Chapter 2

Types of cast iron
The first iron castings to be made were cast directly from the blast furnace.
Liquid iron from a blast furnace contains around 4%C and up to 2%Si,
t oget her wi t h other chemical elements deri ved from the ore and other
constituents of the furnace charge. The presence of so much dissolved carbon
etc. lowers the melt poi nt of the iron from 1536°C (pure iron) to a eutectic
t emperat ure of about 1150°C (Fig. 2.1) so that blast furnace iron is fully
liquid and hi ghl y fluid at t emperat ures around 1200°C. When the iron
solidifies, most of the carbon is t hrown out of solution in the form either of
graphi t e or of iron carbide, Fe3C, dependi ng on the composition of the iron,
the rate of cooling from liquid to solid and the presence of nucleants.
If the carbon is precipitated as flake graphite, the casting is called ' grey
iron' , because the fractured surface has a dull grey appearance due to the
presence of about 12% by vol ume of graphite. If the carbon precipitates as
carbide, the casting is said to be ' whi t e iron' because the fracture has a shiny
whi t e appearance. In the early days of cast iron technology, white iron was
of little value, being extremely brittle and so hard that it was unmachi nabl e.
Grey iron, on the other hand, was soft and readily machi ned and al t hough
it had little ductility, it was less brittle t han whi t e iron.
Iron castings were made as long ago as 500 BC (in China) and from the
15th cent ury in Europe, when the blast furnace was developed. The great
merits of grey iron as a casting alloy, whi ch still remai n true today, are its
low cost, its hi gh fluidity at modest t emperat ures and the fact that it freezes
wi t h little vol ume change, since the vol ume expansi on of the carbon
precipitating as graphi t e compensat es for the shri nkage of the liquid iron.
This means that complex shapes can be cast wi t hout shri nkage defects.
These factors, together wi t h its free-machining properties, account for the
cont i nui ng popul ari t y of grey cast iron, whi ch domi nat es worl d tonnages of
casting product i on (Table 2.1).
Great er under st andi ng of the effect of chemical composi t i on and of
nucleation of suitable forms of graphi t e t hrough inoculation of liquid iron,
has vastly i mproved the reliability of grey iron as an engi neeri ng material.
Even so, the inherent lack of ductility due to the presence of so much graphite
precipitated in flake form (Fig. 2.2) limits the applications to whi ch grey
iron can be put.
A malleable, or ductile form of cast iron was first made by casting ' white
24 Foseco Ferrous Foundryman's Handbook
6 + liquid
G + liquid
,o • z \ ~ + . . . . . l i qui d / Fe~C + liquid
- . . . . . . / - . . . . .
j t . . . . . 6 - -
a + 7 / , " or ,-,
,,,,,," 7 + G
\ - - D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..1
3 ~
a + Fe3C
a + G
0 2 4 6
wt. %C
Fe - G system Fe - Fe3C system
( - - ) Fe- G 2.09 4.25 0.68 %C
1154 1154 739 °C
(---) Fe-Fe3C 2.12 4.31 6.68 0.76 %C
1148 1148 1226 727 °C
F i g u r e 2.1 The iron-carbon phase diagram. (From Elliott, R., Cast Iron Technol ogy,
1988, Butterworth-Heinemann, reproduced by permission of the publishers.)
Table 2.1 Breakdown of iron casting tonnages 1996 (1000s tonnes)
Total iron Grey iron Ductile i r o n Malleable iron
Germany }
France 6127 3669 (59.9%) 2368 (38.6%) 84 (1.37%)
USA 10 314 6048 (58.6%) 4034 (39.1%) 232 (2.25%)
Data from CAEF report The European Foundry Industry 1996
US data from Modern Castings
iron' and then by a long heat treatment process, converting the iron carbide
to graphite. Under the right conditions the graphite developed in discrete,
roughly spherical aggregates (Fig. 2.3) so that the casting became ductile
with elongation of 10% or more. The first malleable iron, ' whiteheart iron'
Types of cas t iron 25
Figure 2.2 Random flake graphite, 4% picral, x lO0. (From BCIRA Broadsheet
138, reproduced by courtesy of CDC.)
was made by R6aumur in France in 1720. The more usef ul 'blackheart'
mal l eabl e iron was devel oped in the USA by Boyden around 1830. Malleable
cast iron became a wi de l y us ed casti ng al l oy wherever resistance to shock
l oadi ng was required. It was particularly suitable for transmission components
for rai l ways and aut omot i ve appl i cati ons.
A major ne w de ve l opme nt occurred in the late 1940s wi t h the di scovery
that iron havi ng a nodul ar form of graphi te coul d be cast directly from the
- , x i .
~ . ,
_ . . . . . .
Figure 2.3 Malleable cast iron, 4% picral, x 100. (From BCIRA Broadsheet 138,
reproduced by courtesy of CDC.)
26 Foseco Ferrous Foundryman's Handbook
melt after t reat ment of liquid iron of suitable composition wi t h magnesi um.
(Fig. 2.4). The use of ' spheroidal graphi t e' or ' nodul ar ' iron castings has
since gr own rapi dl y as the technology became underst ood and ' ductile
iron' , as it is now generally known, has gai ned a large and still growing,
sector of total cast iron product i on (Table 2.1).
Figure 2.4 Nodular graphite, 4% picral x lO0. (From BClRA Broadsheet 138,
reproduced by courtesy of CDC.)
The great hardness and abrasion resistance of whi t e iron has also been
exploited. The strength of whi t e iron has been i mproved t hrough alloying
and heat treatment, and whi t e iron castings are wi del y used in applications
such as mi neral processing, shot blasting etc. where the excellent wear
resistance can be fully used.
Finally there are a number of special cast irons designed to have properties
of heat resistance, or acid resistance etc. In the following chapters, each type
of iron will be considered separately and its met hod of product i on described.
The mechanical properties of cast iron are deri ved mainly from the matrix
and irons are frequently described in terms of their matrix structure, that is,
ferritic or pearlitic:
Ferrite is a Fe-C solid solution in whi ch some Si, Mn, Cu etc. may also
dissolve. It is soft and has relatively low strength. Ferritic irons can be
pr oduced as-cast or by annealing.
PearIite is a mixture of lamellae of ferrite and FeBC formed from austenite
by a eutectoid reaction. It is relatively hard and the mechanical properties
of a pearlitic iron are affected by the spacing of the pearlite lamellae,
whi ch is affected by the rate of cooling of the iron from the eutectoid
t emperat ure of around 730°C.
Types of cast iron 27
Ferrite-Pearlite mi xed st r uct ur es are oft en pr esent in i ron cast i ngs.
Bainite is usual l y f or med by an aus t emper i ng heat t r eat ment ( nor mal l y
on spher oi dal gr aphi t e irons) and pr oduces hi gh t ensi l e st r engt h wi t h
t oughnes s and good fat i gue resi st ance.
Aust eni t e is ret ai ned when iron of hi gh alloy (nickel and chr omi um) cont ent
cools. Heat and cor r osi on resi st ance are charact eri st i cs of aust eni t i c irons.
Physical properties of cast irons
The physi cal pr oper t i es of cast irons are affect ed by t he a mount and f or m of
t he gr aphi t e and t he mi cr ost r uct ur e of the mat ri x. Tables 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 and
2.6 show, respect i vel y, t he density, electrical resistivity, t her mal expansi on,
specific heat capaci t y and t her mal conduct i vi t y of cast irons. The fi gures in
the t abl es s houl d be r egar ded as appr oxi mat e.
Table 2.2 Density of cast irons
Tensile strength 150 180
( N/ mm 2)
Density at 20°C 7. 05 7. 10
(g/ cm 3)
Grade 350/22
Density at 20°C 7.10
(g/ cm 3)
Density at 20°C
(g/ cm 3)
Density at 20°C
(g/ cm 3)
Grey iron
220 260 300 350 400
7. 15 7 . 2 0 7 . 2 5 7 . 3 0 7. 30
Ductile iron
500/7 600/3 700/2
7.10-7.17 7.17-7.20 7.20
Malleable iron
350 / 10 450 / 6 550 / 4 600 / 3 700 / 2
7.35 7.30 7.30 7.30 7.30
Other cast irons
White cast irons
Unalloyed 15-30%Cr Ni-Cr
7.6-7.8 7.3-7.5 7.6-7.8
Austenitic Grey
(Ni-hard) high-Si (6%)
7.4-7.6 6.9-7.2
28 Foseco Ferrous Foundryman's Handbook
Tabl e 2.3 El ect ri cal r esi st i vi t y of cast i r ons
Tensi l e s t r e ngt h 150 180
( N/ mm 2)
Res i s t i vi t y at 20°C 0.80 0.78
( mi c r o - o h ms . ma / m)
Gr a d e 350/ 22
Res i s t i vi t y at 20°C 0.50
( mi c r o - o h ms . m2 / m)
Gr a d e 350/ 10
Res i s t i vi t y at 20°C 0.37
( mi c r o - o h ms . m2 / m)
Gr e y i r on
220 260 300 350 400
0.76 0.73 0.70 0.67 0.64
Du c t i l e i r on
400/ 12
500/ 7 600/ 3 700/ 2
0.51 0.53 0.54
Ma l l e a b l e i r on
450/ 6 550/ 4
0.40 0.40
600/ 3 700/ 2
0.41 0.41
Table 2.4 Coefficient of linear thermal expansion for cast irons
Type of iron Typical coefficient of linear expansi on f or t emperat ure ranges
(10 -6 per °C)
20-100°C 20-200°C 20-300°C 20-400°C 20-500°C
Ferritic flake or nodul ar 11.2 11.9 12.5 13.0 13.4
Pearlitic flake or nodul ar 11.1 11.7 12.3 12.8 13.2
Ferritic malleable 12.0 12.5 12.9 13.3 13.7
Pearlitic malleable 11.7 12.2 12.7 13.1 13.5
White iron 8.1 9.5 10.6 11.6 12.5
14-22% Ni austenitic 16.1 17.3 18.3 19.1 19.6
36% Ni austenitic 4.7 7.0 9.2 10.9 12.1
Tabl e 2.5 Speci fi c heat capaci t y of cast i r ons
Typical mean values for grey, nodular and malleable irons, from room temperature to 1000°C
Mean value for each temperature range (J/kg.K)
20-100°C 20-200°C 20-300°C 20--400°C 20-500°C 20-600°C 20-700°C 20-800°C 20-900°C 20-1000°C
515 530 550 570 595 625 655 695 705 720
Typical mean values for grey, nodular and malleable irons, for 100 °C ranges
Mean value for each temperature range, (J/kg.K)
100-200°C 200-300°C 300-400°C 400-500°C 500-600°C 600-700°C 700-800°C 800-900°C 900-1000°C
540 585 635 690 765 820 995 750 850
Iron casting processes
Th e ma j o r i t y of r e p e t i t i o n i r o n c a s t i n g s a r e ma d e i n g r e e n s a n d mo u l d s wi t h
r e s i n - b o n d e d c or e s . Th e Cr o n i n g r e s i n s h e l l mo u l d i n g p r o c e s s i s u s e d wh e r e
Types of cast iron 29
Table 2.6 Thermal conductivity of cast irons
Tensile strength 150
( N/ mm 2)
Thermal conductivity
100°C 65.6
500°C 40.9
Thermal conductivity
Thermal conductivity
Grey iron
180 220 260 300 350 400
59. 5 5 3 . 6 50.2 47.7 45.3 45. 3
40. 0 3 8 . 9 3 8 . 0 37.4 36.7 36. 0
Ductile iron
350/22 400/12 500/7 600/3 700/2
40.2 38.5 36.0 32.9 29.8
36.0 35.0 33.5 31.6 29.8
Malleable iron
350/10 450/6 550/4 600/3 700/2
40.4 38.1 35.2 34.3 30.8
34.6 34.1 32.0 31.4 28.9
hi gh preci si on and good surface finish are needed. The Lost Foam Process
is also used for repet i t i on castings. Cast i ngs made in smal l er number s are
made in chemi cal l y bonde d sand moul ds.
Special sand processes such as Vacuum Moul di ng and Ful l - Moul d are
used for certain iron castings and there are a few per manent moul d (diecasting)
f oundr i es maki ng i ron castings, but the shor t die-life of onl y a few t hous and
component s has rest ri ct ed the use of ferrous di ecast i ng.