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Ductile iron

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Iron alloy phases

Austenite (γ-iron; hard)
Cementite (iron carbide; Fe3C)
Ledeburite (ferrite - cementite eutectic, 4.3% carbon)
Ferrite (α-iron, δ-iron; soft)
Pearlite (88% ferrite, 12% cementite)

Types of Steel

Plain-carbon steel (up to 2.1% carbon)
Stainless steel (alloy with chromium)
HSLA steel (high strength low alloy)
Tool steel (very hard; heat-treated)

Other Iron-based materials

Cast iron (>2.1% carbon)
Wrought iron (almost no carbon)
Ductile iron

Ductile iron, also called ductile cast iron or nodular cast iron, is a type of cast iron invented in 1943 by Keith Millis[1]. While most varieties of cast iron are brittle, ductile iron is much more ductile, as the name implies.

In 1949, Keith Millis, Lee Aunkst, Albert Gagnebin and Norman Pilling received U.S. Patent 2,485,760  on ductile iron production via magnesium treatment.



Cast iron is an iron alloy characterized by its relatively high carbon content (usually 2% to 4%). When molten cast iron solidifies some of the carbon precipitates as graphite, forming tiny, irregular flakes within the crystal structure of the metal. While the graphite enhances the desirable properties of cast iron (improved casting and machining properites, better thermal conductivity), the flakes disrupt the crystal structure and precipitate cracks, leading to cast iron's characteristic brittleness. In ductile iron the graphite forms into spherical nodules rather than flakes, thus inhibiting the creation of cracks and providing the enhanced ductility that gives the alloy its name. The formation of nodules is achieved by addition of "nodulizers" (for example, magnesium or cerium) into the melt. Yttrium has also been studied as a possible nodulizer.

A recent development in ductile iron metallurgy is austempered ductile iron where the metallurgical structure is manipulated through a sophisticated heat treating process.


A typical chemical analysis of this material:

Other elements such as copper or tin may be added to increase tensile and yield strength while simultaneously reducing elongation. Improved corrosion resistance can be achieved by replacing 15% to 30% of the iron in the alloy with varying amounts of nickel, copper and/or chromium.


Much of the annual production of ductile iron is in the form of ductile cast iron pipe, used for water and sewer lines. Ductile iron pipe is stronger, easier to tap, requires less support and provides greater flow area compared to pipe made from other materials. In difficult terrain it can be a better choice than PVC, concrete, polyethylene or steel pipe.

Castings made of ductile iron are widely used. Examples include automobile components, industrial machinery, wind turbine electrical energy generation, valves, air conditioning machinery, lawn and garden equipment, and agricultural products.


US2,485,760 (PDF version) (1949-10-25) Keith Millis Cast Ferrous Alloy 

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ductile_iron". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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