Aluminum vs. Steel in Manufacturing

Are you trying to determine which metal material to use for your manufacturing processes? For many companies, the choice comes down to aluminum or steel. These metals are among the most popular options, as each offers a host of beneficial properties. Assessing several crucial factors can help you decide which material is better for your applications.

Aluminum vs. Steel: Price

For many companies, the cost is the most crucial consideration when choosing a metal. A common misconception is that aluminum is less expensive than steel. This is only partially true. While stainless steel typically costs more than aluminum, carbon and mild steel materials tend to be cheaper — aluminum is somewhere in the middle. Keep in mind that factors such as tariffs and supply and demand can influence the cost of either material at any time.

Aluminum vs. Steel: Weight

Steel is much denser than aluminum, which also makes it significantly heavier. Aluminum’s weight is approximately one-third that of the lightest steel material. Many manufacturers prefer aluminum parts and components when practical because it makes their finished products lighter, easier to handle and, concerning aircraft or vehicles, more fuel-efficient.

Aluminum vs. Steel: Strength

Steel is generally tougher and more durable than aluminum. Carbon steel in particular is strong (and heavy) due to its high carbon content. However, because of its lighter weight, aluminum may have a higher strength-to-weight ratio than some mild steel versions. Steel’s hardness also reduces its malleability. It’s easier to bend and form aluminum into custom shapes without jeopardizing the material’s structural integrity. This characteristic makes aluminum more suitable for some metal fabrication projects.

Aluminum vs. Steel: Corrosion Resistance

While aluminum offers good corrosion resistance in comparison to most other metals, it can corrode in some situations. White rust, which is a light-colored, powdery deposit, can form on aluminum surfaces, especially in oceanic environments.

Except for stainless steel, which contains chromium that provides excellent corrosion resistance, most forms of steel require additional coatings to protect them. Rust, which is a specific type of corrosion that causes a metal’s outer surface to flake away over time, can affect the longevity of products made of iron or carbon, tool or alloy steel.

Aluminum vs. Steel: Typical Applications

The intended use of the finished product or part also impacts whether aluminum or steel is the more appropriate metal for your manufacturing or fabrication project. Steel is typically the better option for “heavy-duty” projects involving infrastructure work such as roads, bridges and railways. It also provides the essential strength and stability required for commercial and residential buildings. Aluminum works well for products requiring a lightweight, ductile material, like automobiles, airplanes, food containers and other packaging products.

Contact PBZ Manufacturing to Learn More

PBZ has worked with metals in manufacturing since 1947, and we have the experience and expertise to offer resourceful manufacturing solutions, whether it’s aluminum or steel. We’re a one-stop operation that can manage every aspect of your project with our comprehensive range of abilities. Contact us or call 717-584-8767 to learn more about the differences between aluminum and steel today.

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