Uses of Aluminium
Aluminium is used in virtually all segments of our modern life. Some of the many uses for Aluminium are in transportation such as automobiles, airplanes, trucks, rail cars, marine vessels, etc., packaging such as cans, foil, etc., construction such as windows, doors, siding, etc., consumer durable such as appliances, cooking utensils, etc., electrical transmission lines, machinery, and many other applications.
Aluminium is used in hundreds of industries, especially in the fields of transportation, aerospace, packaging, building and construction. The industry directly creates more than 155,000 jobs and is adding more yearly.
Lightweight, durable and infinitely recyclable, Aluminium has become an essential element of daily life. As the sustainable material of choice, its applications span from everyday items like fuel-efficient vehicles, smart phones, zippers, and foil to wiring the nation’s power grid, the apex of the Washington Monument and housing the International Space Station.
Its physical properties enhance its versatility. The metal is lightweight, ductile, malleable, and corrosion resistant and is a good conductor of heat and electricity. Unalloyed Aluminium is soft and has limited strength. The addition of small quantities of alloying elements, such as copper, magnesium, manganese, nickel, silicon, and zinc, can increase the hardness, strength, and other properties of Aluminium. Adding to Aluminium adaptability is the fact that it can be fabricated into desired forms and shapes by every major metalworking technique—cast, rolled, forged, extruded, drawn, or machined.
Aluminium in alloyed and unalloyed forms is suitable for use in a wide variety of products for the consumer and capital goods markets. The largest markets are transportation, packaging, construction, electrical, consumer durable, and machinery and equipment.
The transportation sector, which is the largest single market for Aluminium worldwide, includes the manufacture of automobiles, buses, trailers, ships, railroad and subway cars, as well as aerospace applications and mobile homes. In recent years, Aluminium has made significant inroads into the automotive industry. Its light weight and recyclability have provided the impetus for the increased use of Aluminium to help meet new and more stringent corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFe) standards. The use of Aluminium for truck and automobile engine blocks and cylinder heads, heat exchangers, transmission housings, engine parts, and wheels has increased steadily during the past decade. Aluminium use in some body sheet applications has increased as well.
The International Aluminium Institute has estimated that 90 percent of truck trailers have Aluminium bodies as do long-distance buses and cargo containers. Aluminium components reduce the weight of tractor-trailers, which allows them to reduce fuel costs and to carry a bigger load without exceeding highway weight limits.
The success of the modern commercial aviation industry has depended upon Aluminium. The metal’s combination of lightness, strength, and workability, as well as its abundance and low cost, makes it an ideal material for mass-produced commercial aircraft. Aluminium, which is the primary aircraft material, comprises about 80 percent of an aircraft’s unladen weight. The standard Boeing 747 jumbo jet contains approximately 75,000 kg of Aluminium.
In the United States, Aluminium used by the packaging and container industry in such products as beverage cans, food containers, and household and institutional foil ranked second to transportation in total shipments. The largest single segment of this market is Aluminium beverage cans. As reported by the Can Manufacturers Institute. Beverage cans in the United States are made almost exclusively of Aluminium, because of consumer preference, however, Aluminium faces stiffer competition from steel cans and glass and plastic containers in other areas of the world and, therefore, accounts for a smaller percentage of total average container demand in those countries.
In addition to competition from other materials, the evolution of manufacturing technology has also affected Aluminium demand in the container industry. The first use of Aluminium in beverage containers was the easy-open ring-pull Aluminium ends on tin plate cans. The first all Aluminium can was introduced in the late 1960s.
Aluminium foil is used in containers and packaging for food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Foil is light, strong, flexible, and durable and provides a barrier against light, odor, moisture, and bacteria. The third largest domestic market for Aluminium and the largest market in most other areas of the world is the building and construction industry. An estimated 20 percent of the world’s Aluminium production goes into the building and construction sector principally in the form of sheet and extrusions.
Interior uses include partitions, cast door handles, staircases, and heating and air conditioning systems. Aluminium high strength-to-weight ratio allows architects to meet desired performance specifications while minimizing the load on a building’s support structure. Other advantages are long service life, low maintenance, and design flexibility. Its physical and chemical characteristics, however, make Aluminium suitable for a myriad of other applications, such as transmission wiring, consumer durable, signage, sporting equipment, and cookware.
There are hundreds of Aluminium alloys, or mixes with other metals, on the market. Aluminium alone is light but weak, so other metals are added to give it more muscle.