The EVS Metal Blog

Fabricating With Aluminum vs. Steel: How Does it Differ?

As would probably be expected, precision stainless steel fabrication and manufacturing is a big part of what we do at EVS Metal. While stainless steel tends to be the metal most frequently undergoing a range of fabrication processes at any given time, we frequently work with aluminum as well. However, these two metals require different treatment by our machine operators and skilled tradesman, as the materials themselves are quite unalike.

What are the primary differences between aluminum and steel from a fabrication perspective?

Both aluminum and steel are important to the metal fabrication industry; however, they generally serve different purposes, and their use will depend on the type of end product being fabricated. For instance:

  • Aluminum is not naturally as strong as steel; however, depending on the type of alloy used, it can be forged to be at least as strong, if not stronger, than steel.
  • Steel is much heavier than aluminum — by about ⅔ the weight, in fact.
  • Aluminum is much softer than steel, which can make it more difficult to weld, but easier to cut and shape.
  • Steel isn’t nearly as good a thermal conductor as aluminum.
  • Unsurprisingly, aluminum is also a much better conductor of electricity than steel.
  • Steel can be heated to much higher temperatures than aluminum before it reaches a  melting point.

What applications are most appropriate for aluminum, rather than steel?

Aluminum is most commonly used for applications that require a balance between heat resistance, strength and corrosion resistance, while still maintaining a lighter overall weight. To strike this balance, aluminum is often combined with another substance to create an aluminum alloy. For instance:

  • Many airplane parts (including the main body) and car engines are fabricated from aluminum combined with copper.
  • Overhead power lines are primarily made of an aluminum-boron alloy.
  • Beverage cans, like those used to package soda and beer, are generally fabricated from a 3104-H19 or 3004-H19 aluminum alloy, which contains about 1% manganese and 1% magnesium to ensure strength and formability

Want to know more about aluminum? Check out another one of our blogs!

EVS Metal is an American precision sheet metal fabricator headquartered in Riverdale, NJ. We utilize the latest technology to cut, bend, weld and finish stand-alone items as well as parts for integration or assembly into more complex products. Our four ISO 9001:2015-certified metal fabrication facilities comprise over 250,000 square feet of vertically integrated manufacturing space and feature the most modern equipment available, from welding robots and laser cutting solutions to automated powder coating lines.

We serve a diverse customer base across North America, providing a range of services from quick-turn prototypes to high-volume production runs. Request a personalized metal fabrication quote online, or call (973) 839-4432 to speak with a specialist today.

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