Ferrous VS Non-Ferrous Metals: Essential Know-Hows

Exploring the difference between ferrous and non-ferrous metals reveals a fascinating aspect of material science integral to various industries and technological advancements. Here, we will examine their distinct properties, historical significance, and diverse applications, highlighting how these metals have shaped human civilization. From the early days of copper to the modern use of steel and aluminum, understanding these metals offers valuable insights into their practical uses and their role in historical development.

Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous Metals: A Brief History

Human civilization has always been shaped by its ability to harness and manipulate materials. Among the pivotal categories of materials are ferrous and non-ferrous metals, each playing distinct roles in the development of technologies, industries, and societies

Non-Ferrous Metals

The journey of non-ferrous metals began with the discovery of copper around 5,000 BC, which marked the end of the Stone Age and the onset of the Copper Age. The evolution continued with the invention of bronze, a notable alloy of copper and tin, heralding the Bronze Age. Ancient civilizations utilized lead in various applications such as plumbing and cosmetics. Zinc also played a crucial role, with evidence of its production in ancient India and China dating back to 1400-1000 BCE, where it was used in medicinal applications and brass production. Aluminum, however, remained a rarity until the 19th century due to the complexities in its extraction, until advancements made it more accessible.

Ferrous Metals

The use of ferrous metals, primarily iron, began around 1,200 BC, signaling the start of the Iron Age. Iron production became widespread due to its abundance compared to copper and tin. This transition was significant as iron was more readily available from ore sources, and advancements in smelting and forging made it a versatile and essential material. Iron’s role was pivotal in shaping human civilizations, from being used in tools and weapons to its crucial part in construction and machinery. This metal’s widespread use eventually led to the Industrial Revolution, where iron and steel production became central to industrialization and modernization efforts.

What is Ferrous Metal?

Ferrous metals are primarily made of iron. These metals offer exceptional mechanical properties such as high strength, durability, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, making them invaluable in construction, automotive, and machinery manufacturing industries. However, when exposed to moisture and oxygen, their susceptibility to rust and corrosion requires protective measures like coatings or alloys. Despite these drawbacks, ferrous metals remain vital in various applications due to their reliability and performance. 

Which Metals Are Ferrous?


Steel is produced by combining iron with carbon, which strengthens it. Alloy steel becomes even more resilient with the addition of elements like chromium and nickel. The process involves heating and melting iron ore in furnaces and then pouring the molten steel into molds to create steel bars. Steel is found to be extensively used in construction and manufacturing.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel, with its elevated carbon content, is notably hard, making it a popular choice for manufacturing machine tools, drills, blades, taps, and springs. Its ability to maintain a sharp cutting edge is particularly valued.

Alloy Steel

Alloy steels, which blend elements like chromium, nickel, and titanium, enhance strength and durability without adding extra weight. Stainless steel, a significant alloy steel containing chromium, is crucially used in various applications, including construction, machine tools, and electrical components.

Cast Iron

Cast iron, an alloy comprising iron, carbon, and silicon, is known for its brittleness, hardness, and wear resistance. It finds applications in water pipes, machine tools, automobile engines, and stoves.

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is an alloy with so little carbon content it’s almost pure iron. During the manufacturing process, some slag is added, giving wrought iron excellent resistance to corrosion and oxidation; however, it is low in hardness and fatigue strength. Wrought iron is used for fencing and railings, agricultural implements, nails, barbed wire, chains, and various ornaments.

Applications of Ferrous Metals  

With their exceptional strength, durability, and magnetic properties, ferrous metals find diverse applications across various industries and contribute to the backbone of modern infrastructure and manufacturing. 

  1. Construction: Essential for structural elements like beams and columns, ensuring stability in buildings and bridges. 
  1. Automotive Manufacturing: Used for engine blocks, chassis, and suspension parts, guaranteeing vehicle safety and performance. 
  1. Machinery Manufacturing: Relies on ferrous metals for components like gears and shafts, providing strength and wear resistance for heavy-duty operations. 
  1. Infrastructure Development: Ferrous metals are crucial for pipelines, railways, and power transmission towers. They ensure reliability and longevity for essential systems and foster economic growth and societal advancement.

What is Non-Ferrous Metal?

A non-ferrous metal is a type of metal that does not contain iron in significant amounts or has iron content low enough to be negligible. Unlike ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals lack magnetic properties and are generally more resistant to rust and corrosion, making them ideal for applications exposed to moisture or harsh environments. These metals are essential in several industries, mainly when factors like electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and lightweight design are crucial. Their unique properties make them highly sought after in various applications.

Which Metals Are Non-Ferrous?


Aluminum is light, soft, and has limited strength, but it’s easy to cast, forge, machine, and weld. However, it could be better for high-temperature conditions. Its lightweight nature makes it great for aircraft and food can production, castings, pistons, railways, cars, and kitchen tools.


Copper, with its distinctive red hue, is extremely ductile and malleable and boasts excellent conductivity for electricity and heat. It is primarily used in electrical applications like wiring and conductors. Additionally, it’s utilized in sheet roofing, cartridge cases, statues, and bearings. Moreover, copper is a key component in brass production, an alloy blending copper with zinc.


Lead is a soft, dense metal with a low melting point and weak tensile strength. Despite this, it can resist corrosion from moisture and various acids. Lead is widely used in electrical cables, batteries, construction, and soldering applications.


Zinc has moderate to low strength and a notably low melting point. While it’s easy to machine, caution is needed when heating to prevent crystal cleavage. Its primary use is galvanizing, where a zinc coating is applied to iron or steel to prevent rust.


Tin, known for its softness, malleability, and low tensile strength, is commonly used to coat steel and create tinplate steel for food cans. While tin foil was once famous for food wrapping, aluminum foil has largely replaced it. Tin can also be combined with copper to form tin brass and bronze alloys.

Applications of Non-Ferrous Metals 

Non-ferrous metals, prized for their diverse properties and resistance to corrosion, play essential roles in a wide range of industries and contribute to developing advanced technologies and everyday essentials.

  1. Electrical and Electronics: Their excellent conductivity makes them ideal for wiring and circuitry, ensuring efficiency and reliability. 
  1. Aerospace and Aviation: Rely on lightweight metals like aluminum and titanium for fuel-efficient aircraft components that meet stringent performance standards.
  1. Marine: In corrosive environments, non-ferrous metals like stainless steel and aluminum are preferred for structures, ensuring longevity and reliability. 
  1. Food and Beverage Industry: These metals are valued for their hygienic properties and resistance to corrosion, with stainless steel being favored for food-grade equipment due to its ease of cleaning and sterilization.

Ferrous vs Non-Ferrous: In Comparison

Metals are broadly categorized into ferrous, rich in iron and offering strength but prone to corrosion, and non-ferrous, iron-free with qualities such as corrosion resistance and conductivity. Whether you require ferrous metals’ durability or non-ferrous metals’ resistance and conductivity, Fast Metals provides a wide range of metal materials.

Visit our online shop to find your project’s ideal ferrous or non-ferrous metal.

Ferrous MetalsNon-Ferrous Metals
Iron ContentFerrous metals have a high iron content, usually over 50% by weight.Non-ferrous metals have minimal iron, typically less than 50%.
Magnetic PropertiesHave high magnetic propertiesNon-magnetic
Corrosion SusceptibilityTheir iron content makes them prone to rust and corrosion, with the exemption of stainless steel and wrought iron.Good resistance to rust and corrosion is beneficial in applications where moisture is a factor (ex: roofing, gutters, piping, etc.)
DensityDenser and HeavierLighter and less dense
Strength and DurabilityStrong, durable, and used for structural and load-bearing purposes.Metals like copper and aluminum are excellent at conducting electricity and heat.

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Hot Rolled Steel vs Cold Rolled Steel

Hot-rolled and cold-finished steel products differ in their manufacturing processes, resulting in variations in properties and applications.

Hot Rolled Steel

  • Manufacturing Process: Hot-rolled steel is produced at high temperatures, typically above the recrystallization point of the steel, which makes it easier to shape and form. It goes through a rolling process where it’s compressed, stretched, and shaped into the desired form.
  • Surface Finish: Hot-rolled steel has a rough, scaly, and somewhat uneven surface. It has a characteristic oxide scale on the surface, which can be removed by pickling or abrasive processes.
  • Grain Structure: Hot-rolled steel has a larger grain structure due to the high temperatures involved in the manufacturing process. This can result in reduced strength and hardness compared to cold-finished steel.
  • Strength and Toughness: Hot-rolled steel tends to be less precise in dimension and shape but is generally less expensive. It is often used in structural applications, construction, and as a starting material for various manufacturing processes.
  • Applications: Hot-rolled steel is suitable for applications where surface finish and dimensional precision are less critical, such as structural components, railroad tracks, and automotive frames.

Cold Finished Steel

  • Manufacturing Process: Cold-finished steel is produced at or near room temperature. It is typically drawn, turned, or ground to achieve the desired dimensions and surface finish. This process enhances dimensional accuracy.
  • Surface Finish: Cold-finished steel has a smoother and more precise surface finish compared to hot-rolled steel. It often doesn’t require further surface treatment.
  • Grain Structure: Cold-finished steel has a smaller and more consistent grain structure, resulting in improved strength, hardness, and machinability.
  • Precision and Tolerance: Cold-finished steel products are produced with tight dimensional tolerances and are highly consistent in size and shape.
  • Applications: Cold-finished steel is commonly used in applications where precise dimensions, surface finish, and enhanced mechanical properties are crucial. These include shafts, fasteners, precision components, and tools.

In summary, the key difference between hot-rolled and cold-finished steel products lies in their manufacturing processes and the resulting properties. Hot-rolled steel is produced at high temperatures, tends to have a rough surface, and is less precise in terms of dimensions. Cold-finished steel, on the other hand, is manufactured at or near room temperature, has a smoother surface, tight dimensional tolerances, and improved mechanical properties, making it suitable for applications requiring precision and performance.

High Strength Aluminum: 2024 & 7075

2024 and 7075 are high-strength aluminum alloys that are commonly used in various applications, especially in aerospace, automotive, and structural industries.

2024 Aluminum

  1. Composition: 2024 aluminum is composed of aluminum (90.7%), copper (4.5%), and small amounts of other elements like magnesium (1.5%) and manganese (0.6%).
  2. Strength: It is known for its excellent strength-to-weight ratio, making it suitable for structural applications.
  3. Machinability: 2024 aluminum has good machinability and responds well to various machining operations.
  4. Corrosion Resistance: While it is not as corrosion-resistant as some other aluminum alloys, it can be protected through surface treatments such as anodizing.
  5. Applications: 2024 aluminum is commonly used in aircraft structures, where its high strength and lightweight properties are crucial. It’s also used in various aerospace and transportation components.

7075 Aluminum

  1. Composition: 7075 aluminum is composed mainly of aluminum (87.1%), zinc (5.3%), copper (2.1%), and small amounts of other elements like magnesium and chromium.
  2. Strength: It is one of the highest-strength aluminum alloys available, with excellent tensile strength and toughness.
  3. Machinability: While it can be machined, it is less machinable compared to 2024 due to its higher hardness.
  4. Corrosion Resistance: 7075 has good corrosion resistance, but it is not as corrosion-resistant as some other aluminum alloys. Anodizing can be used to enhance its corrosion resistance.
  5. Applications: 7075 aluminum is used in applications where high strength is required. It’s also used in the manufacturing of high-stress components in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Both 2024 and 7075 aluminum are valued for their high strength. They are used in applications where lightweight and strong materials are essential. The choice between them depends on specific application requirements, machining considerations, and cost constraints.

Alloy 4130: A Common Choice for Automotive

4130 steel is commonly used in the automotive industry due to its excellent combination of mechanical properties and weldability.

Strength & Durability

4130 steel offers high strength and excellent durability, making it well-suited for components that need to withstand heavy loads, stress, and impact. This is particularly important in automotive parts like chassis frames, suspension components, and roll cages.


While 4130 steel is strong, it is also relatively lightweight compared to some other high-strength materials. This makes it advantageous for reducing the overall weight of a vehicle, which can improve fuel efficiency and handling.

Weldability & Machinability

4130 steel can be easily welded, which is essential for the manufacturing and repair of automotive components. Welding allows for the fabrication of complex structures and the modification of existing parts.

This type of steel is also known for its good machinability, making it easier to machine into intricate shapes and components used in automotive applications.

Corrosion & Fatigue Resistance

While not as corrosion-resistant as stainless steel, 4130 steel can still resist rust and corrosion to a reasonable extent. This is important for automotive components that are exposed to environmental conditions.

4130 steel exhibits good fatigue resistance, which is crucial for components subjected to cyclic loading, such as suspension parts and axles.

Heat Treatment

4130 steel can be heat-treated to enhance its mechanical properties further. This allows for customization to meet specific automotive requirements, such as achieving higher hardness or strength.


4130 steel is cost-effective when compared to some other high-strength materials, making it an attractive choice for various automotive components.

Common automotive applications of 4130 steel include suspension components (such as control arms and sway bars), chassis frames, roll cages, steering components, and various structural elements. Its versatility and favorable combination of properties make it a valuable material in the automotive manufacturing and performance industries.

Pipe vs Tube

Metal pipes and metal tubes are both cylindrical structures made of metal, but they have some key differences in terms of their design, purpose, and typical applications.

Purpose & Function

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes are primarily designed to transport fluids, gases, or solids from one location to another. They are used for conveying substances like water, oil, gas, and various chemicals. Pipes often have specific standards and regulations depending on their intended use.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes, on the other hand, are more versatile and can serve various purposes beyond the transportation of materials. They are often used for structural applications, heat exchangers, mechanical components, and as a framework for various structures.

Wall Thicknesses

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes typically have a uniform wall thickness. The wall thickness is designed to withstand the specific pressure and temperature requirements of the substance being transported. Pipe walls are often thicker than those of tubes.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes can have varying wall thicknesses, making them suitable for a wide range of applications. Some tubes have thicker walls for structural strength, while others have thinner walls for heat exchange purposes

Shapes & Cross-Sections

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes are generally designed with a round cross-section, which is ideal for maintaining consistent flow and reducing resistance in fluid transportation.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes can have various cross-sectional shapes, including round, square, rectangular, and oval, depending on the intended application.

Manufacturing Standards

  • Metal Pipe: Pipes are often manufactured to specific industry standards, such as ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) or ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) standards. These standards ensure that pipes meet the required quality and safety criteria.
  • Metal Tube: Tubes can also be manufactured to industry standards, but they are often more flexible in terms of size and shape, making them suitable for a wider range of custom applications.


  • Metal Pipe: Common applications for metal pipes include plumbing systems, oil and gas pipelines, and industrial processes where the conveyance of fluids and gases is essential.
  • Metal Tube: Metal tubes find applications in industries like construction, automotive manufacturing, aerospace, and engineering, where structural strength, heat transfer, or specialized shapes are required.

In summary, the key difference between metal pipes and metal tubes lies in their primary purpose and design. Pipes are mainly used for transporting materials, while tubes serve various structural and mechanical functions in addition to material conveyance. The choice between a pipe and a tube depends on the specific requirements of the application.

All About: Architectural Bronze C385

385 architectural bronze stands out as a remarkable material with a well-balanced chemical composition. It offers excellent corrosion resistance, strength, and machinability. Whether it graces grand buildings or intricate designs, 385 bronze significantly contributes to the beauty, durability, and functionality of architectural projects.

The Chemistry

This alloy primarily consists of copper, with smaller quantities of zinc and lead. The chemical composition of 385 architectural bronze typically comprises approximately 57% copper, 40% zinc, and 3% lead. This precise combination of elements gives the alloy exceptional properties and makes it suitable for various applications.

Characteristics To Know

Architectural bronze’s alloying elements make it desirable for architectural purposes. Its high copper content, which provides excellent corrosion resistance, it is widely used in outdoor environments where longevity and durability are critical. The addition of zinc enhances the alloy’s strength and hardness, making it suitable for structural components and decorative elements. Furthermore, the small amount of lead improves its machinability, allowing for intricate and precise detailing in finish work.

What is Architectural Bronze C385 Used For?

The uses of 385 architectural bronze are diverse and extensive. It finds common application in the fabrication of architectural hardware, including door handles, knobs, and hinges. The alloy’s corrosion resistance makes it an ideal choice for exterior components that are exposed to weathering. Additionally, 385 bronze is often utilized in ornamental features such as statues, plaques, and decorative panels, where its beautiful golden hue adds aesthetic appeal to buildings and public spaces.

This alloy’s versatility extends to its use in lighting fixtures, railings, and various other architectural details that require both functionality and visual appeal.

What is the Difference Between Bronze and Brass?

Bronze and Brass are two metals that often get confused or used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences in their composition and properties. Bronze, discovered at a time when no other metals could rival it, quickly made a name for itself. It is an alloy of copper and tin, with a reddish-brown or reddish-gold color that oxidizes to dark brown or green. On the other hand, brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, with a bright gold, copper, or silver color, depending on the metal content.

Metalworking with Brass & Bronze

When it comes to workability, brass is more malleable than bronze. It is less likely to break when hammered or rolled into thin plates. Bronze, in contrast, is less malleable and melts at a higher temperature. Both metals may require heating for easier metalworking, depending on their composition and desired output quality.

In terms of conductivity, both brass and bronze are effective conductors of heat and electricity, making them suitable for applications involving electrical machinery. They also exhibit corrosion resistance due to their copper content. However, they react differently to oxidation. Bronze develops a protective patina layer when exposed to air, while brass tarnishes and loses its luster. Certain types of brass are particularly resistant to galvanic seawater corrosion, making them ideal for sea vessel covering and desalination system pipes.

Other Distinguishing Features to Note

Another distinguishing factor between brass and bronze lies in their acoustic properties. Bronze produces a duller and deeper sound, making it suitable for cymbals and bells that require sustained resonance. Brass, on the other hand, is capable of creating the smooth and wide-ranging tones expected from musical instruments like trumpets and horns.

In conclusion, while bronze and brass share copper as a base metal, their secondary metal content and resulting properties differentiate them significantly. Understanding the composition and properties of each metal allows for informed decision-making when choosing the right material for specific applications, be it in manufacturing, construction, or even musical instrument production.

Sheet Metal Fabrication

What is Sheet Metal Fabrication?

Sheet metal fabrication is a multifaceted process of creating metal parts or structures out of sheet metal.

Cutting: Cutting metal into pieces of precise dimensions or dividing large sheets into several parts are examples of sheet metal processing. You can cut sheet metals manually using power tools, metal saws, lasers and waterjet saws.

Blanking: Blanking involves cutting out a portion of the sheet metal based on a stencil. Excess material is discarded or recycled.

Bending: Depending on your specific design, you may need to bend portions of the sheet metal pieces you have made. You can do this using press brakes and other tools.

Galvanizing: Corrugated roofing panels, for example, are a great example of this type of use. Zinc coated materials works effectively in prolonging the life of your roof.

Milling: If the metal work piece is still too thick and further reducing its thickness through rolling or stretching is impractical, milling is the next best course of action. It requires the use of a rotary cutter.

Welding: Joining together two pieces of metal by applying heat and pressure with gas or electricity can be used to build structures and create parts.

How is Brass Made?

Crafting brass is a complex journey that involves more than meets the eye. It takes both science and artistry to transform raw materials into beautiful objects. Creating brass involves several processes before it can become its recognizable bright gold appearance. Each step adds something special until we finally have one of mankind’s most enduring materials — brass.


Melting brass begins by heating the metal until it reaches its low melting point at 1,999 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the metal has reached its melting point, it will liquefy at the edges first before flowing towards the center of the container where it is heated. 

Gradually increasing the temperature throughout this process, to avoid uneven heating or cooling, is critical. Without a gradual climb in temperature, cracks may be present in the final product. The zinc present in a brass alloy gives the finished product a yellowish tint and increases its strength, while in copper alloys produce a deeper color and add elasticity to the alloy. 

Cold Rolling and Annealing

Cold rolling is a process that involves passing the brass through a series of rollers at different temperatures. This process reduces the thickness of the sheet, as well as increases its length. Cold rolling improves the material’s flexibility, tensile strength, hardness, and yield strength.

The annealing process helps improve the mechanical properties of brass. Annealing means heating brass to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time. After cold rolling or annealing operations have been performed, it will be ready for further processing according to your specific needs.

Hot Rolling

Hot rolling is used to produce flat products, like sheet or plate, by passing them through a series of rollers under high pressure. The pressure causes the material to elongate and become thinner as it moves through each successive pair of rollers until it reaches its desired thickness.

This process can occur at room temperature or above 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. In brass manufacturing, hot rolling produces large coils of material that is then further cut-to-size into pattern sizes.

What is the difference between Aluminum Association, American Standard and Sharp Corner?

It’s one of those pieces of information that we all seem to misplace…what really IS the difference between Aluminum Association, American Standard and Sharp Corner products?

First, let’s name that shape! The base, or depth, is often noted as the first dimension of the shape. The thickness, or web, is the thickness of the base/depth. Lastly, the legs or flanges are the uprights of the channel.

Each of the different types, Aluminum Association (AA), American Standard (AS) and Sharp Corner (often called Architectural) have a different combination of leg and interior corner types.

Aluminum Association (AA) has curved (radius) interior corners and straight legs with flat ends.

Need help remembering? We like to make a connection between letters AA in Aluminum Association, and the flat ends of the legs.

American Standard (AS), on the other hand does not have ANY flat or sharp corner in its interior or legs. The legs taper from thick to thin and have rounded ends. You can almost see the shape of an “S” between the rounded legs and the radius interior corner.

Everything about “Sharp Corner” is what it sounds like! 90 degree interior corners and straight legs with flat ends make everything angular. Sharp Corner, or Architectural also only comes in aluminum alloy 6063.