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ASTM specification A 48 classifies gray irons in terms of tensile strength. The usual microstructure of gray iron is a matrix of pearlite with graphite flakes dispersed throughout. Section sensitivity effects are used in the form of a wedge test in production control to judge the suitability of an iron for pouring a particular casting. Mechanical property values obtained from test bars are sometimes the only available guides to the mechanical properties of the metal in production castings. Gray iron castings are used widely in pressure applications such as cylinder blocks, manifolds, pipe and pipe fittings, compressors, and pumps. Where high impact resistance is needed, gray iron is not recommended. The machinability of most gray cast iron is superior to that of most other cast irons of equivalent hardness, as well as to that of virtually all steel. Gray iron is used widely for machine components that must resist wear.

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