Metals are ubiquitous and are everywhere in diverse forms with multiple uses. However, there are two types of metals; ferrous and non-ferrous metals. But here, we will be providing you with great information about non-ferrous metals.
So, what is non ferrous metal? What are its types, applications, and properties? How does it differ from ferrous metals? Keep reading as we provide answers to these questions and other important things you need to know about this metal type.
What Are Non-Ferrous Metals?
Non-Ferrous metals are metals that do not contain iron or ferrous. Consequently, all metals in their pure form are non-ferrous, aside from iron. Moreover, this metal type tends to be more expensive than its ferrous counterpart. However, their amazing properties, like rust and corrosion resistance, ease of fabrication, and zero-magnetic abilities, make manufacturers overlook the cost.
Another reason why manufacturers overlook the cost of this metal is its recyclability. It is easier and less energy-consuming to recycle non-ferrous metals than mine. The processes required to recycle them include re-smelting and re-casting.
Common Properties of Non-Ferrous Metals
These metals have certain desirable properties that make them suitable for residential, industrial, and commercial applications.
Defining the common properties of these metals is nearly impossible. The reason is that a large variety of metals fall into this category. Their properties range from soft and hard to brittle and ductile. However, all non-ferrous metals share some properties. Let us examine some below:
High Corrosion and Rust Resistance: Non-ferrous metals do not have significant iron content, making them highly resistant to rust and corrosion. This makes them ideal for making gutters, roofs, and other applications that require exposure to the elements.
Non-Magnetic: This metal type is non-magnetic, making them ideal for wirings and electronics.
Lightweight: These metals are often lighter than ferrous metals. The difference in weight is due to the disparity in the carbon content of both metal types.
Cost: If you want to use non-ferrous metals for manufacturing, you should know they are more expensive than their ferrous counterparts. There are two major reasons that make it costly. The first is the demand and supply of these metals. There is more demand for non-ferrous metals than their supply, making them quite expensive to acquire. The other reason is they have applications in various industries, ranging from automotive and aerospace to engineering and construction. This means that many industries are after these metals that are in limited supply, making them more expensive.
Recyclability: Non-ferrous metals can be recycled with minimal risk of degradation compared to ferrous metals. They also retain their chemical properties during the process.
Non Ferrous Metal Examples & Applications
Since a non-ferrous metal is any metal that does not contain a significant quantity of iron, there are many such metals worldwide. Hence, why we will highlight only the most common ones and their applications in manufacturing. Below are some non ferrous metals examples and their applications.
Aluminum – This is one of the most important non-ferrous metals thanks to its ease of machining and light weight. Another reason why aluminum is common is because it’s the base metal for many alloys. Aluminum is also one of the most cost-effective metals for CNC machining. Other properties of aluminum include excellent malleability and ductility. On the downside, this metal is relatively expensive and becomes quite hard after cold working, requiring annealing. It’s lightweight and ideal for making airplanes, automotive parts, and more everyday items like drink cans, saucepans, and bicycle frames.
Copper – Copper and its alloys (brass and bronze), have diverse uses in several industries. This is due to its high electrical conductivity, ductility, thermal conductivity, and corrosion resistance. When it is not alloyed, it’s soft and ductile. These properties make copper and its alloys good for manufacturing heating vessels and heat exchangers. Its high electrical conductivity makes it ideal for motors and wiring. Furthermore, copper has applications in producing plumbing fittings, roofing materials, statues, and cooking utensils.
Nickel – Nickel is another common non-ferrous metal. The properties of this silvery metal include corrosion resistance, toughness, and temperature tolerance. Although this metal exists in a pure form, this metal gains excellent mechanical and chemical properties when alloyed with other elements. This gives it application in the hot-section of airplanes, automobiles, and marine equipment, as well as in the production of cryogenic equipment.
Lead – This metal has many applications and is the heaviest common non-ferrous metal. Furthermore, lead is toxic and causes harm to human health, is a poor conductor of electricity, but is ductile, dense, and malleable. This metal being corrosion resistant and heavy has application in producing paint, fuels, and bullets. It also has applications in producing cable sheathing, lead crystal glass, and weight belts for diving. Its main uses in today’s world are in the production of acid tanks, power cables, and batteries.
Silver – Silver is a relatively soft metal with a lustrous and shiny appearance. It is a metal with the best thermal and electrical conductivity, highly malleable, and resistant to corrosion. Silver is used in many industries, from solar technology and electronics to brazing and soldering. Other applications of silver include engine bearings, currency, water purification, tableware, medicine, and jewelry.
Gold – Gold is one of the non-ferrous metals with great malleability. It is also ductile and corrosion-resistant. Gold does not react with other chemicals, so there is little risk of degradation due to chemical reactions. Furthermore, this metal has excellent thermal and electrical conduction. It has applications in the production of jewelry and also serves as a legal tender for finance and investment.
Non-ferrous metals have properties that give them applications in several fields. However, they are in short supply, making them more expensive than ferrous metals.
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