Aluminium is a widely machined sheet metal and for good reason – it can be shaped a lot easier than other metals like iron or steel and the machining process is generally three-four times quicker in comparison. In our last article, we had a look at stainless steel – today we’re going to be doing the same to aluminium – an essential metal to understand when working with sheet metal machinery.
When you look at the key facts, aluminium is an impressive metal and holds several properties that make it highly ideal for a wide variety of applications. Some of those key properties include:
- Strength to weight ratio – This is possibly the most important aspect of aluminium as though it is incredibly light, it is still very strong. This makes it suitable for several industries including aeronautical applications and ground-based transport vehicles.
- Resistance to corrosion – Aluminium can form a natural oxide layer on its surface (similarly to stainless steel) which is responsible for its corrosion-resistant property.
- Malleability and ductility – Aluminium can be easily shaped and stretched which is one of the reasons it is so easy to use with sheet metal machinery.
- Durability – As well as being easy to shape, its strength ensures it doesn’t break whilst being machined and in real-world applications.
- Conductivity – Though it’s not as conductive as copper, it’s lighter and more ductile properties make it a more favoured option over copper in some cases.
Aluminium can be used for a range of different purposes extending from computer parts to aerospace components. It’s also quite popular in the transportation industry due to its incredible strength to weight ratio and corrosion resistance. The strength to weight ratio allows vehicles constructed from it to gain higher speeds more rapidly (since less force is required) – which also allows for more efficient fuel consumption. Aeroplanes and space shuttles both contain aluminium alloys throughout their structure and components. Before aeroplanes, zeppelins were constructed out of aluminium. It has always been a favoured metal for aeronautical endeavours – again, mainly due to its strength to weight ratio.
Aluminium is also frequently used in the construction industry as it’s a cost-effective option that is easier to work with. Aluminium’s strength to weight ratio is a core property that is responsible for it being favoured over other materials in all of these industries. Even modern laptops – Apple’s MacBooks for example – are constructed out of aluminium giving them a sleek and shiny design whilst also keeping them light and easy to carry around. Smartphones and tablets are both in the same boat – further showcasing just how widespread aluminium usage goes. For electronics and power lines – aluminium wires are used because of their strength to weight ratio, conductivity and ductility. All these characteristics make aluminium a much more favourable material compared to copper – especially for power lines.
One of the great things about aluminium is that it’s a highly sustainable material. Approximately 75% of all aluminium that’s ever been produced is still currently being used. This is because it can be recycled over and over again without losing any of its properties. In fact, the recycling process only emits 5% of the greenhouse gasses that mining for fresh ore does.
Common aluminium types
There are dozens of grades of aluminium alloys and choosing the right one to work with can be daunting – so we’ve picked a few essential grades that are easily machinable:
- Alloy 2011 – Has superb machinability at high speeds with fairly heavy feeds. It also has great strength and excellent corrosive resistance.
- Alloy 1100 – A soft and ductile aluminium grade. It’s ideal for intricate forms as it hardens slower than other alloys. Other than the dedicated electrical conductor-alloys, 1100 has the best electrical conductivity as well as having high thermal conductivity. It has good machinability which is even better if it’s a hard temper variety.
- Alloy 3003 – This alloy is one of the most widely used aluminium alloys and is used for things like cooking utensils, kitchen equipment and storage tanks. It has manganese in it which boosts its strength to be 20% higher than alloy 1100. It has fantastic corrosive-resistant properties and can be welded, brazed, deep drawn or spun easily.
Are you looking for sheet metal machinery in Melbourne?
If you’re going to be working with aluminium, then you’re going to need the right tools. ACRA Machinery is your one-stop-shop for all your sheet metal machinery needs and advice. We stock a range of new and used products ranging from slitter folders to laser cutters. We also provide on-site repair and maintenance services so you can ensure your machinery is in prime condition.
If you’d like to find out more about our services, then please give us a call on 03 9794 6675 or fill out the contact form on our site.