Aluminum and steel are the most common metals used in industrial applications, but which is the best? To answer that question, this article will take a look at both metals to determine the pros and cons of each. In the end, cost, strength, and end use will influence the final determination of which metal is genuinely better.
The Facts: Metal Properties
Before choosing a metal for any industrial or manufacturing project, it is important to be aware of the properties that may impact the project. This includes the metal's weight, strength, corrosive resistance, heat resistance, and malleability.
Aluminum has a density of 2.7 g/cm³ at 20 °C and tensile strength of 90 MPa at 20 °C making it a lightweight metal with moderate strength.
Aluminum oxidizes just like other metals, however, the resulting compound sticks to the metal and creates a natural protective coating meaning it doesn't rust like other metals.
While aluminum conducts electricity, it is considered weak in high temperatures with a melting point of 1220 ℉; however, it actually becomes stronger in low temperatures. It is also considered very malleable.
Steel density and strength can change depending on the composition, which varies greatly within the industry. In general, the tensile strength can range from 400 megapascals (MPa) to 841 MPa.
Carbon steel requires a protective layer to be added to prevent rusting but stainless steel is generally considered corrosion-resistant.
Steel has a melting point of 2500 ℉, meaning it is very heat-resistant; however, low temperatures make steel brittle and weak. In general, steel is considered strong and stable with little malleability.
- High tensile strength
The cost of both metals fluctuates depending on the global economy, but steel is almost always cheaper per pound.
Aluminum and steel are used in a range of industries. They are both commonly used in aerospace, automotive, and architecture. Aluminum is generally favored in telecommunications, chemical handling, and marine industries. Steel, on the other hand, is favored in the food and drug, medical, and heating industries.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the better metal depends on the details of the project. While steel is generally less expensive, it is also heavier, making it only ideal if the project can handle the extra weight. Aluminum is better for projects that require conductivity, corrosive resistance, or lightweight materials.
Reach out to an aluminum and steel supplier to learn more.