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- On April 20, 2018
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Although they both contain iron, there is a major difference between malleable iron and cast iron. The main difference being that malleable iron is, well, malleable and cast iron is not. But there are other differences as well. We’ll need to talk about what exactly these metals are and how they are made.
What is Cast Iron?
Cast iron is the result of smelting ore in a furnace, creating pig iron which has a high carbon content. Alloys are then added to the iron which is poured into molds and allowed to cool.
What is Malleable Iron?
Malleable iron starts out as cast iron, but an annealing heat treatment is applied to the cast iron to make it more workable and increase ductility. Consequently, malleable iron has much lower carbon content than cast iron. There are three different types of malleable iron:
To make malleable iron, foundry workers add hematite ore during the annealing process. Depending on the need for ductility, they may also add sodium, cerium, or magnesium.
Cast iron is typically smelted in a bloomery. Usually, the furnace becomes too hot for other types of iron making and this is when the iron absorbs the most carbon. It is then poured into molds for cooling.
Malleable iron is easier to work with to make more intricate designs, such as luxury iron doors. On the other hand, cast iron is better known for its castability, meaning it is easily poured into molds without premature cooling because of its low melting point.
The annealing process of malleable iron causes it to form small particles of carbon that are shaped irregularly. This gives the iron more strength while allowing it to keep ductility. Malleable iron is relatively easy to machine, and it is shock resistant.
Cast iron contains about two percent carbon, which makes it stronger and more resistant to rusting. But this also makes it more difficult to machine because it is difficult to get a smooth surface with the material. This can also make cast iron more costly to work with as it reduces tool life.
Both cast iron and malleable iron are similarly priced. However, cast iron tends to be cheaper because it has a low melting point requiring less energy to heat it.
Cast iron is used to make castings such as barbell weights in a gym or engine blocks. Malleable iron is better suited for decorative elements like iron doors.
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