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Aluminum is light, strong, corrosion resistant, and a natural conductor of electricity. It can be formed and welded to a variety of shapes, and it is used in everything from cars to airplanes. Iron, on the other hand, is much stronger per volume – a 10 cm x 10 cm bar of steel has more compressive and tensile strength than the same size of aluminum – but is significantly heavier.
Alloys for casting, like aluminium, inevitably contain impurities and these may include small amounts of iron. The concentration of iron in cast alloys can vary from a few percent to a few hundredths of a percent. The concentration is dictated by the low solubility of iron and the fact that it has a very different electrode potential to aluminum.
The iron can affect mechanical properties such as ductility and casting defects. This article discusses the various sources of iron in alloys, how it enters the melt, and how it interacts with the aluminium to form complex intermetallic phases during solidification. In the experimental alloys investigated, the addition of Mn extends the range of Fe content within which the formation of the iron-rich b-AlFeMnSi phase can occur. This is a significant finding because it allows the production of die cast alloys with lower Fe concentration while maintaining good ductility and ultimate tensile strength. The bending capabilities of these alloys are also improved, although tempers impact bending considerably as well. In general, non-heat-treatable 3xxx and 5xxx series alloys are easier to bend than the 6xxx and 7xxx heat-treatable grades.