The invention of iron is one of mankind's defining moments and the term iron age is used to identify one of the three great classifications of ancient society, along with the Stone and Bronze ages. Cast iron is a ferrous alloy, divided into four distinct categories: white, gray, ductile and malleable, with each type having various uses in industry and at home.
Cast Iron Manufacturing
Cast iron is manufactured much in the same way as steel, consisting of a smelting and forging process. The three main ingredients of cast iron are iron, carbon and silicone, with cast iron containing more of these materials than steel. Other ingredients include nickel and copper, which provide better corrosion resistance, and graphite, which aids in the iron's overall strength.
White cast iron is one of the two primary iron types, differing from other irons because carbon is used as a carbide rather than a graphite during the manufacturing process. The absence of graphite causes white iron's light-colored appearance and abrasive cutting properties. White cast iron, commonly used for ornamental purposes, is typically hard, brittle and resistant to abrasions.
Gray iron is the most common form of cast iron, used for cookware, hardware, stoves and plumbing products. Gray cast iron is also used in the casting of automobile engine blocks. Highly susceptible to corrosion, gray iron contains carbon in flake form, which gets evenly distributed throughout the iron. Although gray iron develops a characteristic black coating over time, the gray is color is revealed when broken.
Ductile and Malleable Iron
Ductility is an aspect of cast iron that enables it to be altered under stress, best characterized as making the iron stretchable. Malleability is a type of iron able to be altered under compressive stress, as when a hammer forms the iron into a sheet. Ductile iron is commonly used for sewage and water pipes, while malleable iron is found in plumbing and electrical fittings, machine parts and various tools. According to Farmingdale State University, ductile and malleable cast iron are altered versions of gray and white iron, with carbon forming into spheres during the ductile iron manufacturing process and decomposing during the cooling process in malleable iron manufacturing.
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