Metals come in a broad application and forms. Based on their iron content, metals are classified into two categories. It includes ferrous and non-ferrous metals. In this article, we will be discussing all information about non-ferrous metals.
This article will help you understand what is non ferrous metal, its history, different types, properties, and uses. You will also learn the differences between non ferrous and ferrous metals. Explore the boundless brilliance of non ferrous metals as we delve into this guide.
What is a Non Ferrous Metal?
Non ferrous metal doesn’t contain any iron on its composition. These metals are more expensive compared to ferrous metals because of its excellent properties. It includes being non-magnetic, lightweight, and more.
Non ferrous metals are also recyclable. These metals are less time-consuming and easy to recycle compared to ferrous metals. It can be recycled through re-casting and re-smelting.
This metal is widely used for different applications including a wide variety of sheet metals. The main composition of non ferrous metals includes carbonates, silicates, and sulfides.
Non ferrous metals are among the first metals utilized by humans. Therefore, these metals have long and significant history. Early humans used non ferrous metals for metallurgy since it does not corrode easily.
One of the earliest non ferrous metals used by humans around 4500 to 3300 BCE was the copper. Hence, marked transition to the Bronze Age. Within this age, people have began to mix copper with tin to create bronze. Bronze is commonly used in this era for tool and weapon production.
In this modern day, non ferrous metals have become part of the integral society such as modern technology, electronics, aviation, and more.
Non Ferrous Metal Properties
These metals offer a lot of excellent properties that make them desirable for different commercial, industrial, and residential applications. Non-ferrous metals share common properties including:
- Superior resistance against rust and corrosion.
Since non-ferrous metals do not contain any iron in their composition, these metals can offer excellent rust and corrosion resistance. Thus, making it ideal for the production of roofs, gutters, and other products that will be exposed to harsh elements.
- Non-magnetic properties.
Without the addition of any iron to it, non ferrous metals are non magnetic making it perfect for electronic and wiring applications.
The disparity of the carbon content makes most of the non ferrous metal lightweight compared to ferrous metals. However, there are also non ferrous metals such as tungsten and lead that are heavier than ferrous metals.
Before using non-ferrous metals for your project, take note that it is more expensive than ferrous metals. Below are the main reasons why these metals are costly.
- Demand and supply. These metals are costly to acquire since their demand is a bit higher than the supply.
- Most industries such as engineering, automotive, aerospace, construction, and more are using these metals even in its limited supply, thus making it more expensive.
All types of metals are highly recyclable. However, non ferrous metals have lesser risk of degradation even when severally recycled. It is also capable of retaining its chemical properties during the recycling process.
Additionally, since the supply for non ferrous metals are limited, it is very important to recycle these materials. Recycling these metals also helps in reducing waste, decreasing gas emissions, protecting the environment, and saving energy.
Different Types of Non Ferrous Metals and Its Example Application
Due to its lightweight and easy to machine properties, aluminum is considered among the most important types of non ferrous metals. This is also commonly used as an alloy’s base metal. Aluminum is also a cost-effective choice when it comes to CNC machining.
Additionally, aluminum is also an excellent conductor of electricity and heat. It also offers superior ductility and malleability. Common applications of aluminum includes:
- Automotive parts
- Drink cans
- Sauce pans
Nickel is also a type of non-ferrous metal with silvery color. It has properties including high temperature resistance, toughness, and corrosion resistance. In spite of its excellent properties, nickel has less applications than other non ferrous metals.
If copper is alloyed with other elements, it can provide superior chemical and mechanical properties that makes it ideal for different applications such as:
- Cryogenic equipment production
- Hot-section of marine, automobile, and airplane equipment
- Armor plating
- Producing nails
Silver is a soft, shiny, and lustrous metal. It offers a wide range of properties including corrosion resistance, good malleability, excellent electrical conductivity, very low contact resistance, and superior thermal conductivity. Common applications include:
- Solar technology
- Engine bearings
- Water purification
Lead is the heaviest among other types of non ferrous metals. This metal is toxic and therefore may harm human’s health. However, it offers excellent properties such as malleability, density, and ductility.
It is also a poor electricity conductor and may change color when exposed to air. Lead does not react with different chemicals since it is chemically inert. It is commonly used for:
- Cable sheathing production
- Lead crystal glass
- Diving weight belts
- Acid tanks
- Power cables
Gold is a non-ferrous metal that offers excellent malleability, corrosion resistance, and ductility. It also has minimal degradation risk since it does not react to chemicals. Gold also provides superior electrical and thermal conductivity. Common gold applications include:
- Jewelries (necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings, and more)
- Investment and Finance (legal tender)
- Computer and electronic device production
- Dentistry and Medicine (tooth restoration)
- Colored glass production
Titanium offers high resistance to corrosion and superior strength-to-density ratio. This can be alloyed with iron and aluminum to create a strong yet lightweight metal. Common applications of titanium include:
Copper has alloys including bronze and brass that are widely used across different industries. This metal offers several properties including corrosion resistance, excellent thermal conductivity, high ductility, and electrical conductivity. Copper is characterized by its ductility and softness when not alloyed.
This type of non-ferrous metal is highly suitable for manufacturing the following:
- Heat exchangers
- Heating vessels
- Plumbing fittings
- Roofing materials
- Cooking utensils
Despite of its excellent properties, copper is more expensive compared to other types of non-ferrous metals. Wires that are made from copper is also prone to corrosion and shape may lose due to its softness.
This metal can be used as a base alloy or standalone. Common applications of zinc includes:
- Galvanizing element
- Heat exchangers
- Metal roofs
- Car bodies
- Suspension bridges
- Cathodic protection
- Rubber manufacturing
Suitable Processing for Non-Ferrous Metals
Non ferrous metals can casted through different methods including:
- Sand casting process
- Metal mold process
- Investment casting
Casting is a widely used method for shaping non-ferrous metals into variety of intricate forms. This process is particularly valuable for non-ferrous metals due to their lower melting points. Metal parts manufacturing using non-ferrous metals are commonly done through casting process.
CNC machining is used for a precise and efficient shaping of non ferrous metals. Therefore, it can be formed into various parts and components. Non ferrous metals such as titanium, copper, brass, and aluminum are commonly machined using CNC processes. Common machining operations used for non ferrous metals include milling, turning, drilling, and engraving.
CNC machining offers several advantages when working with non-ferrous metals. It includes precision, repeatability, and capability to produce complex shapes and intricate details. CNC machined non ferrous metals are commonly used for automotive, aerospace, medical devices, electronics, and more.
How Do Ferrous and Non Ferrous Metals Differ Each Other?
It is important to understand the difference between non ferrous and ferrous metals. This will help you choose the right material for your specific applications. Below are the key differences of these two types of metals:
- Ferrous metals are composed of up to 50% of iron. On the other hand, non ferrous does not contain any iron in its composition.
- In terms of magnetic properties, ferrous metals are generally magnetic compared to non ferrous.
- Ferrous metals are more likely to develop corrosion due to its iron content while non ferrous is highly corrosion resistant,
- Ferrous metals are commonly heavier while non ferrous is lightweight.
- When it comes to color, ferrous metals are grayish or metallic while non ferrous metals have wide range of colors and appearances.
In conclusion, non ferrous metals are a versatile material with rich history. These metals are widely used because of its diverse properties including corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, and lightweight. Therefore, making it perfect for manufacturing components and parts used in different industries. Common example of non ferrous metals include aluminum, titanium, zinc, lead, gold, silver, and more. Knowing the difference between the two types of metals also helps you in choosing the right material.