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The Difference between Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals

Metals have been integral to human civilisation for millennia, shaping our societies, economies and technological advancements. But within the realm of metals, there exists a fundamental division - ferrous and non-ferrous metals.


Understanding the disparities between these two categories is essential for various industries, from construction to manufacturing. In the UK, companies like P&P Non-Ferrous have played a pivotal role in supplying non-ferrous metals, contributing to the nation's industrial landscape.


Ferrous Metals

The word ferrous derives from the Latin word "ferrum" which means iron. Ferrous metals are, therefore, those that consist mainly of iron, and also typically contain a significant amount of carbon. The most common ferrous metal is steel, which finds extensive use in construction, transportation and machinery. Iron, being abundant and relatively easy to extract, has been a cornerstone of human industry for centuries. Its magnetic properties and structural strength make it indispensable in various applications.


Non-Ferrous Metals

In contrast, non-ferrous metals do not contain iron as a primary component. Instead, they encompass a broad spectrum of elements, including aluminum, copper, lead, zinc and tin, among others. Non-ferrous metals in the form of bars, sheet, tube and plate are indispensable materials in modern industry, offering a wide range of advantages including corrosion resistance, lightweight nature, excellent conductivity and versatility.


Whether in aerospace, automotive, construction, or manufacturing sectors, non-ferrous metals continue to drive innovation and progress, shaping the world around us. Non-ferrous metals tend to be more expensive than ferrous metals due to their higher cost of production, but they also offer superior corrosion resistance and therefore may be worth the extra expense in some applications. Understanding these disparities is essential for selecting the right material for specific applications and driving innovation across industries.


Distinguishing Characteristics:

Magnetic Properties: Ferrous metals exhibit magnetic properties due to the presence of iron, whereas non-ferrous metals are generally non-magnetic.

Corrosion Resistance: Non-ferrous metals, particularly aluminum and stainless steel, offer superior corrosion resistance compared to ferrous metals like carbon steel.

Weight: Non-ferrous metals tend to be lighter than ferrous metals, making them preferred choices in applications where weight is a critical factor, such as aircraft construction and automotive engineering.

Conductivity: Copper and its alloys are renowned for their excellent electrical conductivity, making them indispensable in electrical wiring and electronics, a property not typically found in ferrous metals.


P&P Non-Ferrous

P&P Non-Ferrous is a leading player in the UK's non-ferrous metal market, boasting a proud history of supplying high quality materials. Headquartered in the West Midlands, strategically located at the heart of the nation's industrial hub, the company has cemented its reputation for reliability and excellence. With sales and distribution centres in Dorset and Bristol and an Essex sales office, P&P Non-Ferrous ensures efficient delivery solutions and extensive stock holding to its customers across the UK.


While the presence of iron distinguishes these two types of metals, this seemingly minor variation gives ferrous and non-ferrous metals very distinctive properties and characteristics. Why not contact the experienced and knowledgeable team at P&P Non-Ferrous for more information. Email at or visit the website:

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