Types of Aluminum Alloys

Aluminum is a popular manufacturing material for its versatility. This corrosion-resistant element calls for minimal upkeep when included in designs for vehicles, electronics, wrappings and industrial machinery.

Businesses work with aluminum because it can be combined with other materials to heighten its natural qualities. With numerous types of aluminum alloys available today, opportunities for production are nearly endless once you know which configurations are appropriate for your industry.

Classification of Aluminum Alloys

We can break the types of aluminum alloys down into three categories, namely wrought heat-treatable, non-heat-treatable and cast alloys:

  • Heat-treatable: Heat-treatable alloys consist of the 2000, 6000 and 7000 Series and contain magnesium, copper or zinc as their primary element. These alloys are hardened using precipitation methods. 
  • Non-heat treatable: You can find these alloys in the 1000, 3000 and 5000 Series. Non-heat treatable alloys consist of high-purity aluminum, and manufacturers use cold working methods to harden these metals. 
  • Cast alloys: Cast alloys encompass heat-treatable and non-heat-treatable alloys, consisting mainly of the 2000, 3000, 4000, 7000 and 8000 Series. Manufacturers use a lower treatment method for cast alloys than for heat-treated alloys. 

What Is an Aluminum Alloy?

You can think of an aluminum alloy as a mixture of natural aluminum with at least one other material. These chemical creations give manufacturers the benefits of aluminum with the added traits of copper, manganese, silicon, magnesium, zinc and other elements.

Professionals categorize aluminum alloys using a four-digit coding system. The first number in the sequence communicates which metal was combined with natural aluminum. Review the details below to get a closer look at the differences between each aluminum alloy series:

Aluminum Alloy Series

Types of Aluminum Alloys and Their Properties

Manufacturing projects require experts to select materials carefully so that a product functions as intended. Some aluminum alloys are heat-treatable to boost tensile strength while others are geared toward creating molds and castings.

1000 Series Aluminum Alloys

1000 Series aluminum alloys are considered pure aluminum in commercial applications and are helpful in the creation of big electrical rotors, pipelines and chemical tanks. Due to being softer than other alloys, it’s also used for producing heat insulators, spun hollow ware, lighting, HVAC, food and chemical handling and license plates. Manufacturers go with 1000 Series aluminum alloys because they combat corrosion and are suitable for indoor and outdoor use. This group of alloys can undergo welding in certain conditions and are considered excellent conductors of heat and electricity.

2000 Series Aluminum Alloys

2000 Series aluminum alloys contain copper and a small amount of magnesium, which is ideal for heat treatments. Common forms, such as 2024 aluminum plates, see a variety of uses in the aerospace industry. Exceptional yield strengths and machining capabilities make 2024 varieties perfect for computer parts and fittings. Manufacturers also use this type of aluminum for manufacturing bearings, cylinder pistons and heads, as well as in housing applications.

3000 Series Aluminum Alloys

Consisting of copper and silicon, 3000 Series aluminum is durable and resistant to wear. Some of the 3000 Series may have traces of magnesium, such as the 3004 Series, while others may not. Manufacturers rely on 3000 Series aluminum alloys for the creation of heat exchange products. Everything from cookware to garage doors, motor parts and marine and aircraft castings showcases 3000 Series alloys.

The 3003 aluminum type is one of the most common materials used in the industry because it responds well to anodizing and exterior finishing. Everyday utility products like cooking utensils, cabinets, hardware and food containers are made from the 3003 aluminum type. Manufacturers use the 3004 Series, containing 1% magnesium, to produce cookware, pressure valves and storage tanks. 3015 Series is used for additional applications that provide structural support, such as ductwork, roofing, siding and flashing.

4000 Series Aluminum Alloys

Businesses look to 4000 Series materials to make fillers and weld surfaces together. The silicon in the mixture lowers the melting point of the alloy, making it easy to turn into a liquid form. Due to its impact resistance and high adaptability, applications include dental equipment, cookware and bridge railing support castings.

5000 Series Aluminum Alloys

These alloys offer high tensile strength, with the main alloy element being magnesium. Companies incorporate 5052 plates into bridge components, railings, vessels and mailboxes to fight inclement weather. Its resistance to salt water makes it ideal for marine use like small boats, but also fuel tanks, fans, fencing, architectural panels and truck trailers.

Being highly resistant to corrosion while giving an attractive appearance, the 5000 Series is also used for welded assemblies and architectural and ornamental castings. A 5000 Series alloy gives the best of both worlds in terms of malleability and durability.

6000 Series Aluminum Alloys

6000 Series alloys are heat-treatable and often become parts of beams, bridges and other structures. Consisting of magnesium for added durability and silicone for a lower melting point temperature, 6061 is one of the stronger aluminum alloys. You can find 6061 aluminum plates on construction sites across the country because manufacturers are able to cut, machine and weld this versatile material. They are also good for use in bridge components, piping, valves, fasteners, structural, framing, fire ladders, sailboats, electronic parts and molding.

Consumers find 6000 Series alloys within vehicle frames on account of their ability to handle changing temperatures. Manufacturers also use the 6063 Series in appliances, boats, furniture, railings, electrical components and conduits, irrigation systems, door frames and motor vehicles. 

7000 Series Aluminum Alloys

Consisting of zinc, the 7000 Series alloys are heavy-duty and provide similar strength characteristics to steel. Professional builders encounter 7075 aluminum when assembling athletic equipment and aircraft parts. This series is also applied in castings for brazing, used in automotive parts and for mining equipment.

8000 Series Aluminium Alloys

8000 Series alloys have tin as the main element and offer a low friction point. It’s mainly used to manufacture bushing applications and bearings. 

Contact PBZ for Full-Service Manufacturing Projects

PBZ Manufacturing helps your business create metal products at lower costs. We’re a full-service company based out of Lititz, Pennsylvania, specializing in engineering, manufacturing, finishing, assembling and shipping metal goods. Trust our staff to handle your metal manufacturing endeavors from initial planning stages to project completion.

For more information about our capabilities, complete our contact form today.

Updated March 12, 2024. Originally published October 15, 2020.

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