With much emphasis on the safety on the environment, a need for more lightweight parts and a cost-effective approach to manufacturing, designers are increasingly looking for best-fit materials for production.
Aluminium and steel are two popular materials in most manufacturing processes. And although both materials have desirable properties, the world is quickly adopting more aluminium than steel these day. Today, we take a look at why and how aluminium is more effective and efficient than stainless steel.
Understanding the materials
From basic metallurgy, we know that stainless steel consists of iron, nickel, carbon and chromium. These elements are responsible for most of the properties of stainless steel such as strength, conductivity and anti-corrosion.
Aluminium on the other hand is primarily bauxite. This is far more ductile and malleable, thus making aluminium far easier to shaped, melt, lightweight and also corrosion-resistant. Aluminium is also about a third the density of stainless steel, which means a higher strength to weight ratio when compared to steel.
Aluminium over steel
Aluminium is generally preferred over for steel for a number of reasons. Here’s why:
Unlimited shapes and geometry
Although there is unparalleled diversity in the wide array of products in today’s markets, a common aim for every designer is to create products with beautiful curves, geometry and appearance. Aluminium and its ability to be easily machined into various shapes and geometry offers design flexibility.
With aluminium, very complex design profiles can be extruded, promoting a beautiful and functional design for products. Steel on the other hand has some level of rigidity which makes machining more difficult. Stainless steel also limits freedom of expression for the designer as too many folds or curves may lead to cracks in the design. The ease of machining of aluminium also translates into lower fabrication costs compared to steel.
Aluminium is only 33.3 percent the weight of steel.
What does this mean?
Well, for one, it could mean lower fuel consumption. In the automotive industry where weight is a primary factor in determining fuel and battery consumption, aluminium is far more preferred to steel. End users and customers get to benefit from this cost-saving approach while race cars and speed lovers get to move lighter and faster. In general, aluminium’s lightweight can translate to 55 percent less weight in a car compared to steel, it can also bring a 10-12 percent fuel savings.
Cost and price
Aluminium extrusions cost significantly lesser than steel parts. Extruded aluminium tubes can help you save up to 70 percent more cost in delivering a part, its lower tooling cost also means that aluminium parts require less effort in extruding and shaping, thus easily costing lesser than its more rigid and less malleable steel counterpart.
Finishing and coating
Aluminium has some naturally occurring anti-corrosion properties that are further enhanced buy anodizing and colouring. Extruded aluminium parts can be anodized to improve on its appearance, resist wear and tear and extend its general lifespan. Aluminium forms an oxide film that guards against the reaction of the metal with water and further oxygen contact.
Aluminium treatment also conveys coating in a way that is clear and beautiful. Chemical treatments are available to help minimize oxidation in aluminium for many aeronautic applications while its chemical and anodizing are bio-compatible, enhancing the suitability of aluminium for medical purposes
Other physical and electrical properties
Aluminium injection molding boasts of better heat and electrical conductivity than steel. This is one of the reasons why aluminium has widespread in cooking and catering applications than steel-based kitchenwares.
Aluminium pots and cookware boil and cook faster than steel because of their ability to conduct more heat faster. Aluminium’s thermal conductivity is almost 4 times that of steel. Aluminium also has high electrical conductivity than steel, allowing for a higher electrical discharge rate that is almost 5 times higher than steel.
Making the right choice
Cost, efficiency and malleability are important factors for every designer and manufacturer’s consideration. When looking at the dollar, aluminium remains the clear choice. Aluminium also surpasses steel in areas of eco-friendliness, recyclability, weight, thermodynamic, electrical and ease of machining and tooling.
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