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The Differences Between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Manufacturers and engineers often have to decide between the use of Ferrous and Non-Ferrous materials when beginning a job. Certain CNC routers need to be made of certain materials when handling these different types. But what is the difference between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous? And while it may seem cheaper to use one material, should you be using the other?

This quick guide helps go through some of the benefits and applications of each of these types.

Ferrous Metals

The word ‘ferrous’ comes from the Latin word ‘ferrum’ meaning ‘iron’. In chemistry the symbol for iron is Fe and on a chemical level, all ferrous metals contain levels of iron.

Some examples of ferrous metals are:

  • Stainless Steel
  • Wrought Iron
  • Cast Iron
  • Carbon Steel
  • Alloy Steel

These metals tend to have more strength and durability and are used primarily in structure fabrication. For example, ferrous metals are used in construction, shipping containers, industrial piping and commercial tools.

Ferrous metals are also generally rust resistant due to their high carbon content, making them useful for marine and weather exposed projects.

They are also magnetic which is useful for motors and electrical appliances.

Non-Ferrous Metals

Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron.

Some examples of non-ferrous metals are:

  • Aluminium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Zinc
  • Tin

These metals tend to be more malleable and flexible. This makes them ideal for lightweight constructions such as aircrafts.

Although they do not have a high carbon content, non-ferrous metals have a higher rust and corrosion resistance than ferrous metals.

Their lack of magnetism makes them useful for electrical cables, electrical equipment and appliances.

Which Should I Choose?

Aside from the points above there may be different applications you may need Ferrous and Non-Ferrous metals for when starting your fabrication or project.

Ferrous metals are perfect for physically demanding jobs. Most engineering applications rely heavily on these metals. Their durability and damage resistance makes them ideal for most situations. Finally ferrous metals are very versatile. Ferrous metals are used for both simple and sophisticated applications.

Non-ferrous metals are much easier to process. These are used for a wide variety of applications due to the numerous processing methods you can easily perform on these materials. Visually, the non-ferrous metals have more colour and vibrance to them. Some projects may use copper just for the aesthetic appeal.

What Next?

While each ferrous and non-ferrous has their own unique features and benefits, most projects will see a combination of both. Once the metal has been decided, having these manufactured or engineered is an important next step.

Galvin Engineering is a precision manufacturer able to provide quality product solutions for your projects. Whether it’s through general machining or fabrication or even equipment modification or repairs, Brisbane based Galvin Engineering is there to help. Galvin Engineering specialises in CNC machining services and also offers steel processing, welding, CNC metal folding, laser cutting, CNC milling, CNC turing, powder coating, zinc plating, sand blasting and product coatings. Galvin Engineering has a quality product design and development team. Check with them about your next project and their experienced design team will help find a solution for your needs.


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