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Aluminium is the most commonly used and commercially available metal. It’s light weight and high strength-to-weight ratio make it a good choice for everything from aircraft to flashlights to jigs to just about anything else you can make out of metal. Pure aluminium, primarily seen in the 1xxx series of wrought aluminium alloys, has little strength, but possesses high electrical conductivity, reflectivity, and corrosion resistance. So a wide variety of aluminium alloys have been developed.

aluminium is a silverish white metal that has a strong resistance to corrosion and like gold, is rather malleable. It is a relatively light metal compared to metals such as steel, nickel, brass, and copper with a specific gravity of 2.7. aluminium is easily machinable and can have a wide variety of surface finish. It also has good electrical and thermal conductivities and is highly reflective to heat and light. At extremely high temperatures (200-250°C) aluminium alloys tend to lose some of their strength. However, at subzero temperature, their strength increases while retaining their ductility, making aluminium an extremely useful low-temperature alloy.

Aluminium alloys have a strong resistance to corrosion which is a result of an oxide skin that forms as a result of reactions with the atmosphere. This corrosive skin protects Aluminium from most chemicals, weathering conditions, and even many acids, however alkaline substances are known to penetrate the protective skin and corrode the metal.

Aluminium also has a rather high electrical conductivity, making it useful as a conductor. Copper is the more widely used conductor, having a conductivity of approximately 161% that of Aluminium. Aluminium connectors have a tendency to become loosened after repeated usage leading to arcing and fire, which requires extra precaution and special design when using Aluminium wiring in buildings.

Aluminium is a very versatile metal and can be cast in any form known. It can be rolled, stamped, drawn, spun, roll-formed, hammered and forged. The metal can be extruded into a variety of shapes, and can be turned, milled, and bored in the machining process. Aluminium can riveted, welded, brazed, or resin bonded. For most applications, Aluminium needs no protective coating as it can be finished to look good, however it is often anodized to improve color and strength.

1100 | 3003 | 5005 | 5052 | 5083 | 5086 | 5454 | 2011 | 2024 | 6061 | 6101 | 6063 | 6262 | 7075 | Aluminium | Aluminium Tempers | CEN Identification | Pure Aluminium | Work Hardening | Heat Treatable | Mechanical Properties of Aluminium Alloys | Physical Properties of Aluminium Alloys Aluminium Alloys Chemical Composition | Specifications Standard | Aluminum Corrosion Resistance for Plate-Fin Heat Exchangers | Aluminium Tubing strength for Mechanics | Aluminium Alloys Comparison Table | Aluminium Density Specific Gravity

Non Heat Treatable Alloys

1100 – Commercially pure aluminum. Excellent corrosion resistance, workability and weldability.  14,000 to 24,000 psi .

3003 – Alloyed with 1,2% manganese.  Very Good workability, weldability and corrosion resistance. Tensile strength range 17,000 to 30,000 psi .

5005 – Alloyed with .8% magnesium. Excellent workability, weldability and corrosion resistance. Tensile strength range 18,000 to 30,000 psi .

5052 – Alloyed with 2.5% magnesium. Very good corrosion resistance, good workability, weldability and strength. Tensile strength between 31,000 to 44,000 psi.

5083 – Alloyed with 4.45% magnesium, .65 % manganese and .15% chromium. Excellent weldability, light weight and good = corrosion resistanceTensile strength between 40,000 to 59,000 psi .

5086 – Alloyed with 4.0% magnesium, .45% manganese and .15% chromium. Very good corrosion resistance, good workability. Tensile strength between 40,000 to 54,000 psi.

5454 – Alloyed with 2.7% magnesium, 0.8% manganese and 0.12% chromium. Good formability, weldability and corrosion resistance. Often used for pressure vessels. Tensile strength between 36,000 to 47,000 psi.

Heat Treatable Alloys

2011– is the most machinable of the commonly available aluminum alloys.

2024 – Alloyed with 4.5% copper. Fair workability and corrosion resistance. Used for structural applications.  Tensile strength between 30,000 to 63,000 psi.

6061 – alloyed with 1.0% magnesium and 0.6% silicon.  Good formability, weldability and corrosion resistance.  Very good machine-ability.  Yield between 7,000 to 39,000 psi.

6101 is best suited for applications involving moderate strength and maximum electrical conductivity.

6063 – Good Formability, often called architectural aluminum

6262 was designed as an aluminum alloy for operations where significant machining is required.

7075 – Alloyed with zinc, magnesium, copper and chromium.  Poor formability, good machine ability.  Yield between 32,000 and 76,000 psi.

The properties of aluminum that contribute to its widespread use are:

  • Aluminum is light; its density is only one-third that of steel.
  • Aluminum is resistant to weather, common atmospheric gases, and a wide range of liquids.
  • Aluminum can be used in contact with a wide range of foodstuffs.
  • Aluminum has a high reflectivity and, as a result, is employed in a number of decorative applications.
  • Aluminum alloys can equal or even exceed the strength of normal construction steel.
  • Aluminum has high elasticity, which is an advantage in structures under shock loads.
  • Aluminum keeps its toughness down to very low temperatures, without becoming brittle like carbon steel.
  • Aluminum is easily worked and formed; it can be rolled to very thin gauge.
  • Aluminum conducts electricity and heat nearly as well as copper.

Pure aluminium is soft, ductile, corrosion resistant and has a high electrical conductivity, see Table 1. In consequence it is widely used for foil and conductor cables, but alloying with other elements is necessary to provide the higher strengths needed for other applications.

Table 1. Typical properties for aluminium

PropertyValue
Atomic Number13
Atomic Weight (g/mol)26.98
Valency3
Crystal StructureFace centred cubic
Melting Point (°C)660.2
Boiling Point (°C)2480
Mean Specific Heat (0-100°C) (cal/g.°C)0.219
Thermal Conductivity (0-100°C) (cal/cms. °C)0.57
Co-Efficient of Linear Expansion (0-100°C) (x10-6/°C)23.5
Electrical Resistivity at 20°C (µΩcm)2.69
Density (g/cm3)2.6898
Modulus of Elasticity (GPa)68.3
Poissons Ratio0.34

Designations for Wrought and Cast Aluminium Alloys

The main alloying elements are copper, zinc, magnesium, silicon, manganese and lithium. Small additions of chromium, titanium, zirconium, lead, bismuth and nickel are also made and iron is invariably present in small quantities. There are over 300 wrought alloys with 50 in common use. They are normally identified by a four figure system which originated in the USA and is now universally accepted. Table 2 describes the system for wrought alloys. Cast alloys have similar designations and use a five digit system (table 2). Table 3 lists the designations, characteristics, common uses and forms of some widely used alloys.

Table 2. Designations for alloyed wrought and cast aluminium alloys.

Major Alloying ElementWroughtCast
None (99%+ Aluminium)1XXX1XXX0
Copper2XXX2XXX0
Manganese3XXX
Silicon4XXX4XXX0
Magnesium5XXX5XXX0
Magnesium + Silicon6XXX6XXX0
Zinc7XXX7XXX0
Lithium8XXX
Unused9XXX0

Table 3. Some common aluminium alloys, their characteristics and common uses.

AlloyCharacteristicsCommon UsesForm
1050/1200Good formability, weldability and corrosion resistanceFood and chemical industry.S,P
2014AHeat treatable.High strength.Non-weldable.Poor corrosion reistance.Airframes.E,P
3103/3003Non-heat treatable.Medium strength work hardening alloy.Good weldability, formability and corrosion resistance.Vehicle panelling, structures exposed to marine atmospsheres, mine cages.S,P,E
5251/5052Non-heat treatable.Medium strength work hardening alloy.Good weldability, formability and corrosion resistance.Vehicle panelling, structures exposed to marine atmospsheres, mine cages.S,P
5454*Non-heat treatable.Used at temperatures from 65-200°C.Good weldability and corrosion resistance.Pressure vessels and road tankers. Transport of ammonium nitrate, petroleum.Chemical plants.S,P
5083*/5182Non-heat treatable.Good weldability and corrosion resistance.Very resistant to sea water, industrial atmospheres.A superior alloy for cryogenic use (in annealed condition)Pressure vessels and road transport applications below 65°C.Ship building structure in general.S,P,E
6063*Heat treatable.Medium strength alloy.Good weldability and corrosion resistance.Used for intricate profiles.Architectural extrusions (internal and external), window frames, irrigation pipes.E
6061*/6082*Heat treatable.Medium strength alloy.Good weldability and corrosion resistance.Stressed structural members, bridges, cranes, roof trusses, beer barrels.S,P,E
6005AHeat treatable.Properties very similar to 6082.Preferable as air quenchable, therefore has less distortion problems.Not notch sensitive.Thin walled wide extrusions.E
7020Heat treatable.Age hardens naturally therefore will recover properties in heat affected zone after welding.Susceptible to stress corrosion.Good ballistic deterrent properties.Armoured vehicles, military bridges, motor cycle and bicycle frames.P,E
7075Heat treatable.Very high strength.Non-weldable.Poor corrosion resistance.Airframes.E,P

Where: * = most commonly used alloys, S = sheet, P = plate and E = extrusionsDesignations for Wrought Alloys

These alloys fall into two distinct categories

1. Those which derive their properties from work hardening.
2. Those which depend upon solution heat treatment and age hardening.Work Hardened Aluminium Alloys

The 1000, 3000 and 5000 series alloys have their properties adjusted by cold work, usually by cold rolling.

The properties of these alloys depend upon the degree of cold work and whether any annealing or stabilising thermal treatment follows the cold work. A standardised nomenclature is used to describe these conditions.

It uses a letter, O, F or H followed by one or more numbers. It is presented in summary form in Table 4 and defined in Table 6.

Table 4. Standard nomenclature for work hardened aluminium alloys.

New SymbolDescriptionOld BS
Symbol
OAnnealed, softO
FAs fabricatedM
H12Strain-hardened, quarter hardH2
H14Strain-hardened, half hardH4
H16Strain-hardened, three quarter hardH6
H18Strain-hardened, fully hardH8
H22Strain-hardened, partially annealed quarter hardH2
H24Strain-hardened, partially annealed half hardH4
H26Strain-hardened, partially annealed three quarter hardH6
H28Strain-hardened, partially annealed fully hardH8
H32Strain-hardened and stabilised, quarter hardH2
H34Strain-hardened and stabilised, half hardH4
H36Strain-hardened and stabilised, three quarter hardH6
H38Strain-hardened and stabilised, fully hardH8

Table 5. Explanations of symbols used in table 4.

TermDescription
Cold WorkThe nomenclature denotes the degree of cold work imposed on the metal by using the letter H followed by numbers. The first number indicates how the temper is achieved.
H1xStrain-hardened only to obtain the desired strength without supplementary thermal treatment.
H2xStrain-hardened and partially annealed. These designations apply to products which are strain-hardened more than the desired final amount and then reduced in strength to the desired level by partial annealing. For alloys that age-soften at room temperature, the H2x tempers have the same minimum ultimate tensile strength as the corresponding H3x tempers. For other alloys, the H2x tempers have the same minimum ultimate tensile strength as the corresponding H1x tempers and slightly higher elongation.
H3xStrain-hardened and stabilised. These designations apply to products which are strain-hardened and whose mechanical properties are stabilised either by a low temperature thermal treatment or as a result of heat introduced during fabrication. Stabilisation usually improves ductility. This designation is applicable only to those alloys which, unless stabilised , gradually age soften at room temperature.
H4xH4x Strain-hardened and lacquered or painted. These designations apply to products which are strain-hardened and which may be subjected to some partial annealing during the thermal curing which follows the painting or lacquering operation.
The second number after H indicates the final degree of strain-hardening, number 8 being the hardest normally indicated.
The third digit after H, when used, indicates a variation of a two digit temper. It is used when the degree of control of temper or the mechanical properties or both differ from, but are close to, that (or those) for the two digit H temper designation to which it is added, or when some other characteristic is significantly affected.
The fully soft annealed condition is indicated by the letter O and the `as fabricated’ ie material that has received no subsequent treatment is indicated as F.
To illustrate; it can be seen that 3103-0 denotes a particular aluminium manganese alloy in the annealed, soft condition, whilst 3103-H16 denotes the same alloy strain-hardened to three quarters hard.

To illustrate this, by reference to Tables 2 and 4, we can see that 3103-0 is an aluminium manganese alloy in the soft annealed condition and 3103-H16 is the same alloy three quarters hard.

With the flexibility of compositions, degree of cold work and variation of annealing and temperature a wide range of mechanical properties can be achieved especially in sheet products.Solution Heat Treated and Age Hardened Aluminium Alloys

The 2000, 4000, 6000, 7000 and 8000 series alloys respond in this way.

The wide choice of alloy compositions, solution heat treatment temperatures and times, quench rates from temperature, choice of artificial ageing treatment and degree to which the final product has been deformed permit a wide range of properties to be achieved. A system of standard designations is used, based upon the letter T followed a number after the alloy designation, to describe the various conditions. These are defined in Table 6.

Table 6. Definition of heat treatment designations for aluminium and aluminium alloys.

TermDescription
T1Cooled from an elevated temperature shaping process and naturally aged to a substantially stable condition.
This designation applies to products which are not cold worked after cooling from an elevated temperature shaping process, or in which the effect of cold work in flattening or straightening has no effect on mechanical properties
T2Cooled from an elevated temperature shaping process, cold worked and naturally aged to a substantially stable condition.
This designation applies to products which are cold worked to improve strength after cooling from an elevated temperature shaping process, or in which the effect of cold work in flattening or straightening does have an effect on mechanical properties.
T3Solution heat-treated, cold worked and naturally aged to a substantially stable condition.
This designation applies to products which are cold worked to improve strength after solution heat-treatment, or in which the effect of cold work in flattening or straightening does have an effect on mechanical properties.
T4Solution heat-treated and naturally aged to a substantially stable condition.
This designation applies to products which are not cold worked after solution heat-treatment, or in which the effect of cold work in flattening or straightening does not effect mechanical properties.
T5Cooled from an elevated temperature shaping process and then artificially aged.
This designation applies to products which are not cold worked after cooling from an elevated temperature shaping process, or in which the effect of cold work in flattening or straightening does not effect mechanical properties.
T6Solution heat-treated and then artificially aged.
This designation applies to products which are not cold worked after solution heat-treatment, or in which the effect of cold work in flattening or straightening does not effect mechanical properties.
T7T7 Solution heat-treated and overaged/stabilised
This designation applies to products which are artificially aged after solution heat-treatment to carry them beyond a point of maximum strength to provide control of some significant characteristic other than mechanical properties.