Aluminum has had a long tradition of being a key material in the making of furniture. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this amazing metal. Ever since it first became commercially viable in the early 20th century, it has transformed every industry imaginable, from aerospace to communications. This includes furniture thanks to aluminum being economical, strong and aesthetically pleasing.
Modern designers and architects have relied on aluminum from the early days after it first became available. Skyscrapers were fitted with aluminum to give these buildings a clean and sleek appearance. The first transcontinental aircraft were made with aluminum, while the automotive and other transportation industries developed more quickly thanks to aluminum.
Today, aluminum can also be found in window frames, building facades, fixtures, and support beams. This wonder metal even played a key role in the advent of the art deco movement, so it should be little surprise that aluminum would be popular in the design and manufacture of furniture.
In this post, we will examine the many reasons why aluminum is so popular in the furniture industry and provide information that may be helpful next time you need to select a material for your application.
Aluminum is strong but lightweight
Most people do not realize just how strong aluminum is. That is because the most common uses of aluminum, such as foil or beverage cans, are relatively easy to deform. The truth is that aluminum is one of the strongest of the readily available metals. In fact, compared to steel on a pound for pound basis, aluminum is stronger. While steel is denser than aluminum by about 2.5 times, this means it is also much heavier. Meanwhile, typical aluminum that has the same strength as steel will weigh anywhere from 35% to 45% less than steel.
This ability to be both strong and lightweight is obviously a very desirable trait for furniture. Manufacturers and consumers want their products to be durable but being lightweight is also a big advantage. Portability in home and office furnishings is a valuable asset.
But being lightweight isn’t just a benefit for the end consumer. The lighter your furniture is, the easier and more affordable it is to ship it from factory to store, and from store to its end destination. That kind of transportation cost savings can be the difference between making a profit and being unable to compete in the marketplace.
Aluminum is also quite durable. In fact, you will find aluminum used in military vehicles, body armor, aircraft and automobiles. If it is safe enough for these critical industries, it’s going to hold up under everyday use in the home and workplace.
Aluminum is extremely flexible
Another key feature of aluminum is how versatile it is. For designers, the ability to extrude or cast material into any shape or design is obviously highly desirable. Custom extruded profiles have long been a primary component in contemporary furniture design. It is also less expensive to work with than other harder, less formable metals like steel.
This is an important trait when manufacturing furniture. Unlike many other products, furniture has a strong aesthetic component. Consumers want furniture that will match the style of their homes and offices, meaning manufacturers need to be creative.
Aluminum will also be used as a component in furniture that may be primarily made from another material. It can enhance, offset and balance the texture and appeal of other materials such as wood, glass or leather. These parts will normally need to be made to exact specifications; easily achieved with aluminum.
Aluminum is corrosion resistant
Another aspect of durability is the ability to withstand corrosion. Aluminum alloys have a natural corrosion resistance that can then be increased with the right alloying agents. Ordinary metals will rust over time and exposure to corrosive elements found in marine environments, food and beverage establishments, health care facilities and even the office and home. This is less of an issue with aluminum.
For instance, let us say you want to buy outdoor furnishings for a residence or workplace in a coastal marine environment. You need a material that will survive fluctuations in weather, but there is also the saltwater factor. Most metals, including carbon steels, will not last long under such conditions. But aluminum alloys, thanks to their passivation ability, can not only survive, but retain their appearance.
This special layer is self-healing, meaning that if your furniture is scratched or bumped, the oxide layer will re-form itself, maintaining its corrosion resistance. Outdoor furniture will often be nicked or scratched in ordinary use, so this extra level of protection is very beneficial.
Aluminum furniture looks good
Aluminum alloys have a modern sleek appearance, making it an excellent choice for furniture. Aluminum is suitable for both high quality, high-end furniture and more affordable options; because of its natural appearance and high formability, designers have a lot of alternatives for their products. A wide variety of surface finishes are available: polished, brushed, matte and even the as-supplied mill finishes all have a place in the design studio.
Of course, aluminum also takes well to all kinds of coatings and paints, so you are not limited to a metallic appearance. There is an added benefit with many of these coatings because they can add a further layer of protection to the metal, increasing their durability. The anodizing industry has developed a wide variety of colors to adapt to changing trends in the furniture market: copper and bronze tints that look aged with patina, clear and bright-dipped finishes, even processes that mimic the appearance of stainless steel. All of these add value to aluminum as a primary component in the furniture industry.
Your Professional Services Provider
At Clinton Aluminum, we understand the importance of selecting the most suitable material for your application. Our team of knowledgeable and dedicated technical professionals is committed to working with our clients to find just the right alloy. We know getting it right the first time can make the difference between success and failure.
To learn more about our aluminum alloy options, contact one of our friendly customer service representatives today.