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Unknown Strength of Aluminum

A universal misconception of aluminum is that it is not strong enough to use in load-bearing structural applications. Perhaps that stems from the known fact of an aluminum can and its crushability. In all actuality, aluminum is probably a “victim of its own strength” in this respect, as its high strength-to-weight ratio is partly what allows manufacturers of aluminum cans to use extremely thin-gauged walls while ensuring product integrity.

It is often said that, compared with alternative materials and forming methods, aluminum extrusions offer parts and product engineers unparalleled design latitude, while achieving their critical strength requirements.

For starters, almost all aluminum alloys can be extruded—although some (6000 series) are more suited to the extrusion process than others. Second, a wide range of designs are possible—simple or complex shapes; uniform or multi-thickness walls; parts that interlock, hinge, or self-assemble; and solid, hollow, or semi-hollow shapes.

As for structural applications in the medical, transportation and construction industries, one of the most commonly specified aluminum structural alloys, 6061-T6, boasts a minimum yield strength almost equal to that of A36 steel—which is the standard grade of steel used for structural supports in many buildings and bridges of today’s skyline.

The design flexibility afforded by extrusions is sometimes referred to as the ability to “put the metal exactly where it is needed.” Thus, a profile can be designed to put aluminum in those places so as to produce the strongest possible piece for a given weight and amount of aluminum used. Similarly, aluminum extrusions can be designed to take metal out of low-stress areas to improve cost-effectiveness.

Aluminum’s light weight and low density properties make it particularly suitable for applications where “dead load”—i.e., the weight of the structure itself—is a potential issue, such as bridges, transportation, construction equipment and mobility aids. In such applications, aluminum’s reduced weight can increase the structure’s “service load” - in the case of a bridge, its traffic-carrying capacity.

Call on Alexandria Industries to assist you in redesigning and evaluating existing products to increase performance and minimize cost with the use of aluminum extrusion components. If you would like to learn more, please contact your sales specialist