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Aluminium Alloys Used in the Automotive Industry!


Aluminium‘s emergence from the crucibles of scientific discovery became a stalwart of the modern industrial era. Its journey is as fascinating as it is revolutionary. From enabling the gravity-defying feat of human flight to redefining automotive manufacturing. This silvery-white metal has been a cornerstone of industry innovation for over a century.

Lightweight yet robust, corrosion-resistant yet malleable, aluminium boasts a suite of properties that make it a compelling choice across myriad applications. Today, in the realm of high-performance cars and ambitious environmental goals, aluminium’s role has never been more critical. It is transforming the industry landscape and driving us toward a more efficient and sustainable future.

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The Birth of an Industrial Powerhouse

The story of aluminium starts in the early 19th century. Despite its abundance in the Earth’s crust, aluminium remained mostly unutilized until 1825. The Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted was the first to produce tiny amounts of aluminium. Still, it wasn’t until 1886, when Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult independently discovered a method to extract aluminium efficiently, that its industrial potential was realized.

This revolutionary discovery — now known as the Hall-Héroult process — ignited a swift and global scale-up of aluminium production. This once-precious metal was formerly valued higher than gold due to its rarity. But, for the first time in history, it was readily available for widespread commercial and industrial use. The unique properties that Hall and Héroult unveiled would set the stage for the subsequent industrial revolution and beyond.

The physical properties of aluminium made it an ideal candidate for a vast array of applications. These include its lightweight, malleability, and corrosion resistance. The packaging industry seized on its barrier properties that shield goods from air, light, and moisture. The construction sector exploited its strength and resistance to corrosion by weather and chemicals.

However, it was the advent of the aviation and automotive industries that truly underlined aluminium’s crucial importance. The lightness of aluminium made it an essential material in the construction of aircraft, reducing weight while maintaining structural integrity.

Similarly, in the auto industry, the use of aluminium allowed for the design of lighter vehicles. This contributes to fuel efficiency and performance enhancements. It became the material of choice for many manufacturers looking to reduce vehicle weight without compromising on safety. As environmental concerns escalated, the role of aluminium in improving fuel economy further solidified its position in the automotive world. Thus, aluminium transitioned from being a supporting actor to playing a lead role in the global industrial theater.

A Guide to Aluminium Alloys

Aluminium alloys come in all shapes and sizes, from sheet and plate to tube and bar. Each is available with its own unique properties. In fact, the Aluminium Association currently recognizes more than 530 active compositions of aluminium alloys. We expect this number to continuously rise. As such, choosing the right alloy for specific applications is crucial. Even slight variances in chemical composition can drastically impact an alloy’s strength, workability, corrosion resistance, and electrical conductivity.

Aluminium Alloy 1050

Regarded as commercially pure aluminium, with a purity level of 99.5% or higher, Alloy 1050 is the softest among the common aluminium alloys. It’s non-heat treatable, exceedingly malleable, and offers excellent corrosion resistance. While it boasts superb weldability, it does have a relatively narrow melting range.

The 1050 alloy has good machinability when hard-tempered and is frequently employed for electrical work, food and chemical handling, dials, and name plates, spun hollow ware, lighting, HVAC, heat insulators, and license plates. Metal Supermarkets supplies 1050 aluminium in sheet format.

Aluminium Alloy 2011

Aluminium alloy 2011 is a high mechanical strength alloy that machines exceptionally well. Often called a Free Machining Alloy or ‘FMA’ it is well suited to use in automatic lathes.

It is widely used for automatic screw machine products in parts requiring extensive machining. It may be machined at high speeds with relatively heavy feeds. It has poor corrosion resistance, which means parts made from 2011 tend to be anodised to provide additional surface protection.

Applications – 2011 is typically used in applications that require parts manufactured by repetition machining, like Appliance parts & trim and Automotive trim. Metal Supermarkets supplies 2011 aluminium in solid round bar.

Aluminium Alloy 3003

Regarded as the most widely used alloy among common alloys, 3003 aluminium is non-heat treatable. Its strength is about 20% higher than that of 1100, making it a practical all-purpose aluminium for applications requiring moderate strength. Alloyed with manganese, it displays good formability, workability, and drawing characteristics.

Not only is 3003 aluminium inexpensive, but it can also be welded and brazed using all methods, has excellent corrosion resistance, and provides a uniform appearance. This alloy is commonly used in everyday products like cooking utensils, food containers, hardware, and cabinets. Other applications include chemical equipment, pressure vessels, piping, awning slats, trailer and truck panels, and general sheet metal fabrication. Metal Supermarkets provides 3003 aluminium in sheet and plate format.

Aluminium Alloy 6063

Primarily an extrusion alloy, 6063 aluminium is used almost exclusively by architectural applicators. It’s heat-treatable for strengthening. Like 6061, 6063 is alloyed with magnesium for added strength and silicon to lower the melting temperature, making it excellent for anodizing.

With a similar composition and mechanical properties to 6061, two of the main differentiators of 6063 aluminium are its superior surface finish and a less impressive strength-to-weight ratio. It’s commonly used in electrical components and conduits, pipe and tube for irrigation systems, door frames, railings, furniture, appliances, boats, and motor vehicles. Metal Supermarkets supplies 6063 aluminium in angle, channel, bar and tube formats.

The diversity of aluminium alloys available today is remarkable. As the list of alloys continues to expand, so do the possibilities for their applications, paving the way for a future where the limits of engineering are continually redefined.

Aluminium Alloy 6082

It is the highest strength alloy in the 6000 series, mostly used in high stress applications like for trusses, bridges, cranes and transport applications. Plenty of people use it these days in preference over aluminium 6061 thanks to the large proportion of manganese it contains. Aluminium 6082 is used in passenger cars for side frame elements, door frames, and body shell elements.

Alloy 6082’s good weldability, brazeability, corrosion resistance, formability and machinability make it useful for rod, bar and machining stock, seamless aluminium tubing, structural profiles and custom profiles.This particular alloy is usually supplied as Channel, Angle, Tee, Square bar, Rectangular box section, Flat bar, Tube and Sheet

Understanding the Composition of Aluminium Alloys

At the heart of every aluminium alloy is, of course, aluminium itself, which comprises the bulk of the alloy’s weight. However, while aluminium provides a solid base, the alloy’s distinctive characteristics are often the result of additional elements such as magnesium, silicon, and iron.

Let’s consider three examples to illustrate this. Firstly, we have Aluminium Alloy AA6016A. This alloy is primarily made up of aluminium, accounting for up to 98.3% of its composition. However, it’s the additions of silicon and magnesium that make it unique. Silicon, while making up a small portion of the overall alloy, significantly enhances the alloy’s formability, allowing it to be shaped into complex parts with relative ease. Meanwhile, magnesium, though present only in trace amounts, increases the alloy’s strength, further broadening its potential applications.

The next alloy, AA5182, also leverages the power of magnesium, but in a slightly different way. As the primary alloying constituent alongside aluminium, magnesium serves to bolster the alloy’s overall strength and stability. This blend of strength and stability makes AA5182 an excellent choice for automobile parts like car hoods and doors, which need to withstand significant wear and tear over time.

Lastly, we have Aluminium Alloy AA5083. This alloy is notable for its high magnesium content, which gives it excellent strength, resistance to atmospheric conditions, and welding capabilities. These characteristics make AA5083 a top choice for the construction of auto frames and chassis components, which require strength and durability.

In each of these examples, we see how different elements, added in varying proportions, serve to enhance the properties of the base aluminium, creating alloys with unique characteristics and applications. It’s a testament to the versatility of aluminium and its potential to be tailored to meet a broad range of industrial needs.

Unearthing the Hidden Gems: Aluminium Alloys in the Auto Industry

Aluminium’s journey from being considered a secondary choice to now becoming a primary resource in automotive manufacturing is a testament to its advantageous properties. It’s particularly interesting to note that the shift to aluminium wasn’t merely a sudden change; it was a calculated response to evolving market demands and growing environmental consciousness.

When Audi launched the aluminium-framed A8 in the 1980s, it was a game-changer. It demonstrated aluminium’s significant potential for weight reduction without sacrificing strength. This groundbreaking move played a key role in shaping the auto industry’s perspective on material selection.

Following suit, Ford’s strategic shift to an all-aluminium body for its popular F-150 model in 2015 further solidified aluminium’s place in the industry. This change led to a massive weight reduction, contributing directly to improved fuel efficiency. This is a factor that’s become increasingly important to both consumers and regulators.

Today, aluminium’s role extends beyond fuel-powered vehicles; it’s also making significant strides in the world of electric vehicles (EVs). As weight greatly affects an EV’s range, manufacturers are eager to utilize materials that offer strength without adding mass. Given these demands, it’s no surprise that aluminium has emerged as the material of choice for many EV makers.

Ultimately, it’s clear that aluminium’s rise in the auto industry was no accident. It was the result of strategic shifts driven by evolving consumer demands and environmental considerations. And with the continuing growth of the EV market, aluminium’s importance in automotive manufacturing is only set to increase.

Conclusion

The story of aluminium is undeniably a testament to humanity’s unending quest for innovation, efficiency, and sustainability. Aluminium’s journey has been nothing short of remarkable. From the early days of its discovery to its transformative use in the automotive industry. From the intricacies of AA6016A to the rugged strength of AA5083. The myriad aluminium alloys at our disposal continue to redefine our vehicles’ performance, making them not only faster and more efficient but also safer and more eco-friendly.

As we steer into the era of electric vehicles, aluminium’s significance is further underscored. It offers a promising solution to the industry’s pressing challenges. While also driving innovation, reducing vehicle weight, and ultimately contributing to a more sustainable future.

With the advancements in aluminium alloy technology, one thing is clear – we are only scratching the surface of what’s possible. So, whether you’re an automaker, a hobbyist, or just someone intrigued by the marvels of modern materials, it’s worth exploring the world of aluminium alloys.

Ready to venture into the dynamic landscape of aluminium alloys? Visit our product pages and discover the perfect alloy to drive your project forward. Whether it’s for automotive applications or other industries, we’ve got you covered with our extensive range of high-quality aluminium products. Let’s drive innovation together, one alloy at a time.


Metal Supermarkets

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Metal Supermarkets is the world’s largest small-quantity metal supplier with over 100 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, Canada, and United Kingdom. We are metal experts and have been providing quality customer service and products since 1985.

At Metal Supermarkets, we supply a wide range of metals for a variety of applications. Our stock includes: mild steel, stainless steel, aluminium, tool steel, engineering steel, brass, bronze and copper.

We carry a wide range of shapes including: bars, tubes, sheets and plates. We can cut metal to your exact specifications.

Visit one of our 8 locations in the United Kingdom today.

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