The Basics of Aluminum Fabrication

The Basics of Aluminum Fabrication

Posted on 03/04/2021 at 05:07 pmViewed 285 times

Aluminum fabrication plays a crucial role in engineering structures for a wide array of industries. From car parts to medical applications, there are many uses for custom aluminum fabrication. This guide to the basics of aluminum fabrication can help newcomers understand when and why to consider these professional services.

What Is Aluminum Fabrication?

Metal handrails or control panels don’t fall off the tree like that; a professional has to fabricate aluminum into that shape and many others. However, aluminum itself doesn’t grow on trees either. To use this metal in manufacturing, professionals have to mine aluminum from bauxite.

Bauxite is a red, clayish rock that’s predominantly found in locations Australia, China, and Brazil, though many more areas of the world boast large quantities of this material. From raw bauxite, professionals can refine alumina, which is swiftly refined further to become aluminum oxide. Next, the aluminum is carefully dissolved in molten cryolite to prepare it for electrolysis.

The process of electrolysis involves sending an electric current through the molten aluminum oxide and cryolite mixture. Once the electrolysis is finally complete, the resulting aluminum can be successfully shaped into useable materials for purposes we'll get deeper into later in this guide.

Now that you know where aluminum comes from, let’s get back to how to fabricate this advantageous metal. Aluminum fabrication involves professionals bending, welding, or cutting the titular metal to fit specific designs. Don’t worry—“specific designs” is a broad term, but we’ll get into the details of what that means further down the line. First, we’ll dive into what bending, welding, and cutting mean. These aren’t the only forms of metal fabrication, but they’re three of the most popular methods.

Forming

This process involves forcefully bending, rolling, or stamping aluminum into a new shape. The most common method of forming aluminum is via a press brake.

Welding

Welding involves melting pieces of metal together by heating them with a welding torch. There are many common welding methods, including TIG, MIG, and stick—all three of which are compatible with aluminum. 2XXX and 7XXX series aluminum alloys aren’t optimal for welding. Luckily, 1XXX, 3XXX, 4XXX, 5XXX, and 6XXX series aluminum alloys are perfectly suitable for welding structures.

Cutting

As the name suggests, this is the act of cutting through aluminum to form a specific shape.

Common methods of cutting metal for fabrication include plasma jet, water jet, and shearing. These cutting methods provide immense precision when fabricating aluminum.

Industry Applications

Next, we’ll finally break down the “specific designs” previously mentioned in the first section of this guide. Aluminum is a versatile metal, and, as you’ll learn below, its industrial uses are diverse and widespread.

Aerospace

The strength and lightweight nature of aluminum make it the perfect material for constructing aircraft parts. For example, this metal is commonly used in aircraft cowls, skins, wings, fuselages, and other additional parts. The most common aluminum alloys for aerospace applications include 2024, 5052, 6061, 7050, and 7075. 5052 is particularly useful in marine environments thanks to the alloy’s notable corrosion resistance. On the other hand, 6061 and 2024 are alloys you’ll likely find in aircraft wings and fuselages.

Automotive

For the same reasons that the aerospace industry loves aluminum, so does the automotive industry. The ability to build car parts with lightweight materials without sacrificing strength is incredibly beneficial to many different aspects of automobile manufacturing. The eclectic applications of fabricated aluminum in the automotive industry include car frames, engine parts, hoods, bumpers, transmissions, and air conditioner components.

One of the great aspects of metal fabrication is that you can work with a professional to custom build parts to meet your specifications. For instance, if you work on cars and find yourself needing very specific replacement parts for a customer, professional metal fabrication can help you conveniently accomplish that goal.

Construction

Common uses of aluminum in the construction industry include roofing, siding, gutters, window frames, metal beams, and additional structural support. In fact, aluminum has been a key component of skyscraper construction since the 1930s. Thanks to aluminum's recyclability, this metal is a sustainable, environmentally-friendly material for successfully building structures.

Medical

Aluminum structural frames are widely used to build bases for specialized equipment and components inside tech, such as ventilators, stethoscopes, and testing devices. However, this metal has applications across various medical facilities. Aluminum frames are useful for constructing hospital beds, tents, curtains, cabinets, containers, trays, guardrails, and beyond. Whether you want to build a complex medical machine or some patient seating, aluminum can prove greatly beneficial.

The Benefits of Aluminum

The soft, lightweight nature of aluminum is one of its most popular properties. Aluminum weighs about one-third the weight of stainless steel. This is a positive attribute because it makes aluminum much more efficient to fabricate than stronger metals, such as steel.

Luckily, the quicker pace of fabricating aluminum doesn’t come at the cost of qualities such as versatility, strength, or corrosion resistance. From car parts to ventilator components, aluminum fabrication can alter this metal into a diverse array of shapes. As you saw in the section above, many industries utilize fabricated aluminum parts, and that’s thanks in no small part to its ease-of-use and versatility.

Those aren’t the only reasons for aluminum’s popularity, though. Steel is a tough metal, but it’s more prone to corrosion than aluminum. The corrosion resistance of aluminum makes it a great go-to choice for creating light fixtures for clients. This also adds to aluminum fabrication's versatility since light fixtures are useful in medical facilities, schools, and a wide range of other structures. Aluminum is also impressively durable and reliable in its own right, so engineers shouldn’t think of aluminum as a weak metal simply due to its soft, lightweight properties.

It doesn’t hurt that aluminum is also a non-toxic metal. Thanks to this fact, aluminum is a popular material for packaging foods. The wrong metal can alter the smell or taste of food products, but with the help of aluminum, the food industry can prevent that from happening.

After reading this introduction to the basics of aluminum fabrication, you should better understand whether it’ll be useful for your next project. With the help of custom aluminum fabrication, you can successfully construct a diverse range of products for clients.

The Basics of Aluminum Fabrication

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