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Why Ductile Iron?

Ductile Iron, also known as nodular iron, was developed in 1949 as a substitute for steel. Cast steel contains carbon of less than .3% by weight, while cast and ductile irons have at least 3% total carbon. This low carbon content in cast steel does not allow the carbon to form as free graphite resulting in a laminate type of structure. The natural form of carbon in cast iron is the free graphite flake form. In Ductile Iron, this graphite flake is modified by a specialized treatment process to form tiny spheres or nodules. These modified graphite nodules provide Ductile Iron with physical properties greater than cast iron and comparable to steel. It is this nodular microstructure of carbon in Ductile Iron which produces high ductility and shock resistance while the flake form of cast iron results in no malleability. Optimum ductility is obtained with a ferritic matrix, therefore, all NIBCO's Ductile Iron pressure containing parts are treated with a ferritizing annealing cycle. In Ductile Iron spheroidal nodules also eliminate the crack effect of flake graphite which is exhibited in cast iron. In microscopic photos of Ductile Iron, cracks can be seen traveling to a graphite nodule and stopping. These graphite spheroids are know as "crack arresters" in the Ductile Iron industry because of their ability to stop cracks in their tracks.

In some circles, Ductile Iron is known as the metal that is the "best of both worlds" meaning that Ductile Iron combines the superior strength of cast steel with the excellent corrosion resistance of cast iron.

Ductile Iron vs. Cast (Gray) Iron

The strength of Ductile Iron when compared to cast iron is overwhelming. Ductile Iron tensile strength is 60k versus cast iron at 31k. Ductile Iron has a yield strength of 40k, whereas cast iron exhibits no yield, only ultimate fracture. Ductile Iron strength-to-cost ratio offers greater value for a marginal increase in cost over cast iron. (See page 83 for a complete comparison of mechanicals.) Ductile Iron offers excellent corrosion resistance that is equivalent to cast iron.

The strengths of Ductile Iron and cast steel are comparable. Ductile Iron has a higher minimum yield strength at 40k versus cast steel at 36k. (See page 83 for a more complete comparison of mechanicals.) Ductile Iron has corrosion and oxidation resistance that surpasses cast steel in most general utility service applications, i.e. water, saltwater, steam. Because of Ductile Iron's spheroidal graphite microstructure, Ductile Iron is superior to steel in its ability to deaden vibration and therefore reduce stresses. An important factor in selecting Ductile Iron over cast steel is cost. The lower expense of Ductile Iron results from readily available materials, foundry operation efficiencies and reduced machining costs of Ductile Iron.