Choose Steel or Aluminum?
Steel and Aluminum
Steel and aluminum each have their respective markets in product applications, but in recent years, as the issue of carbon emissions has become increasingly prominent, many equipment and products have gradually switched to lighter aluminum products to replace parts originally made of steel. However, there are some key differences between these two metals. Let us compare some of the most important physical properties of steel and aluminum.
In the case of the same material and the same volume, the weight of steel is about three times that of aluminum, as the source of steel's strength comes at the expense of its higher density. However, due to the advantage of weight, aluminum components can reduce the load of equipment operation, thereby reducing electricity or fuel consumption, increasing equipment efficiency, and reducing carbon emissions.
Strength is one of the mechanical properties that need to be considered first according to the future use of the workpiece, especially in high-strength applications. Normally, steel is stronger than aluminum. But, if you want to achieve a lighter weight, the strength of the same weight steel is lower than that of aluminum. Therefore, in product design, materials should be chosen based on the purpose of different components. For example, for larger components that need to reduce weight, aluminum materials can be used to replace the original steel materials.
Due to the higher strength of steel, it often requires higher energy consumption (such as electricity and heat) to process it into different shapes. If it is a more complex shape, higher heat energy is needed, which can often cause damage to the mechanical properties. Also, due to high energy consumption, facing future carbon taxes and carbon emissions, the cost will be relatively increased. On the other hand, aluminum is relatively easy to form in cold or hot conditions and is very suitable for processes such as extrusion and forging.
Aluminum has better thermal conductivity than steel and is often used in applications requiring heat dissipation or distribution, such as engine hoods and heat sinks.
General steel has poor corrosion resistance. It is prone to rust and will continue to corrode when exposed to the elements. On the other hand, aluminum forms a protective oxide layer on its surface, acting as an inert barrier to prevent further oxidation. If aluminum is not exposed to an environment that causes it to decompose, it will continue to provide excellent corrosion resistance.
The cost of the material will naturally be an important factor in choosing which metal to use for your project. However, in terms of weight, the price of carbon steel is generally lower than that of aluminum alloy.
Whether to Choose Steel or Aluminum?
The main factors to consider are the required characteristics of your workpiece, how it will be formed, and budget considerations. For example, if strength and durability are the most important attributes for your design, and the shape is not too complex, choosing steel is a better option. On the other hand, if you need better strength without adding too much weight, corrosion resistance, a more unique shape, and need a beautiful surface treatment (anodizing), aluminum might be the better choice.