Aluminum is one of the most useful metals available. Its unique properties make it well suited for commercial and industrial use, while the price of aluminum makes it competitive with other metal materials. The general public, however, is largely unaware of uses for aluminum beyond packaging.
The aluminum soda pop can and foil packaging are ubiquitous in the American food ecosystem. There is not a day that goes by that you fail to see one of these common options in the hands of consumers. But because these items are easily collapsible, they tend to give aluminum the reputation of being flimsy and fragile — though this is far from the truth. The very properties that allow a super thin sheet of metal to work so well, however, are the same properties that give us so many commercial applications of aluminum.
What Is Aluminum?
Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on the planet but is rarely found in its pure metal form. Most often, it is found as a form of aluminum oxide or aluminum silicate. Once refined, it is often cast from billets into a usable form or rolled into sheets.The specific alloy composition is determined by the intended use of the final product.
What Properties Does Aluminum Have?
While the properties of a given aluminum composition are fine-tuned by the other elements alloyed with it, there are some properties that are constant and give us so many uses for aluminum.
Resistance To Corrosion – While pure aluminum is very reactive—which is why it is almost never found naturally occurring without silicon or oxygen—the processed aluminum you receive from a metal supplier is quite the opposite. This resistance to corrosion means less maintenance and less painting.
High Strength To Weight Ratio – The fact lost on most people when looking at aluminum foil or cans is the tensile strength necessary for a material that thin to bend, yet not easily break. Scaled up, this is the same property that keeps large jets in the sky and makes aluminum building materials some of the safest around.
Highly Conductive – While not as efficient as copper—aluminum is only about 63% as conductive—it is still an efficient conduction material. Once weight is factored in, it excels. When aluminum is compared to an equal weight of copper, it can transmit approximately twice as much energy.
Easy To Work – Aluminum is an easy metal to work with. It is very malleable and highly ductile, making it a convenient choice for fabrication or drawing into wires.
Thermal Resistance– Aluminum weathers high heat readily, resisting changes to shape and damage. It an efficient heat exchanger.
What Are The Commercial Applications Of Aluminum?
These are some of the most common and important commercial applications of aluminum.
Construction – Between its resistances and high strength to weight ration, there are a myriad of uses for aluminum in most modern buildings. Railings, rods, doors, and wiring are all vital parts of the construction process that have been made lighter and stronger with aluminum. It’s easy to paint, form, and connect to other materials, making it the right choice around the jobsite.
Cooling Solutions – Aluminum is the most-used material for heat sinks in electronic devices. Heat is transferred via a thermal paste from the electronic component (such as a CPU) to a finned aluminum heat sink, where it dissipates into the air. Meanwhile, aluminum pipes and tubing help keep air conditioners running and fluids cycling thanks to their ability to withstand high pressures and temperatures without damage.
Long-distance Power Lines – While copper may be the standard in your home or office lines, long distance power lines require a different solution. Aluminum power lines are highly conductive but come with a lower weight, requiring fewer power poles without risking the power lines snapping under their own weight.
Lights, Signs, And Structures – Many large lighting solutions, such as those used in parking lots, are made with aluminum poles. It’s also the perfect material for sign poles and the signs themselves. Aluminum tubing has also been used to fabricate observation platforms, awnings, and lightweight bridges.
strong>Rolled Sheet Products – This is what creates the most visible commercial applications of aluminum, packages, and containers. While aluminum can be rolled into super thin foil for food packaging or thicker sheets for cans, it can also be rolled for use as weather and stress resistant surfaces, like the skin of a jumbo jet, lightweight roofing, or larger sheet fabrication projects.
Food Preparation – Aluminum pots and pans are a staple of the food service industry. Thanks to their light weight and low cost, many kitchens started with aluminum equipment. The corrosion resistance makes it perfect for storage and drinking containers.
Marketing Materials – Aluminum is cheap, easy to work, and takes graphics well. Aluminum water bottles, desk accessories, and medallions can be a cost-effective way to keep your customers thinking about you. Give them a durable, branded item they use every day, and they will know and rely on your brand.
Are Any Uses For Aluminum Right For Me?
If your business uses metal, relies on metal, or is looking for a sharp-looking metal solution for signage, aluminum can be the right choice for you. It’s cost-effective, and there is a composition available for your aluminum uses and needs.
How Do I Choose The Right Aluminum Supplier?
When choosing a supplier, make sure you choose a partner familiar with the various uses for aluminum. They can help make sure you get the right composition for your project. A supplier with experience may also be able to help with fabrication and provide some much-needed insight based on experience.
Metal Supply, Inc., has 55 years of experience serving the metal needs of the greater Los Angeles area. We have the right knowledge, materials, and experience to help you make your project successful. Contact us today for a quote for all your metal and fabrication needs.