Cast iron is a man made alloy of iron, carbon, and silicon. A portion of the carbon exists as free carbon or graphite. Total carbon content is between 1.7 and 4.5 percent.
Uses. Cast iron is used for water pipes, machine tool castings, transmission housing, engine blocks, pistons, stove castings, etc.
Capabilities. Cast iron may be brazed or bronze welded, gas and arc welded, hardened, or machined.
Limitations. Cast iron must be preheated prior to welding. It cannot be worked cold.
Properties. Cast iron has a Brinell hardness number of 150 to 220 (no alloys) and 300 to 600 (alloyed); tensile strength of 25,000 to 50,000 psi (172,375 to 344,750 kPa) (no alloys) and 50,000 to 100,000 psi (344,750 to 689,500 kPa) (alloyed); specific gravity of 7.6; high compressive strength that is four times its tensile strength; high rigidity; good wear resistance; and fair corrosion resistance.
Gray Cast Iron
If the molten pig iron is permitted to cool slowly, the chemical compound of iron and carbon breaks up to a certain extent. Much of the carbon separates as tiny flakes of graphite scattered throughout the metal. This graphite-like carbon, as distinguish from combined carbon, causes the gray appearance of the fracture, which characterizes ordinary gray cast iron. Since graphite is an excellent lubricant, and the metal is shot throughout with tiny, flaky cleavages, gray cast iron is easy to machine but cannot withstand a heavy shock. Gray cast iron consists of 90 to 94 percent metallic iron with a mixture of carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon. Special high-strength grades of this metal also contain 0.75 to 1.50 percent nickel and 0.25 to 0.50 percent chromium or 0.25 to 1.25 percent molybdenum. Commercial gray iron has 2.50 to 4.50 percent carbon. About 1 percent of the carbon is combined with the iron, while about 2.75 percent remains in the free or graphitic state. In making gray cast iron, the silicon content is usually increased, since this allows the formation of graphitic carbon. The combined carbon (iron carbide), which is a small percentage of the total carbon present in cast iron, is known as cementite. In general, the more free carbon (graphitic carbon) present in cast iron, the lower the combined carbon content and the softer the iron.
Appearance test. The unmachined surface of gray cast iron castings is a very dull gray in color and may be somewhat roughened by the sand mold used in casting the part. Cast iron castings are rarely machined all over. Unmachined castings may be ground in places to remove rough edges.
Fracture test. Nick a corner all around with a chisel or hacksaw and strike the corner with a sharp blow of the hammer. The dark gray color of the broken surface is caused by fine black specks of carbon present in the form of graphite. Cast iron breaks short when fractured. Small, brittle chips made with a chisel break off as soon as they are formed.
Spark test. A small volume of dull-red sparks that follow a straight line close to the wheel are given off when this metal is spark tested. These break up into many fine, repeated spurts that change to a straw color.
Torch test. The torch test results in a puddle of molten metal that is quiet and has a jelly like consistency. When the torch flame is raised, the depression in the surface of the molts-puddle disappears instantly. A heavy, tough film forms on the surface as it melts. The molten puddle takes time to harden and gives off no sparks.
White Cast Iron
When gray cast iron is heated to the molten state, the carbon completely dissolves in the iron, probably combining chemically with it. If this molten metal is cooled quickly, the two elements remain in the combined state, and white cast iron is formed. The carbon in this type of iron measures above 2.5 to 4.5 percent by weight, and is referred to as combined carbon. White cast iron is very hard and brittle, often impossible to machine, and has a silvery white fracture.
Malleable Cast Iron
Malleable cast iron is made by heating white cast iron from 1400 to 1700°F (760 and 927°C) for abut 150 hours in boxes containing hematite ore or iron scale. This heating causes a part of the combined carbon to change into the free or uncombined state. This free carbon separates in a different way from carbon in gray cast iron and is called temper carbon. It exists in the form of small, rounded particles of carbon which give malleable iron castings the ability to bend before breaking and to withstand shock better than gray cast iron. The castings have properties more like those of pure iron: high strength, ductility, toughness, and ability to resist shock. Malleable cast iron can be welded and brazed. Any welded part should be annealed after welding.
Appearance test. The surface of malleable cast iron is very much like gray cast iron, but is generally free from sand. It is dull gray and somewhat lighter in color than gray cast iron.
**Fracture test. **When malleable cast iron is fractured, the central portion of the broken surface is dark gray with a bright, steel-like band at the edges. The appearance of the fracture may best be described as a picture frame. When of good quality, malleable cast iron is much tougher than other cast iron and does not break short when nicked.
Spark test. When malleable cast iron is ground, the outer, bright layer gives off bright sparks like steel. As the interior is reached, the sparks quickly change to a dull-red color near the wheel. These sparks from the interior section are very much like those of cast iron; however, they are somewhat longer and are present in large volume.
Torch test. Molten malleable cast iron boils under the torch flame. After the flame has been withdrawn, the surface will be full of blowholes. When fractured, the melted parts are very hard and brittle, having the appearance of white cast iron (they have been changed to white or chilled iron by melting and fairly rapid cooling). The outside, bright, steel-like band gives off sparks, but the center does not.