When it comes to metal fabrication, there are a variety of materials that can be used. Two of the most popular options are aluminium and stainless steel. But what’s the difference between these two materials?
Both aluminium and stainless steel are known for their durability, malleability, and resistance to corrosion. However, aluminium is a soft, lightweight metal that is extremely malleable, while stainless steel, on the other hand, is a strong, durable metal which is harder to work with.
But what are the key differences between these two materials? Let’s take a closer look.
What is the Difference Between Aluminium and Stainless Steel?
Aluminium is a soft, lightweight metal that is highly corrosion resistant. It is also extremely malleable, making it ideal for applications where complex shapes are required. Being corrosion-resistant, aluminium is a good choice for outdoor applications.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, is a strong metal that is more difficult to work with. It is less malleable than aluminium, meaning it is not always the best choice for applications where intricate shapes are needed. However, stainless steel is more resistant to rust and corrosion, making it a good choice for food-grade applications.
When deciding between aluminium and stainless steel for your next project, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each material.
Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits and drawbacks of each:
- Easy to work with
- Corrosion-resistant but susceptible to saltwater
- Can be recycled endlessly without losing any of its properties
- Stronger than aluminium
- Less likely to corrode than aluminium
- More difficult to work with than aluminium
So, which one should you choose? It really depends on your specific project needs. If you need a lightweight or recycled material, then aluminium might be the better choice. If you’re looking for something that is stronger or less likely to corrode, then stainless steel could be the right option for you.
Let’s take a look at these two materials in more detail.
What is Aluminium?
Aluminium is a lightweight, silver-grey metal that is both ductile and malleable. It can be found in all kinds of everyday items such as cans, foil, window frames, aircraft parts and car wheels. Aluminium has many desirable properties such as being strong yet lightweight, corrosion-resistant and non-magnetic.
Some of the key properties of aluminium include:
- Lightweight – Aluminium is around 1/3 the weight of steel, making it much easier to transport and work with.
- Malleable – Aluminium can be easily formed into a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Corrosion resistant – Aluminium has a natural oxide layer that protects it from corrosion.
- Versatile – Due to its combination of strength, durability, and corrosion resistance, aluminium can be used in a wide range of industries and applications.
Aluminium also has a number of benefits that make it an ideal choice for metal fabrication projects. These benefits include:
- Easy to weld – Aluminium is easy to weld using standard welding equipment.
- Corrosion resistance – When properly welded, aluminium provides superior corrosion resistance compared to many other metals such as steel.
- Increased strength – Welded aluminium is stronger than unwelded aluminium due to the formation of the oxide layer.
- Reduced weight – The lighter weight of aluminium reduces welding distortion and makes it easier to handle during the welding process.
- Non-magnetic – Aluminium is non-magnetic, making it ideal for use in electronic equipment and other sensitive applications.
If you’re looking for a metal that is lightweight, strong, durable, and easy to work with, then aluminium is the perfect choice for your next project. Aluminum’s versatility means that it can be used in a wide range of industries including construction, automotive, aerospace, and more. Aluminium can also be anodised or powder coated.
What is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is a popular type of steel that’s highly corrosion-resistant, strong, durable and easy to maintain. This makes it ideal for a range of uses from industrial projects to kitchen items.
Stainless steel has been around since the early 1900s and is one of the most popular metals for manufacturing today.
Here are some of the properties of stainless steel that make it the perfect choice for projects in Australia.
- Durable and Long Lasting – One of the most important properties of stainless steel is its durability. This material is designed to withstand corrosion, rust, and other deterioration. Additionally, it is also heat resistant, making it ideal for use in a variety of applications.
- Easy to Maintain – Another great property of stainless steel is that it is easy to maintain. This material does not require painting or other special treatments. Additionally, it is also easy to clean, which makes it ideal for use in areas that need to be sanitary.
- Aesthetically Pleasing – In addition to its functional properties, stainless steel also has a modern look that can enhance the aesthetic of any project. This material comes in a variety of finishes, so you can find the perfect look for your project. Additionally, it can be polished to a high shine, providing a sleek look that will never go out of style.
If you are looking for a durable, long lasting, and easy to maintain material for your next project, stainless steel is the perfect choice. This versatile material can be used in a variety of applications and comes in a variety of finishes to suit any aesthetic.
Aluminium vs Stainless Steel: Which is Best for My Project?
So what are the key differences between these two popular fabrication materials? Let’s take a look:
- Aluminium is much lighter than stainless steel, making it ideal for applications where weight is a factor.
- Stainless steel is more corrosion resistant than aluminium when exposed to moisture or salt water, as it’s non-porous.
- Stainless steel is stronger than aluminium, making it the best choice for applications where high levels of strength are required.
- Stainless steel is less malleable than aluminium, meaning it cannot be shaped into as many complex designs.
- Aluminium costs less than stainless steel, making it the more budget-friendly option for most projects.
Aluminium vs Stainless Steel: Properties
When it comes to stainless steel, its main benefits include corrosion resistance, high strength-to-weight ratio, and low maintenance. Additionally, stainless steel is resistant to heat and wear-and-tear due to its high chromium content. It also has a long lifespan, which means it requires less frequent repairs or replacements than other metals.
Aluminium is another popular choice for many applications due to its lightweight properties and the fact that it can be readily formed into any desired shape. It is also highly resistant to corrosion and has good electrical conductivity properties. Aluminium’s malleability makes it an ideal choice for applications that require intricate designs or tight tolerances. Additionally, aluminium has superior strength-to-weight ratio compared to other metals, making it suitable for use in a variety of applications.
Aluminium vs Stainless Steel: Applications
Stainless steel is often used for things like kitchenware and medical equipment because of its durability and resistance to corrosion, while aluminium is a popular choice for items such as window frames and vehicle parts due to its light weight and cost-effectiveness.
Both metals have excellent heat resistance, making them ideal for applications such as cooking utensils, industrial machinery, and automotive components. Additionally, stainless steel’s high-shine finish makes it attractive for decorative applications such as sculpture or jewellery.
Aluminium vs Stainless Steel: Corrosion Resistance
Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant material and commonly used in the automotive, aerospace, and construction industries. However, it can rust if weathering compromises the protective chromium layer.
Aluminium does not rust and is corrosion-resistant, but it is prone to corrosion when exposed to saltwater or air containing acidic pollutants.
When it comes to corrosion resistance, stainless steel is usually more resistant than aluminium. This is because stainless steel contains chromium which forms an oxide layer over the metal surface and prevents further oxidation. Aluminium, on the other hand, does not contain this protective layer and has a greater affinity for oxygen.
Aluminium vs Stainless Steel: Cost
Aluminium is a cheaper option than stainless steel, but it is not as durable. It can dent easily, and it doesn’t conduct heat as well as stainless steel. Stainless steel is more expensive, but it is much more durable and conducts heat better than aluminium. It is also rustproof and can withstand higher temperatures.
So there you have it—a quick overview of the key differences between aluminium and stainless steel. As you can see, each material has its own unique set of benefits that make it better suited for certain applications than others. When choosing a material for your next metal fabrication project, be sure to keep these key points in mind so you can choose the best option for your needs.
This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. Kanyana Engineering does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. Always seek specific advice on your metal fabrication project to ensure all variables are taken into consideration.
Graham Dawe is the Managing Director and Works Manager of Kanyana Engineering. With decades of experience in the metal fabrication industry, he is dedicated to keeping Kanyana at the forefront of the sector’s technological growth. Looking beyond the process itself to holistic, integrated CAD, CAM and MRP solutions, Graham believes Australian manufacturing has an enduring place on the global stage. In Kanyana Engineering’s state-of-the-art workshop in Mandurah, WA, Graham delivers an exceptional standard of work for commercial, industrial and government clients alike.