Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Aluminum

Diane reporting today! You know, the Barenaked Ladies recorded a song called “Aluminum” which begins: “How, in every visible way, you shine / As if the stars in your wake align.”

High praise indeed, and in fact aluminum is an excellent material for machine components, offering many beneficial characteristics.

First let me get the disadvantages of aluminum out of the way, and it is a short list. This metal is more rare and more expensive than steel. It is abrasive to tooling, or more accurately, the aluminum oxide coating that forms upon it is. It is prone to severe spring back. And it requires special processes to be welded.

But those cons aside, aluminum has many useful traits:

● Corrosion-resistant: Aluminum oxidizes quickly, and the resulting surface coat of aluminum oxide resists further corrosion, by air, water, and chemicals. This protective coating is clear, colorless, and non-staining.

● Economical: No, I’m not contradicting myself. Aluminum is still more economical than brass or stainless steel, so is often the best option for non-corrosive applications.

● Lightweight: Aluminum weighs about a third of what steel does. That makes it inexpensive to ship and can also contribute to making a lighter machine when that is desirable.

● Strong: Aluminum has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal.

● Electrically conductive: Aluminum conducts electricity even better than copper.

● Non-magnetic: For applications where magnetism needs to be avoided, aluminum is an excellent choice.

● Colorable: Aluminum can be easily colored by anodization, and holds paint extremely well.

● Recyclable: Aluminum is 100% recyclable without losing any of its natural characteristics.

J.W. Winco’s product line includes many items manufactured of aluminum, a sampling of which you see pictured in this post. Presented here is our ALCK Control Knob, our GN 565.2 Angled Cabinet U-Handle, our GN 322 Two-Spoked Handwheel, and our GN 744 Fluid Level Sight Glass.

These components were fabricated of aluminum to take advantage of its many fine qualities…and you could fairly say of them, in every visible way, they shine!

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