While stainless steel and aluminum have many uses in sheet metal projects, they differ significantly. The main distinguishing factor is that aluminum occurs as a natural element, while stainless steel is a man-made alloy. However, there are a few more key aspects that characterize these metals.
Man-Made vs. Natural Metals
Stainless steel is an alloy made of copper, iron, manganese, nickel, and chromium-oxide. The non-porous characteristics of stainless steel make it more resistant to corrosion and rust.
While aluminum also resists corrosion under normal circumstances, it’s because of its passive layer. This coating consists of aluminum oxide that forms when the metal comes in contact with air or water. As long as the layer remains stable, it protects this element from oxidation. Nonetheless, aluminum can corrode quickly under highly acidic conditions.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Steel is typically stronger than aluminum and can be recycled without losing its durability. Aluminum is lighter than steel by about 60 percent, making steel the ultimate metal of choice for automobile and aircraft bodies. Since stainless steel is so heavy, it’s also durable and unlikely to deform, bend, or warp when exposed to heat, weight, or other forces.
Due to its higher thermal conductivity capabilities, aluminum is ideal for use in air conditioning units and car radiators, although it becomes soft when temperatures exceed 400 degrees. Stainless steel can be used in much hotter environments.
Steel doesn’t conduct electricity very well, but aluminum sheet metal does. That’s why this naturally occurring metal is used in overhead power lines. When you grind aluminum, it doesn’t give off sparks, unlike stainless steel.
Stainless steel resists forming and abrasion, so it’s better for more substantial projects. These commonly include bridges, skyscrapers, computers, major appliances, and roofing projects. The steel industry is the second-largest in the world because of global demand and production costs.
Aluminum is cheaper because it takes less effort and time to manufacture. That’s because it’s more elastic and malleable. These factors make this material ideal for tools and cooking vessels. Strangely enough, this metal can affect the flavor and color of food, but it remains popular in canned-goods manufacturing.
China produces the most steel and aluminum globally. However, the second and third-highest manufacturing countries differ for both. Russia and Canada follow China when it comes to worldwide aluminum production, whereas Japan and India fabricate the second and third-most amounts of steel in the world.
Stainless steel and aluminum are both important metals for a variety of industrial uses. If you require a supply of stainless steel, aluminum, or other high-quality metals, Avion Alloys can provide what you need at a competitive cost. We are a NASA and Lockheed Martin-approved vendor that simplifies the way you buy metals. Call (800) 408-2329 for a free quote.