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I am planning on having some column caps made (for Lally columns) and it seems to me the best approach would be to have them cast from ductile iron. The picture below shows the basic design:

Lally column cap

Of course steel is an alternative, but I don't trust welds and I doubt the same strength can be achieved by welding. Note that those are 1/2" ribs, so it would be expensive to have steel cut and welded for the fabrication.

Is there any counter-argument to using ductile iron?

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  • $\begingroup$ Steel casting is also possible. Though I don't see why joining processes are so bad. $\endgroup$ – wwarriner Feb 7 '16 at 2:15
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Forces

Without providing the forces that the cap is supposed to resist, comparing two materials is rather difficult. That being said, I am going to try to provide some information that might cause you to rethink your position.

General Comparisons

You make some comments that don't seem to make sense.

  • Cost of fabrication will likely be a main consideration. Casing a ductile iron piece requires making a sand mold for each piece. This will be more expensive than the completely common welding and cutting required to manufacture the cap from steel plate and pipe. Any machine shop can weld this piece, only specialty foundries will cast pieces. If you are looking at very large number of parts, the unit price may eventually favor casting.

  • Strength of metal is also a consideration. You don't mention what material strength you require, but any typical strength of ductile iron will be matched by commonly available grades of plate steel.

  • Welding is not an issue. I don't know why you "don't trust welds and ... doubt the same strength can be achieved by welding." This is a very vague statement. Common welds use 70 ksi filler metal. This will certainly be adequate.

Conclusion

To answer your direct question, there probably isn't a reason why ductile iron couldn't work in your situation, but you haven't made very convincing arguments as to why it might be better. In a cost comparison, a ductile iron casting will probably be more expensive unless a very large number will be made. At that point you will need to get cost comparisons to know for sure.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree in general, but for very large volumes, sand casting generally does become cheaper than welding from cut parts. The question is are there going to be 4 of these, or 400,000. $\endgroup$ – Ethan48 May 20 '15 at 17:47
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A properly specified weld will as reliable as any other type of joint and castings are subject the their own set of potential defects.

In terms of performance (in the absence of a specific context) there won't be much to choose between a ductile iron casting and a steel fabrication.

For small numbers fabrication will almost certainly be cheaper and quicker.

There is also the consideration that your design as you have presented it could be made as is by a fabrication shop in a few hours but would need to be modified somewhat for casting to accommodate draft angles and fillets.

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