We often get asked about the difference between wrought and cast aluminum products; this is an important distinction that must be made before purchasing aluminum. In today’s post, we’ll look at these differences and discuss the nature of wrought aluminum and the kind of applications it is well suited for.
Aluminum is an amazing metal that has transformed nearly every industry you can think of since its introduction to manufacturing. Not only is it one of the lightest yet strongest materials known, but it also offers manufacturers and engineers tremendous diversity thanks to the number of alloys available. Even today, new high performance alloys are being introduced to the market every year.
This variety can also be a source of confusion among consumers and the uninformed. Knowing which specific alloy to select is essential to the success of any project and application; with so many options to choose from it’s easy to make a mistake. This is especially true when it comes to distinguishing between wrought products and cast aluminum parts. That’s why we recommend working with an experienced aluminum supplier who understands the industry and can help ensure that you get the right material for your job.
What are the differences between wrought and cast aluminum?
There are two distinct systems for numbering aluminum alloys, and it’s a common mistake to assume these are just two different systems for categorizing aluminum. This is not the case. In fact, there are significant differences between these two types of aluminum and it’s important to understand them.
The numeral system for categorizing aluminum alloys most of us are familiar with is the four-digit numbering system. This is used for classifying wrought aluminum alloys, as well as many cast plate products. In contrast, alloys used in the production of cast parts use a different classification system, and while they also use 4 digits (confusing I know!) there is a decimal between the 3rd and 4th digit. It’s important to note that because the number after the decimal is often zero, it’s common to see cast alloys listed with only three numbers.
For example, 7075 is a common wrought aluminum alloy, while A380 is a popular cast aluminum alloy (with the A indicating a modification to the original alloy).
Wrought aluminum is defined as an alloy that has been subjected to mechanical working by processes such as rolling, extrusion or forging. In contrast, cast aluminum is formed by pouring molten aluminum into a pattern or die. The nature of these two processes means that cast aluminum is made up of larger percentages of the alloying elements. Approximately 85% of aluminum is used in wrought alloys.
What are the advantages of wrought aluminum?
Wrought aluminum is made by smelting ingots of pure aluminum while adding exact amounts of the required alloying elements. The metal is then formed into billets or slabs that can be forged, rolled, or extruded into the desired shape. Depending on the alloy (heat-treatable or non-heat-treatable), it might also be heat treated to enhance its mechanical properties.
Based on the amount of wrought aluminum used in industrial production, there are several advantages when compared to casting aluminum into the desired part. First, because of the casting process, cast aluminum parts tend to have a lower tensile strength and lose some of the natural properties of an alloy. This is due to the casting defects, such as porosity and alloy segregation, that are naturally present.
On the other hand, wrought aluminum tends to retain its mechanical properties because the forming processes performed are mechanical in nature. While cast aluminum is often cheaper and more cost-effective, the lower tensile strength and other drawbacks make it less desirable in many applications.
Among their many advantages, wrought products feature a host of exceptional mechanical properties when compared to cast products. They retain structural integrity more effectively, exhibit superior surface finishes and are better suited to welding, machining and other manufacturing techniques.
What are common applications for wrought aluminum alloys?
Wrought aluminum, because of its pervasiveness in industry and manufacturing, can be found in nearly every type of application you can imagine; this is especially true when high performance alloys are required. For example, in the airline and aerospace industries, wrought aluminum alloys including 7075 and more are prominently featured. Thanks to wrought aluminum’s high strength-to-weight ratio, it is the perfect material for aerospace applications.
In the transportation field, cars and motorcycles rely heavily on aluminum; the light weight of this material increases fuel efficiency while its tremendous strength makes it safe, reliable and durable. Meanwhile, trains and subway cars use aluminum both for its strength and environmental advantages, as well as its aesthetic appearance.
Architecture and construction are other industries that have been transformed by aluminum. Anything that can use extrusions, whether it’s window frames or structural fixtures for the glass spans symbolic of the modern skyscraper, can be made with aluminum alloys.
Other examples of applications that feature wrought aluminum include electrical conductors, cooking utensils and appliances, welding rods, beverage cans, pressure vessels, medical instruments and all manner of electrical devices.
Your Trusted Services Professional
Whether you’re working with cast or wrought aluminum, this modern metal gives manufacturers a tremendous amount of versatility thanks to the many different alloys available on the market. With so many options, selecting the right material and ensuring it meets your quality requirements is extremely important. Finding a trusted and experienced supplier who understands your industry can make all the difference.
At Clinton Aluminum, our dedicated team of sales and operations professionals makes it their top priority to quickly fill your orders, as accurately and conveniently as possible. We are committed to working with our customers through every step of their procurement process and, just as importantly, making sure they always get the right material every time.
For more information about how we can help you with your wrought aluminum alloy needs, contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable customer service representatives today.