The properties of the various aluminium alloys has resulted in aluminium being used in industries as diverse as food preparation, packaging, transport , energy generation, architecture, and electrical transmission applications.
Depending upon the application, aluminium can be used to replace other materials like copper, steel, zinc, tin plate, stainless steel, titanium, wood, paper, concrete and composites.
Some examples of the areas where aluminium is used are given in the following sections
Corrosion resistance and protection against UV light combined with moisture and odour containment plus the fact that aluminium is non-toxic and will not leach or taint the products has resulted in the widespread use of aluminium foils and sheet in food packaging and protection.
The most common use of aluminium for packaging has been in aluminium beverage cans. Aluminium cans now account for around 15% of the global consumption of aluminium.
Aluminium is produced in commercial foils as thin as 0.0065 mm (or 6.5 µm). Material thicker than 0.2mm is called sheet or strip.
Aluminium foil is impervious to light, gases, oils and fats, volatile compounds and water vapour. These properties combined with high formability, heat and cold resistance, non toxicity, strength and reflectivity to heat and light mean aluminium foil is used in many applications. These applications include:
~ Pharmaceutical packaging
~ Food protection and packaging
~ Electrical shielding
After the very earliest days of manned flight, the excellent strength to weight ratio of aluminium have made it the prime material for the construction of aircraft.
These same properties of aluminium mean various alloys are now also used in passenger and freight rail cars, commercial vehicles, military vehicles, ships & boats, buses & coaches, bicycles and increasingly in motor cars.
The sustainable nature of aluminium with regards to corrosion resistance and recyclability has helped drive the recent increases in demand for aluminium vehicle components.
Aluminium plate and extrusions are used extensively for the superstructures of ships. The use of these materials allows designers to increase the above waterline size of the vessel without creating stability problems. The weight advantage of aluminium has allowed marine architects to gain better performance from the available power by using aluminium in the hulls of hovercraft, fast multi-hulled catamarans and surface planning vessels.
Lower weight and longer lifecycles have seen aluminium become the established material for helidecks and helideck support structures on offshore oil and gas rigs. The same reasons have resulted in the widespread use of aluminium in oil rig stair towers and telescopic personnel bridges.
Building and Architecture
Aluminium use in buildings covers a wide range of applications. The applications include roofing, foil insulation, windows, cladding, doors, shop fronts, balustrading, architectural hardware and guttering.
Aluminium is also commonly used as the in the form of tread plate and industrial flooring.
The above applications account for approximately 85% of the aluminium consumed annually. The remaining 15% is used in a wide variety of applications including:
~ High pressure gas cylinders
~ Sporting goods
~ Machined components
~ Road barriers and signs
~ Lithographic printing plates