What is Aluminium?
The demand for aluminium products is increasing year by year for a myriad of reasons. As a lightweight and versatile metal, aluminium is the world’s second most-used metal after steel.
Aluminium is the metal of choice for leading designers, architects and engineers, who want a material that combines functionality and cost-effectiveness with innovative form and design potential.
Aluminium is an extraordinarily versatile material. The range of forms it can take – from castings, extrusions, tubes, sheets, and plates, to foils, powders, and forgings – and the variety of surface finishes available – including coatings, anodising, and polishing – means aluminium can be used in many products, often those which we use every day.
Aluminium is light (33% the weight of steel) and this, together with its numerous material qualities, makes it useful in modern life. It is a good conductor of electricity, with most overhead and many underground transmission lines made of aluminium. It transmits conducted heat and reflects radiant heat, making aluminium an excellent medium from which to produce cooking utensils and foils, radiators, and building insulation. Its strength, combined with its low density, makes it ideal for transport and packaging applications. Aluminium is a unique metal – strong, durable, flexible, impermeable, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and 100% recyclable.
Properties and Benefits of Aluminium
Pure aluminium is soft enough to carve but mixed with small amounts of other metals to form alloys, it can provide the strength of steel, with only one-third of the weight. Without aluminium there would be no commercial air travel.
Aluminium sprayed on a polymer forms a thin insulating sheet that can keep a newborn baby warm or save the life of someone on an exposed mountaintop.
Aluminium has an excellent barrier function which makes it ideal for food and drinks packaging and containers. It keeps out air, light and microorganisms while preserving the contents inside.
Aluminium used in transportation reduces the weight of the vehicles, thus providing fuel efficiency and reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The metal’s natural coating of aluminium oxide provides a highly effective barrier to the ravages of air, temperature, moisture and chemical attack, making aluminium a useful construction material.
Once made, aluminium can be recycled again and again, using only a very small fraction of the energy required to make “new” metal. Recycling saves about 95% of the energy required for primary production.
Aluminium is a superb conductor of electricity which has seen it replace copper in many electrical applications. It is also non-magnetic and non-combustible, properties invaluable in advanced industries such as electronics or in offshore structures.
In one word – versatility. More than any other material, aluminium has the capability of being extruded into complex shapes to exact tolerances. Other metals, such as steel, can be extruded but they require enormous pressure to pass through the die, rendering all but a few simple extrusions uneconomic.
Aluminium, on the other hand, has been successfully formed into literally thousands of unique profiles, each one able to meet a number of specific structural and aesthetic requirements. It is this capability to provide simple elegant solutions to extremely complex design problems that has led to aluminium’s enduring appeal.