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Aluminum Uses In Transportation


Aluminum is an amazing metal, one that has had a transformative effect on just about every industry in our global economy. This is especially true of transportation; if you’re using a vehicle to get from one place to another aluminum played some role in making it possible.

Ever since it was first commercialized in the early twentieth century, aluminum has impacted the ways people live, work, eat and travel.  It’s become so popular that you might think we’d be in danger of a shortage.  Not only is aluminum the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, it is also 100% recyclable, meaning that there is plenty of this wonder material available.

With more and more attention being paid to climate change and rising greenhouse gas levels, the transportation industry is facing increased scrutiny for its impact on global warming.  That’s why manufacturers are looking to lightweight, efficient and clean solutions to make transportation more sustainable.  Aluminum content in the transportation industry is only going to increase with time.

Your car depends on aluminum

The average person might be surprised to learn how much aluminum is in their car and truck.  This is because the first thing most people consider of when they think of aluminum is beverage cans or aluminum foil, both of which are extremely light and easy to crush. That doesn’t seem like the kind of material you want your vehicle to be made from.

But the truth is that the same properties that make aluminum suitable for cans are why it’s an ideal solution for modern transportation.  Aluminum is celebrated by manufacturers and designers for having a high strength to weight ratio, excellent corrosion resistance and outstanding durability.  All of these are highly sought-after traits in the automotive industry.

Compared to steel, aluminum offers up to a 50 percent weight reduction without sacrificing significant strength.  Aluminum also has impact resistance, able to absorb twice as much kinetic energy in a crash.  The ability to maintain the same (or even greater) level of safety while reducing the weight by half is what makes aluminum a primary material for most automobile companies.  A lighter car is a more fuel efficient car; this allows many of the key systems in a vehicle, including the engine, transmission, suspension, etc. to be reduced in weight.  Today, everything from engine blocks to wheels are likely made from aluminum.

Modern flight was made possible thanks to aluminum

In the same way that aluminum is ideal for cars and trucks because of its superior combination of strength and light weight, it’s also an essential material for the manufacture of airplanes as well.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that modern air travel wouldn’t be possible with out a cheap and steady supply of aluminum. Aluminum and air travel go so far back together that aluminum was used in the early Zeppelin airships of the late 1800’s, well before the first airplane was even invented.

Today, a typical airframe of a modern airplane is eighty percent aluminum.  The fuselage, wing and supporting structures of commercial aircraft are likely made of aluminum, the reason for their shiny, metallic appearance.  Another tremendous benefit of aluminum is its excellent formability, which is why many of the machined parts and the complex shapes found on airplanes are usually made of aluminum.

While many different alloys might be found in an aircraft, only one is known as the aircraft alloy: 2024.  Primarily alloyed with copper, it is famous for its high strength to weight ratio and good fatigue resistance.  It is commonly found in the wing and fuselage.  Other common alloys in aircraft are 6061, 7075, 3003, and 5052.

Beyond airplanes, modern rockets and spacecraft also rely on aluminum.  Getting off the ground is hard enough, but leaving the Earth’s atmosphere requires even greater thrust, so every ounce that can be reduced in a spacecraft helps to save money and fuel.  This makes high performance aluminum alloys even more essential.  All the way back to the Apollo program, aluminum has been prized for its ability to withstand the considerable stresses of launch and reentry.

Public transportation is using aluminum to become even more efficient

Public transportation is intended to operate as efficiently as possible.  What better material to accomplish this than aluminum?  The metal helps to solve many of the challenges posed by modern transportation, helping to make nearly every form of travel cheaper and more efficient, including buses, trains, subways, ferries and even the latest trend, public scooters.  Lighter weight materials help reduce fuel and energy consumption, while also lowering the demand for raw materials.

Aluminum’s strength and lower weight also help make public transportation safer. For example, a lighter vehicle can brake more quickly.  It can be extruded to reduce the number of joints in a vehicle, helping to boost the overall rigidity of a structure.  Another consideration is aluminum’s corrosion resistance, adding to the material’s durability and lengthening the life cycle of the vehicle.

Even your bicycle is made with aluminum

Anyone who’s had to carry a bicycle up a flight of stairs knows that the lighter it is, the better.  The cost of a bicycle is most often determined by what material the frame is made from; the lighter it is, the more expensive it’s likely to be.  Aluminum frames are very common.  Many of the other metal components, such as the gears, chain and spokes, are frequently made with aluminum.

As you can see, if you’re working in the transportation industry, then you’re almost certain to encounter aluminum.  That’s why you want to partner with a material supplier who has a proven track record of success.  At Clinton Aluminum, we pride ourselves on being more than just a supplier.  Our goal is to be a true partner, helping our clients find just the right alloy for every job, even if we have to recommend an alloy that we don’t carry.

With our team of committed sales professionals who have an average 13 years of service with the company, we’re able to offer you the highest level of customer satisfaction. Contact us today to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff.


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