Aluminum is one of the most abundant and versatile metals, recognizable for its soft texture and silvery-white coloring. Its malleable nature and strength at a lightweight make it advantageous in manufacturing in a variety of shapes and applications. This naturally occurring metal has become increasingly popular in both complex designs with many finishes and everyday products as a safe, cost-effective material for metal parts.
As aluminum is the third-most-plentiful element present in Earth’s crust, at our current usage, our supply will be around for generations with responsible recycling. Given this abundance, aluminum is part of an infinite amount of products, with uses in the following:
- Construction, for cladding and other components
- Consumer goods like air conditioners and refrigerators
- Food- and chemical-processing equipment
- Technology, including computers and smartphones
- Transportation, such as vehicles, trains, airplanes, and space shuttles
Regardless of the world’s abundance, economic availability will be affected by international politics, energy costs, and environmental concerns. The aluminum ore bauxite is processed into elemental aluminum in five major countries. Listed in order they are Australia, China, Guinea, Brazil, and India. However, for downstream further conversion of prime aluminum, the list in order is China, India, Russia, Canada, UAE, and Australia, with the US in 9th place. Depending on the source the US recycles 1/3 to 1/2 of aluminum each year and overall nearly ¾ of all aluminum ever produced from bauxite is still in use today. The parts designed for aluminum will most likely contain energy-efficient domestically recycled metal
Aluminum is about one-third the weight of copper and steel, making it easier to use in manufacturing processes. Weighing less means requiring less energy during transportation, so it is a cost-effective metal option. Construction sites and factories use aluminum in building materials and paneling for cars and other vehicles.
Aluminum is completely recyclable and has identical properties after the recycling process, maintaining its strength. The ability to reuse the material with a fast turnaround makes it more economical for production runs. Remelting requires only 5% of the energy used to make the original metal.
Aluminum’s bendable nature and ductility allow for the punching or shaping of the material to fit it to various job applications. It can form rods, sheets, or wires in its molten condition, giving it the benefit of versatility.
Most metals, like steel, become less durable as the temperature drops, but aluminum strengthens. Its pure form is beneficial in structural materials as it has a tensile strength of 90MPa. Alloying aluminum with other materials helps make it thicker and more robust so that it can retain its strength even in treacherous climates while still weighing less than other metals.
Many metals deal poorly with aggressive chemicals, but aluminum holds up in acidic settings. It naturally produces a protective coating when introduced to an oxidizing environment. This protection lends aluminum to applications in automobiles and kitchen cabinetry, to name a few. However, it could be attacked in alkaline environments unless protected by surface pacification treatments (trivalent chromium, alodine, anodizing). Plating with nickel or chromium over a copper flash is also possible.
Electrical and Thermal Conductivity
An excellent conductor of both heat and electricity, aluminum is beneficial for high-voltage wiring and power transmission lines because it does not collect a magnetic charge. It is an ideal alternative to copper wiring due to its lightweight nature. It is perfect for computer parts and batteries that make use of its electric conductivity, or heat exchangers for chemical and food applications related to thermal conductivity.
With a high reflectivity from radio waves into the infrared and thermal range on the electromagnetic spectrum, smooth aluminum naturally reflects light and heat. It is advantageous for vehicle heat shields and reflectors on light fittings and rescue blankets. Also, aluminum roofs are becoming increasingly popular as they reduce the internal heat of buildings and houses by reflecting sunlight.
Impermeability and Lack of Odor
Even a thin layer of aluminum is impermeable to light, moisture, and gasses, and has no odor or taste itself. As a result, it is perfect for packaging products that are vulnerable to outside bacteria, such as medicines and foods. Its low carbon footprint also makes it an environmentally friendly material for food manufacturers to use.
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USTEK Incorporated offers you a true partnership, providing excellent customer service and over 35 years of experience dealing with custom technical components. We deliver on efficiency, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness for our customers. Contact us for more information on how USTEK can help you source aluminum and aluminum alloy parts to meet your specifications.