Nowadays manufacturing by machining is one of the most popular tecnologias when we talk about short series, or even uniques, with tight tolerances.
When manufacturing a project it is important to know which manufacturing process suits the best the construction of our piece. In many times, either designers and engineers prefer to use mechanization due to its advantages, such as its high precision, the big amount of geometries that can create, final textures and more.
Nevertheless, although in most situations it is very easy to choose the manufacturing process, not always it is as easy as selecting the material. The most common materials used in mechanization are the aluminum and the steel.
In this blog, we are going to talk about this second material, the aluminium. We are going to see some of its physical properties, and which advantages it has. Moreover, we will comment the uses that it has, and the finishing aspects that we can get..
The aluminium, as we said, its a metal, so it has some characteristics by nature, such as high melting point, some hardness, and good conductivity, either thermal and electrical.
Lets see deeper. The aluminium has a density of 2700 kg/m3 , to have an idea and a point toi compare, the lead has a density of 11340 kg/m3, and for example the steel has 7850 kg/m3.
As we can see, the aluminium is the lighter of the three, which has a lot of advantages. The most relevant thing is his lightness, it brings us the possibility to make pieces much less heavier than the steel, while keeping some hardness, so lighter pieces that will take less space and will create lower loads on other elements.
Another important characteristic is the thermal conductivity, which has a value of 230 W/mk. This value is excellent, only the silver, copper and gold have better thermal conductivity.
This is an incredible advantage to take advantage of when we want to build with aluminium. If we know that our piece has to reach high dissipation temperatures, the aluminium is the best candidate, although it is not the best conductor, his relation quality/price makes him to stay at the top of materials for this case.
On the other hand, the aluminium is a material quite soft to be a metal. This means that when we are mechanazing aluminium all is going to be easier, which will mean lower wear for the blade or for the drill, and at the same time lower mechanizing time. If we compare, we spend only ⅓ of the energy that we would spend when mechanizing a piece of steel instead of aluminium. All this information can be summed up in lower time, lower energy, less money we spend.
Additionally, thanks to its hardness, the blade gets less hot, so it requires less lubrication, which will result in a better finish of the piece, so it is ideal for pieces that will be in a one spot where everybody can see them.
It is important to emphasise in the function that the aluminium does as a structural element. It is normal to not use it for example to build bridges, but it suits perfectly in smaller designs, in concrete combined with plastic.
One industrial sector that uses aluminium everyday is the automotive sector, for designing the car bodywork, and even for taking profit of the high thermal conductivity, and building the engines.
On the other hand, the aluminium suits perfectly in the informatic sector. All the heatsinks, either for graphics cards and CPUs, are made of aluminium.
To finish, the aluminium is ideal to make pieces that will be in contact with water, or with a salad environment, so it is perfect for the nautic sector. Whether we want to build from a nut or a screw, to a stairs.
As we can see, all the aluminium characteristics make him idonial for thousands of projects in many industrial sectors.
As we have seen, the aluminium is an incredible material, however it can be upgraded even more if we apply to it a final finish.
The most common of them is the polished. This finish consists on making a final pass with the tool with a lower velocity to achieve a better aspect of the surface . This makes it perfect to pieces that will be in sight.
Another curious finish to comment is the anodized. With this finish the natural oxide layer gets bigger to make the aluminium hardener. Besides, it brings the option to choose between natural and polished finish, even to choose the color.
One of the most demanded finishes is the Powder Coating. This final finish consists on applying a final layer of dust paint and then to heat it up to cure it. In this way we protect the aluminum while at the same time we customize our project.
The last curious final finish to comment is the electropolished. Consists on a superficial treatment, where metal acts as an anode in an electrolytic cell, dissolving, in a way that the current goes through the material, and as the most rough part of the surface is more concentrated, more current goes through there and it gets dissolved, giving an uniform and smooth finish to the piece. Further, this increments his lifecycle , especially in high stress situations.
The aluminium is one of the most used materials in the mechanizing fabrications thanks to the multiple advantages that we have been talking about in this blog, and because of that, it is as well one of the most used in multiple sectors of the industry.
And if that were not enough, there are final finishes process that can improve even more some of the aluminium characteristics, and even customize it.
Do you wanna start building your own projects with aluminium and discover what are you capable of?