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Materials & Statistics

What Is Aluminum? Earth’s Most Abundant Metallic Element


Periodic TableDid You Know?

  • It accounts for 8% of the planet's soil and rocks.
  • Ever wonder what the difference is between aluminum and aluminium? Find out here!


Aluminum Then and Now:

  • Persians in 5,000 B.C. made pots from clay containing aluminum oxide and ancient Egyptians used aluminum compounds in dyes, cosmetics, and medicines.
  • Today, the metal is used in aerospace, passenger and commercial vehicles, consumer packaging and building materials.
  • Transportation accounts for one-third of the world’s aluminum shipments to include passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, trains, aerospace and ocean going vessels.


Aluminum’s Physical Properties:

  • Low Weight
  • High Strength
  • Crash Absorbent
  • Rust Resistant
  • Highly Conductive
  • Non-toxic
  • Machineable
  • Easily Formed
  • Highly Reflective
  • Joinable

 

How is Aluminum Manufactured?

Aluminum is produced in two phases: refining the bauxite ore into aluminum oxide, and then smelting the aluminum oxide to release pure aluminum. The manufacturing processes of aluminum include:

Machining

The broad term used to describe removal of material from a workpiece in the form of chips by covering several different processes such as; cutting, grinding, milling, drilling, tuning, etc. The same lathes, drill presses, milling machines and other metal-removal equipment commonly found in metalworking shops are routinely used to shape aluminum alloys. The metal may be turned, bored, milled or machined at the maximum speeds of which most machines are capable.

Joining

The process of fusing aluminum to itself or to other metal mediums through welding bending a mechanical fastening. Automotive aluminum can be joined by most of the same processes used to join steel. Improved materials, equipment and processes have made aluminum joining effective and reliable. Weld bonding, in particular, is especially well suited to aluminum, providing enhanced structural stiffness and excellent durability.

Stamping/Blanking

The process of cutting up a large aluminum sheet into workable pieces. Aluminum sheets are blanked and formed by stamping using the same equipment as is used today for steel. Clean-cut edges from a correct punch/die clearance are essential for developed blank production. Stamping die clearances, die radii and blank hold-down force must all be set-up for the forming characteristics of automotive aluminum.

Bending/Hydroforming

Auto aluminum's manufacturability and workability have been proven in many ways, including bending and hydroforming processes that offer ease of tooling, cost-effectiveness, and a high degree of flexibility.

Finishing

The process of coating aluminum to protect its surface. The cost of finishing to today's standards of corrosion and paint performance is high. A more efficient finishing system can be used with aluminum than with mild or galvanized steel due to its greatly enhanced corrosion resistance.

How is Aluminum Formed?

Aluminum can be formed in a number of ways.

Rolled AluminumRolled – plate, sheet or foil. Plate is used in applications such as airplanes and building envelopes. Sheet is used in products such as car bodies, cans and trailers. Foil is used in food and beverage packaging as well as heat exchanges.

Forged – one of the oldest metalworking methods. Forging involves the shaping of aluminum using compression or hammering. Used to create high-strength parts.

Shaped AluminumCast – the most common aluminum forming method casting involves pouring molten aluminum into a mold to duplicate a pattern. Used for production of high-volume parts requiring minimal machining. The Automotive industry is the largest market for castings.

Extruded – this process that yields almost unlimited design latitude to create shapes. Extrusions can be cut, machined, drilled, punched, hydroformed, notched, painted, anodized, brushed, or polished. Widely used in automotive, aerospace, marine, industrial and building applications.

Aluminum is Easily Alloyed with Other Elements:

  • Aluminum can be alloyed with magnesium, silicon, copper, zinc, and other elements.
  • Alloying aluminum improves traits such as formability, strength, or corrosion resistance.
  • Chemical composition limits for alloys are reviewed and registered by The Aluminum Association, Inc.
    • 5000-series alloys are used in structural and architectural products.
    • 6000-series alloys are easily formed, machined and are used in auto structural and non-structural components.
    • 7000-series alloys can be hardened to the degree that they are useful in aerospace.

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