Cast iron is a word that refers to a group of metal alloys that have iron as their major alloying element. Some people mistakenly believe that cast iron is made entirely of iron because of its name. This simply isn’t the case. Carbon steels, in fact, have a higher percentage of iron than cast irons.
To be classified cast iron, a mainly iron alloy must have more than 2% carbon in the final alloy. Other alloys, such as manganese and silicon, are also present in lower proportions in cast irons. These extra alloying elements are utilized to further modify the properties of cast iron, resulting in the classification of unique cast iron alloys.
There are four major subtypes of cast iron alloys:
- Ductile cast iron: Contains nodules of graphite making it more ductile than other cast irons while still having excellent strength properties.
- Gray cast iron: Has flakes of graphite in it which improves its machinability relative to other cast irons.
- White cast iron: Has high amounts of iron carbides, making it very brittle but with a high degree of wear resistance.
- Malleable cast iron: Essentially white cast iron that has been specially heat treated to transform the iron carbides into graphite nodules; it has similar properties to ductile cast iron.
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