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Aluminum Vs Stainless Steel: Which Is Better For Manufacturing?

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When comparing aluminum vs stainless steel, the two materials are somehow similar in appearance and corrosion resistance. Nevertheless, the two have some differences in terms of durability, conductivity, cost, machinability, strength-to-weight ratio, among other factors. Therefore, before concluding on the suitable material to use for manufacturing, it’s essential to know how they differ for you to make an appropriate choice.

What has been evident in recent months events like COVID can disrupt supply chains and put a lot of strain on businesses and Governments. Manufacturing is getting more attention, especially with startups to be more self-sufficient in producing essential goods.

Aluminum Versus Stainless Steel

In this business article, we delve into a couple of materials, namely aluminium and stainless steel, which are used abundantly in vehicles, machinery, construction, and your laptop, and smartphone.

Cost-Effectiveness

Aluminium is more affordable compared to stainless steel. This fact is evident based on the natural abundance of the material, ore market growth, ease of manufacturing, among others. On the other hand, stainless steel is a bit expensive due to other alloying metals such as copper, manganese, iron, chromium, and nickel.

Budget-conscious manufacturers should go for aluminum since it’s a bit cheaper. This way, it’s easier to save on material costs. Additionally, aluminium products such as railings, beams, among others, are lighter, making them easier to install hence minimizing costs in the event of product damage. Also, you can purchase aluminum for sale in bulk since it’s cost-friendly, and you can make a profit out of it.

Strength

Stainless steel is more robust than aluminium in similar design, shape, and thickness. The difference in strength can be determined by comparing the tensile of each material.
Tensile strength refers to the resistance of a given material to breaking under tension. Here, the exact strength figures vary depending on the used alloy.

The amount of tensile strength of stainless steel alloys starts at 515 megapascals (MPa) and may reach up to 1300 MPa. When it comes to aluminium, its tensile strength begins at around 100 MPa and may increase to 400 MPa. However, both materials’ tensile strength can increase through treatment.

Based on original potential, stainless steel leads when it comes to strength. Therefore, if you’re looking forward to working with solid materials, picking stainless steel over aluminium is advisable.

Strength-To-Weight Ratio

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While aluminium may not have the same strength as stainless steel, it’s richer in strength-to-weight ratio. In each volume of aluminium, the strength-to-weight ratio stands at 12.5%, while in every volume of steel, the strength-to-weight ratio stands at 6.25%.

If you’re manufacturing with either aluminium or steel, it’s important to note that aluminium provides a strong structure compared to stainless steel. For instance, railings, roofing, shelves, and cladding with aluminium will provide stronger structures than steel.

General Strength

Stainless steel takes the lead due to its high chromium content when it comes to general strength. Based on the grade of the steel, it can have a chromium content ranging between 10.5% to 18%. This component is responsible for the material’s tensile strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance.

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However, while steel is stronger than aluminium, it has a fair share of disadvantages. It’s heavier than aluminium, making it not ideal for the particular manufacturing. For instance, steel isn’t suitable for manufacturing aircraft and automotive components. Since aluminium is about 33% lighter than steel, it’s ideal for industries to reduce weight in different products.

Thermal Conductivity

Stainless steel is a poor heat conductor, hence not suitable for manufacturing products such as electrical power lines or heat sinks. On the other hand, aluminium has good thermal conductivity and applies to manufacturing heat sinks, electrical products, and motherboards.

Unfortunately, aluminium has a lower melting point than stainless steel. The value stands at 1375 to 1530 degrees Celsius for stainless steel compared to 660 degrees Celsius for aluminum. This makes aluminum the ideal material in manufacturing products that require high thermal conductivity.

Corrosion-Resistance

Both aluminum and stainless steel have exceptional corrosion resistance. However, it’s essential to consider other factors such as cost, size, conductivity, and weight when choosing between the two metals.

Though stainless steel doesn’t easily deform or rust after exposure to other elements, it’s quite expensive. However, if you don’t mind the cost but are looking for a material with high corrosion resistance, then stainless steel is ideal. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a stronger material, you can go for aluminum. When aluminum is protected with powder coating, you don’t have to worry about its outdoor exposure. Powder coating increases aluminum shelf life and offers an appealing coating choice.

Machinability

As mentioned, aluminum is lighter than stainless steel. This makes it easier to bend, cut, modify, and fold, giving it high machinable properties for further processing. When it comes to cutting, it’s much easier to cut aluminum than stainless steel. For instance, when constructing small structures, making alterations to fit the size of the structure, aluminum takes the lead.

Safety

The safety of aluminum and stainless steel is based on context. Aluminum and stainless steel are both safe to use in construction. However, their safety degrees differ depending on their use. Also, both materials are used to manufacture kitchen utensils, and they are both ideal depending on the use of the utensil. Nevertheless, while steel might be assumed to be the safest, aluminum and anodized aluminum don’t rack far behind. Therefore, when choosing the ideal material based on safety, both aluminum and steel are almost the same.

Conclusion

When it comes to manufacturing and using metals, it’s essential to understand the properties before choosing one based on price or availability. aluminum and stainless steel. Also, your choice should be determined by what you want to manufacture. For example, if you’re manufacturing products that require high thermal conductivity, you should choose a material that’s a good conductor of heat.

Though stainless steel has proven stronger than aluminum, it falls short on other factors. For example, steel is a bit expensive than aluminum, hence unsuitable for budget-conscious companies. On the other hand, aluminum is cheaper and is easily modified since it’s lighter.

That’s it. Those are the critical differences between aluminum and steel to help you understand each in detail. This guide will also help you wisely choose which material to use based on what you’ll be manufacturing.

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