Metal fabrication utilizes a range of methods and materials for producing highly-efficient products with a myriad of uses. The most common fabrication techniques are cutting, blanking, stamping, drawing, hydroforming, bending, stamping, roll forming, and welding. However, selecting the most suitable method depends on the application type and final product specifications.
Stainless steel and aluminum are some of the most commonly used fabrication materials. Aluminum is widely utilized in oceanic equipment fabrication because of its lightweight and rust-proof nature. At the same time, stainless steel is prized for its lack of ferromagnetic properties and multifaceted uses in the industrial setting. We have compared the two materials to help you decide whether stainless steel or aluminum is more appropriate for your next project.
Because of its excellent heat conductivity, aluminum is commonly employed as a heat sink for electronic devices. In comparison, stainless steel has lower thermal conductivity but a greater melting point, allowing for its applications over a greater range of temperatures.
The composition of stainless steel has chromium as one of the elements known for its corrosion-resistance properties. However, steel also contains iron, making it more susceptible to corrosion. Hence, it must be powder coated or painted to thwart corrosion and rust. Contrastingly, aluminum doesn’t oxidize quickly, making it exceptionally resistant to rust.
While steel is typically utilized in structural frames and beams, aluminum is more suited for aircraft and marine equipment owing to its flexibility and lightweight.
Aluminum tends to react with certain edible items. This reaction can sometimes lead to changes in the flavor and color of the food products. In comparison, stainless steel doesn’t react with food and remains inactive. The inertness of stainless steel guarantees the finest and most enticing creations for gastronomy experts and catering companies in a cut-throat marketplace.
Malleability is one of the important considerations for determining the strength of materials. Aluminum has higher malleability compared to steel. Due to this, aluminum can be extruded or bent into a vast range of custom profiles without developing cracks or breaking apart. Aluminum can be stretched without fracturing due to its excellent ductility. It is also ideal for use in cold-weather conditions because its strength improves as temperatures reduce.
Because of the differences in their physical properties, aluminum, and stainless steel manage heat in very different ways. Aluminum’s thermal expansion is much higher than steel’s, nearly twice as high. Due to this, aluminum is less tolerant of welding mistakes (like applying too much heat), particularly while working on really thin pieces.
It takes less effort to cut aluminum than steel, resulting in faster machining times. The machining rate in aluminum processing can be as high as three to ten times more than in steel. A higher machining rate in aluminum decreases the fabrication time, making it particularly suitable for large molds with profound cavities.
Prices for both metals keep fluctuating owing to factors like demand, supply, and fuel costs. Typically, the cost of raw materials for producing aluminum is more, resulting in higher prices. Due to this, aluminum can be up to 20-30% more expensive than stainless steel.
However, the higher strength-to-weight ratio of aluminum allows using less material than stainless steel, which lowers the overall cost of production.
Choosing between aluminum and stainless steel for your fabrication venture can be challenging. Hence, you must consider the material properties to decide the best-suited option for your requirement.
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