Aluminum Vs Steel

Aluminum Vs Steel: The Ultimate Guide

Whether to choose aluminum or steel for your project depends on in-depth understanding of these metal properties, features and application among other vital aspects. This guide explores all critical aspects of aluminum vs steel – let’s dive right in.

What Is Steel?

Steel is an alloy of carbon and iron elements which is significantly attributed to its chemical and physical properties. The content of carbon however is significantly small ranging from 2.0% of the total weight of the steel alloy. Additionally, manganese, nickel, and chromium elements are also added to the steel alloy but in minimum quantities.

What Is Aluminum?

Aluminum is a silvery, lightweight, and soft metal. Its more ductile, lightweight, corrosion resistant, and durable making it ideal for most applications.

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Strength To Weight Ratio: Aluminum Vs. Steel

Ideally, the strength-to-weight ratio of Aluminum is far much better compared to that of Steel. Aluminum takes a third of the overall weight of steel.

This means steel is much heavier. This makes Aluminum ideal in the manufacturing of airplanes, car parts made from aluminum sheets, and bicycles.

Strength To Weight Ratio_ Aluminum Vs. Steel
Steel Vs Aluminum Price

Steel Vs Aluminum Price

It’s important to consider the price of either of these two metals before deciding on which one to go out for.

The price of aluminum and steel continuously fluctuates as time goes by due to increases in the cost of raw materials, demand costs of fuel, and overall global supply.

Besides, the cost of steel however is relatively low compared to that of Aluminum metal.

Additionally, the high cost of Aluminum is a result of an increase in the prices of raw materials.

Steel Vs Aluminum Rust Resistance

Aluminum does not rust since it does not contain iron elements while Steel is highly prone to rusting as it easily oxidizes with oxygen.

Aluminum normally forms an oxide layer on the surface which acts as a protective layer from further oxidation during exposure.

To minimize the high rate of rusting in steel a certain percentage of Chromium about 11% is added to convert it to stainless steel.

Also, painting or treating steel will reduce the chances of rusting.

Steel Vs Aluminum Rust Resistance
Conductivity Of Aluminum And Steel

Conductivity Of Aluminum And Steel

Aluminum is far much better when it comes to heat and electrical conductivity compared to steel.

Aluminum can transmit about 235 watts making it ideal for making transmission lines and heatsinks.

Steel has very low conductivity capability making it less suitable for thermal and electrical conductivity.

Heat Resistance: Aluminum Vs Steel

Steel provides much better heat resistance compared to aluminum.

For instance, stainless steel has a better heat resistance with a melting point of 2500 degrees while Aluminum starts to be soft at 400 degrees Celsius.

Under high temperatures, Aluminum will be tensile while steel becomes brittle under very low temperatures.

Heat Resistance_ Aluminum Vs Steel
Welding Steel Vs Welding Aluminum

Welding Steel Vs Welding Aluminum

In most cases many welders consider welding steel to be much easier compared to welding Aluminum.

The main difference that makes aluminum more complex is the methods used in welding Aluminum metal.

Steel has a high melting point (2500 Fahrenheit) compared to aluminum (1221 Fahrenheit).

Also, the oxide layer on the aluminum surface aids in increasing corrosion resistance and abrasion.

Steel becomes more brittle when temperature decreases while Aluminum becomes more tensile.

Magnetic Properties: Steel Vs. Aluminum

Aluminum is slightly higher paramagnetic compared to Ferromagnetic steel.

Aluminum normally has magnetic permeability which is greater than one (0.00000126 Henries per meter).

This means Aluminum is not easily attracted to magnets. The ferromagnetic materials in steel make it easily attracted to a magnet.

Magnetic Properties_ Steel Vs. Aluminum
Corrosion Resistance Between Steel Vs Aluminum

Corrosion Resistance Between Steel Vs Aluminum

Aluminum is highly resistant to corrosion and does not require any treatment or coating after spun.

The oxide layer formed through the oxidation process shields the metal from wear and tear. Steel on the other hand is prone to corrosion.

Thus painting metal steel or treating steel is necessary after spinning to prevent corrosion.

Fabricating Steel Vs Aluminum

Aluminum is more flexible which allows the fabrication of these metals into different shapes and sizes.

Steel is stronger providing very limited options during fabrication, especially during the cutting process.

Welding and machining are some of the activities you can perform on steel.

Aluminum is way much better metal when it comes to the fabrication of different equipment, more because of its lightweight.

Fabricating Steel Vs Aluminum

Chemical Composition Of Steel Vs Aluminum

Chemical Composition Of Steel Vs Aluminum
Chemical Composition Of Steel Vs Aluminum

Chemically, Aluminum is made up of alloys such as Zinc, Magnesium, Copper, and Lithium. It also contains traces of Chromium, Lead, and Titanium. Steel on the other hand contains alloys of Vanadium, Nickel, Chromium, Manganese, and Tungsten.

Advantages Of Aluminum Vs. Steel

Advantages Of Aluminum Vs. Steel
Advantages Of Aluminum Vs. Steel

Advantages Of Steel

Steel is not only more reliable but the most preferred metal that is currently been used in so most industries. Steel has immense benefits such as;

  • Steel is stronger: compared to any other materials available, steel is stronger which guarantees durability. Steel has a coating that prevents corrosion and adverse conditions. This in the long run provides strong structural integrity.
  • Steel is recyclable: recyclability is another benefit of using steel over any other materials. Steel is made of recycled materials and itself is recyclable thus minimizing wastage and resources.

The recycling of steel does not affect its chemical and physical properties though.

  • Steel is affordable: it’s important to consider the cost while choosing your metal materials and still is for sure the best deal. Steel is relatively cheaper compared to any other materials and still of the best quality.

Its durability nature also reduces frequent expenditures that would be used for replacements.

  • Steel is more flexible: steel in its nature can be naturally modified into different shapes and sizes. From welding, machining, stamping, or roll forming all these options gives you a clear picture of how diverse steel is.

Advantages Of Aluminum

The following are the advantages of aluminum. They include;

  • Corrosion resistance: aluminum naturally generates a protective layer that prevents it from rusting. This layer inhibits the oxidation of aluminum when it comes into contact with an oxidizing environment. Also, a mechanism such as anodizing and painting can improve the overall corrosion resistance.
  • Lightweight: aluminum weighs 2.7g/cm3 making it the lightest metal in the world. This makes it easy to transport aluminum. This is the main reason aluminum is used in most car parts to reduce deadweight.
  • Thermal and electrical conductivity: aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Its mostly used in the transmission of electricity in major transmission lines. Also, it’s capable of conducting heat where it’s used as heatsinks in different applications such as computer motherboards.
  • Ductility and reflectivity: aluminum is an ideal material for manufacturing reflectors since it’s a good reflector of light as well as lightweight. Aluminum has a low density and melting point which means you can easily process it and get it in different molten states.

Types Of Steel

Types Of Steel
Types Of Steel

Alloy Steel

Aluminium, vanadium, nickel, chromium, and copper influences the functionality of this metal. Each of these elements contributes different features which determine the final product of the alloy steel. Alloy steel usually can be classified into; high alloy steel and low alloy steel. Low alloys contain 25% of carbon elements thus increasing corrosion resistance. High alloy steel contains a higher percentage of other elements in steel than the carbon content.

Carbon Steel

This is the most popular element during the production of steel. It comprises sulfur, phosphorous, silicon, and carbon which are less than 2%. Carbon steel comes in three categories; low, medium, and high carbon steel. Low carbon steel contains 30%, the medium is made up of 60% while high steel carbon is made up of 1.5% of carbon elements. Carbon steel is used in the production of knives and automotive parts.

Stainless Steel

Stainless still is the most common steel used in our modern world today. It contains 0.1 to 0.2% of chromium element making it a distinctive alloy. It’s more commonly used in the production of medical equipment, kitchenware, silverware, and commercial building for exterior cladding. The chromium content in stainless steel makes it possible to mold stainless steel into different shapes and also increased corrosion resistance.

Tool Steels

Tool steel consist of cobalt, and tungsten which are known for hardness and heat resistance. It contains a high percentage of carbon and alloy elements ranging from 0.7 to 1.5%. These added elements make tool steel more durable and increase heat resistance. Tool steel is commonly used in the production of metal tools like chisels, hammers, cutters, razors, and shear blades.

Types Of Aluminum

Types Of Aluminum
Types Of Aluminum

Hardest Aluminum 2024-T351

Aluminum 2024-135T is the hardest aluminum alloy in the market. This type of aluminum is mostly used in riveting, computer parts, aerospace engineering, and aircraft carriers. Aluminum 2024-135T however is not suitable for welding even with its hardness.

Clad Aluminum

This is also known as treated aluminum. Unlike bare aluminum which is highly susceptible to corrosion, clad aluminum is corrosion resistant.

Clad aluminum consists of nickel, magnesium, zinc, stainless steel, and silicon elements. Clad aluminum is commonly used in food processing and aircraft industries due to its high durability nature.

Bare Aluminum

Bare aluminum is highly susceptible to corrosion because of the high rate of oxidation. Corrosion on bare aluminum will result in loss of its reflective appearance though the inside material is still intact and strong.

Some of the most common aluminum alloy series include:

  • 1000 series
  • 2000 series
  • 3000 series
  • 4000 series
  • 5000 series
  • 6000 series
  • 7000 series
  • 8000 series

Disadvantages: Aluminum Vs Steel

Disadvantages Of Steel
Disadvantages Of Steel
  • High maintenance cost: steel in its nature is highly susceptible to corrosion when exposed to water and oxygen.
  • Steel is not flexible: steel is only found in standard sizes and shapes which cannot be easily modified.
Disadvantages Of Aluminum
Disadvantages Of Aluminum
  • Aluminum is very costly: aluminum raw materials are very expensive compared to any other materials.
  • Aluminum is not stronger as steel. Some of the parts of aluminum when exposed too much could result to wear and tear.

Applications Of Aluminum Vs Steel

Applications Of Steel
Applications Of Steel

Steel comes in different forms with different characteristics thus providing a wide range of usage. Applications of steel alloy include;

  • Automotive industry
  • Mechanical equipment
  • Electrical equipment
  • Production of different metal products
  • Domestic appliances
  • Building constructions and infrastructures
Applications Of Aluminum
Applications Of Aluminum

Aluminum has different properties which result in different usage. The following are the applications of aluminum;

  • Building and architecture
  • Marine application
  • Packaging industries
  • Foils
  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Military fields
  • Shipbuilding industries
  • Production of spacecraft components
  • Production of electric consumer goods
  • Production of beverage bottles and cans
  • Production of consumable products.

Steel Surface Finishes

Matte Finishes
Matte Finishes

Matte finish retains the original appearance even after processing. It’s dull in appearance.

Brushed Finishes
Brushed Finishes

Brushed finish results in a unique look which have a pattern of parallel lines and muted lusters.

Mirror Finishes
Mirror Finishes

Mirror finish is most common in stainless steel which creates a very reflective surface.

Aluminum Surface Finishes

Mill Finish
Mill Finish

Mill finish is the finish that Aluminum comes with after milling. This Aluminum is in its original form and does not require chemical finishes.

Painted Finish
Painted Finish

The common type of painted finish is powder paint which improves the overall appearance of Aluminum.

Polished Finish
Polished Finish

It involves a mechanical abrasive process that results in a bright surface. Also it reduces product adhesion.

People Also Ask:

Is Aluminum Stronger Than Steel?

When it comes to the strength of these two alloys, steel is stronger than aluminum. Steel is preferred for most automotive.

Is Steel More Expensive Than Steel?

Steel is relatively cheaper compared to aluminum. Raw materials used in steel are cheaper compared to those of aluminum.

Does Aluminum Rust?

Aluminum does not rust. It does not contain iron elements that result in oxidation. This makes aluminum safe from rusting

More Resources:

Stainless Steel Fabrication

Mild Steel Fabrication

Aluminum Fabrication

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