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Aluminum is a dream material for many prototyping and end-use applications. It ticks all the right boxes for strength, light weight, resistance to corrosion and tolerance for heat. It is commonly used for a wide range of products including automotive parts, aerospace components, boat and marine equipment, consumer electronics and industrial machinery. It is also popular for forming complex and custom shapes in CNC machining processes.
Alloys of aluminium are made up of different levels of other metals like copper, zinc and chromium to tailor the alloys properties. The resulting mix will have a huge impact on how the final part performs and behaves. For example, a highly ductile, soft and malleable alloy may not be as strong or resistant to corrosion as one that is more brittle, harder or has higher tensile strengths.
Machinists choose the alloy to use based on a number of factors, which include the location and environment where the part will be used, its tolerance for corrosion and the strength requirements it must meet. The alloy chosen will also depend on the degree to which it is to be weldable or if its tensile strength must remain high over a large range of temperatures.
For example, 6061 and 7075 aluminium alloys are very common in construction applications as non-load-bearing framing. They have excellent workability and can be anodised to produce beautiful, glossy finishes. Alloys of this type are also good choices for making electrical casings because of their high conductivity properties.