Aluminum alloys are extremely popular for manufacturing parts and components since they’re lightweight, resistant to corrosion, have a high electrical conductivity, and can be shaped into almost any form. Aluminum is widely used and readily available, but not all aluminums are the same. Different aluminums have different characteristics that will determine if it’s a suitable choice for a project. While there are several different kinds of aluminum out there, all with different characteristics, here at Mainstay we consistently use two different kinds.
5052-H32 is commonly referred to as anodized quality aluminum. It earned this name because of its exceptional finishing qualities. The main element in 5052-H32 is magnesium, which is the cause for its low melting point and lack of brittleness. It has moderate to high strength and can easily be welded. Common uses for 5052-H32 include cooking utensils, food processing equipment, automotive parts, ladders, tool boxes, automotive bumpers, and much more. This is an extremely versatile aluminum, but it cannot be heat treated and lacks the hardness of other aluminums making it a poor choice for some projects.
6061-T6 is an aluminum alloy that has magnesium and silicon as its alloying elements. Those elements make it extremely resistant to corrosion, and gives it a very good machinability. It welds fairly easily and dissipates heat well. It is reasonably strong and hard, and its hardness is what makes it easier to machine. Common uses for 6061-T6 are boats, aircraft parts, valve bodies, gears, fasteners, and more. Another plus for 6061-T6 is that it can be heat treated, which expands the uses for 6061-T6. While 6061-T6 is a very versatile and useful material, it is unsuitable for certain projects. It is extremely hard to use as a sheet metal because it may crack or break during forming processes.
Both 5052-H32 and 6061-T6 have their pros and cons. They are two similar but different aluminum alloys, and they are not interchangeable in most situations. Take the time to decide which is best for your manufacturing needs, and if you need any help making that decision, feel free to contact Mainstay. We would be very happy to work with you to find the very best material for your needs.