. Uses: Foil, ladders, sweet wrappers. 7000 series aluminium is the highest strength aluminium, light and strong, it is used in mobile phone casings.

  • Copper – Orange in colour is soft and conducts heat and electricity well. Uses: Plumbing pipes and electrical wire.

  • Tin – Soft, easy to mould and anti-corrosive. Uses: Food packaging and storage cans.

  • Titanium - as strong as steel but less dense so its lighter, used in aircraft and space travel as it can withstand high temperatures.

Alloys are mixtures of two or more metals to achieve specific properties.

  • Brass – a mixture of brass and zinc. Uses: Decorative metal work like candle sticks and door handles.

  • Pewter – tin, antimony and copper are mixed to create a material which melts at low temperature to cast. Uses: Jewellery, cutlery, decorative frames.

Metal generally comes in sheets or ingots. Sheet metal can be cut and formed whereas ingots of metal are melted and cast into moulds.

Forming sheet metal

Cutting sheet metal can be done by hand with shears although it’s quite difficult, In industry it would be cut with compressed air shears, bench mounted lever shears or with a CNC plasma cutter. After cutting it can be bent using different shaped bending tools. Sheet metal can also be pressed between two shapes in a hydraulic press, car parts and kitchen sinks are made this way.

Forging metal

Iron and steel can be forged by hand, they have to be heated to a high temperature and hammered to form particular shapes. Forging is a very old and traditional way of shaping metal. Blacksmiths are able to make things like gates, swords and horseshoes.

Drop forging is a more industrial way of shaping molten metal, it is forced between two shapes with a single blow.

Casting metal

Moulds are created with oiled sand with an entrance in called a runner and an exit out called a riser. Liquid metal is poured into the runner until it is visible through the riser, it’s then cooled and the casting removed. The runner and riser are then trimmed off. The mould can only be used once.

Die casting

A water cooled mould is created to have molten metal injected into it and then cooled. The mould can be used repeatedly.