Dajcor Aluminum

The Benefits of Aluminum versus Steel

by Dajcor Aluminum

How aluminum is more effective and efficient than steel

Aluminum is a versatile, lightweight, durable, and ductile metal. It is often chosen over other metals for various applications because it performs effectively and efficiently in a wide array of environments. The benefits of aluminum versus steel are many.

Compared to other metals, including steel, aluminum weighs less by volume. Aluminum is one-third the weight of other metals, including steel, brass, and copper. According to the Aluminum Association, aluminum automotive structures are more cost-effective than steel automotive structures: using aluminum has a weight savings of up to 55 percent compared to steel structures. In the marine transportation industry, aluminum structures are also more cost-effective compared to steel. Aluminum hulls have a weight savings of 35 to 45 percent. If aluminum is used instead of steel to construct marine superstructures, there is a weight savings of 55 to 65 percent. Fuel and battery consumption is more cost-effective in aluminum than steel structures because lightweight vehicles use less energy. According to Drive Aluminum, electrical cars that have advanced aluminum body structures use fewer batteries than those with steel body structures, which results in a weight savings of up to 3,000 (US) dollars per unit. Compared to steel hybrid cars, aluminum hybrid cars experience fuel savings of 5 to 7 percent.

Unlike steel, aluminum is naturally non-corrosive. According to Futura Industries, aluminum forms an oxide film that naturally protects the metal from corrosion. How Stuff Works explains that this natural corrosion protection occurs when aluminum reacts with oxygen. The resulting barrier protects the metal from various compounds, including water and further contact with oxygen. This natural barrier is one reason that aluminum is more beneficial in some environments than carbon steel and some stainless steels. The British Stainless Steel Association explains that stainless steel can corrode in “aggressive conditions.” Steel must undergo painting or other treatments to protect it from corrosion.

Aluminum surpasses steel in heat conductivity. Ask any chef and they will tell you that aluminum-based cookware is more efficient for cooking food than steel-based cookware. Aluminum kettles boil water more quickly than stainless kettles because aluminum conducts heat more quickly than steel. When it comes to thermal conductivity, aluminum has a fourfold increase compared to steel. According to Secat, a research laboratory that studies aluminum products and processes, aluminum’s thermal conductivity reduces cooling cycles more efficiently than steel in molding operations. Aluminum also has a higher electrical conductivity rate than steel. This high electrical conductivity, combined with aluminum’s low melting point compared to that of steel, means that aluminum has the ability to increase electrical discharge machining rates fivefold compared to steel.

Steel is not very malleable, which is why many manufacturers choose to use aluminum. Steel is restricted to certain shapes and formations, whereas aluminum’s elasticity means that engineers and designers have more freedom to create complex structures. According to Wenzel Metal Spinning, the spinning process can crack or rend steel, even though it is a strong metal. Truly, aluminum’s ductility produces safer and more efficient structures than steel.