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Aluminum Uses in Road Barriers and Signs

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We see them everywhere, but how often do we actually think about them?  Unless you are a manufacturer who’s actually involved with creating the signs and road barriers that line our roads and highways, it’s unlikely that you spend much time considering how they are made or what they are made of.  These signs and barriers are important elements of road safety and help ensure the hazard-free movement of motor vehicle traffic on a daily basis.

Would it surprise you to learn that many of these barriers are made from aluminum alloys?  While it might seem like aluminum is too flimsy to provide adequate protection in roadside barriers, the truth is that high performance aluminum alloys have a tremendous strength-to-weight ratio that can often exceed that of carbon steel and other materials. That’s not to mention the many other benefits that aluminum offers.

If you are looking for a solution to your road barrier or road sign application, Clinton Aluminum can help.  As the Midwest’s leading processor of aluminum plate products, our sales professionals have the experience to assist you at every step of the supply stream, from material selection for both prototyping and production to supplying valuable fabrication and processing data.  Contact us today to learn more.

Why is aluminum a great choice for roadside barriers?

Roadside barriers (also known as guardrails, traffic barriers and crash barriers) help to stop motor vehicles from colliding with dangerous obstacles, crossing onto steep slopes and precipitous declines, or entering water.  They can also be used to divide opposing traffic roadways, block off construction zones, prevent entry into pedestrian walkways and more.

These barriers can be made from many different materials depending on their application; they include concrete, steel, stainless steel, plastic, composite materials and more.  In recent years aluminum has increasingly become an indispensable material for roadside barriers due to its many beneficial properties.

Aluminum is widely celebrated for its remarkably low density, which lends the material a high strength-to-weight ratio.  This is an important consideration for many engineering projects.  Not only is an aluminum barrier itself able to maintain tremendous strength at a low weight, it also makes shipping and storing the aluminum barriers much easier during construction.

Another benefit is aluminum’s amazing corrosion resistance.  This is an important consideration as barriers are exposed to the elements throughout their lifetime.  These include rain, snow and salt as well as toxic substances such as oil and gasoline which can build up on roadways over time.  Aluminum alloys have an inherent ability to resist corrosion thanks to the thick layer of aluminum oxide that helps protect the metal.

Other advantages of aluminum include the fact that it has a highly reflective surface, an important property for a roadside barrier.  It is also durable, easy to fabricate, increases strength in cold environments, non-toxic, recyclable and has a pleasing aesthetic appearance.

For example, aluminum barriers are becoming a popular choice for modern bridges. One of the primary reasons is aluminum’s light weight, an important consideration for engineers when designing a bridge.  For bridges located in coastal areas, corrosion resistance becomes extremely important as the bridge will constantly be exposed to salt water over its lifetime.  Likewise, in cold climates, bridges may need to be salted every winter.  Aluminum is able to meet both these important demands.  In fact, modern aluminum barriers are often rated with a longer lifespan than the bridge itself.

Even when another material is used for the barrier, aluminum is often necessary for brackets or other components used to hold the barrier in place.  Aluminum, because of its formability, can easily be fabricated into whatever shape is called for.

Aluminum is also a good option for other barriers as well

Traffic guards aren’t the only kind of barriers made from aluminum.  For instance, portable barriers and guardrails frequently use aluminum because mobility is a key consideration.  The stage barriers used in many concerts, parades and other events also rely on aluminum.  Due to the metal’s light weight it’s possible to create strong but mobile barriers that can be located anywhere.

With climate change becoming an important concern the need for flood barriers is on the rise.  The use of aluminum in flood protection systems allows them to be highly customizable at an affordable price point.  Other types of barriers and dividers include crowd control barriers, boom barriers, handrails, toll plaza barriers and more.

Road signs can also benefit from using aluminum

Another common application for aluminum alloys is roadside signs.  Because they are lightweight but extremely durable, aluminum signs are able to last a long time. Government issued signs for interstates and highways in all 50 states must meet certain requirements for hardness that aluminum can fulfill.  In addition, aluminum’s metallic surface maintains its high reflexivity even when painted.

For many years, the most popular material for traffic signs has been 5052-H38 due to its high tensile strength, which helps it resist vandalism.  Moreover, its high magnesium content gives it superior corrosion resistance, very important in coastal regions and cold climates.

In recent years several other aluminum alloys have become popular for roadside signs including 5052-H36, 3004-H38, 3105-H18 and 6061-T6.

Summary

Whether you are looking at aluminum for roadside barriers or traffic signs, Clinton Aluminum is here to help.  Our goal is to be more than just a supplier, but to act as a true partner to our customers along every step of the production process.  We pride ourselves on our ability to help manufacturers find the right material for their application.

Because our staff averages nearly 13 years of experience working at Clinton, we’re in a good position to help answer many of your material questions.  Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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