Different Grades of Aluminum & How They Are Used

Metal of the Month: Aluminum
Metal of the Month: Aluminum

Aluminum is a common non-ferrous metal used in several different applications. A recent question we received: What common items are made from different aluminum alloys? Where can I find these different types of aluminum scrap? Well, we’re going to tell you. So let’s begin with the several grades of aluminum and we’ll go from there…

Suggested Read: Metal Monday: Difference of Metal & Alloy

Different Series & Grades of Aluminum Scrap 

1xxx Series of Aluminum

aluminum trays

Characteristics:

    • Comprised of 99% aluminum or higher
    • Corrosion-resistant
    • Workability
    • High thermal and electrical conductor

Applications:

    • Electrical 
    • Food Packaging Trays 
    • Power Grid Lines 

2xxx Series of Aluminum

painted aluminum aircraft

Characteristics: 

    • Copper is the principal alloying element
    • High strength and toughness
    • Not as high a level of corrosion resistance (usually painted or clad)

Applications:

    • Aircraft 

3xxx Series of Aluminum

Characteristics:

  • Alloyed with Manganese 
  • Moderate strength 
  • Good workability

Applications:

  • Heat exchangers 
  • Cooking utensils 
  • Builder’s hardware 

Notable:

  • Aluminum 3003 – ductwork, chemical equipment, general sheet metal work, cooking utensils 

4xxx Series of Aluminum

Characteristics:

  • Combined with silicon
  • Low melting point

Applications: 

  • Welding 
  • Structural and automotive 

Notable: 

  • Aluminum 4043 – Welding filler wire, spray, and flame metallizing wire  

5xxx Series of Aluminum

Characteristics:

  • Magnesium primary alloying agent 
  • Moderate to high strength
  • Good weldability
  • Good resistance to corrosion 

Applications: 

  • Building and construction
  • Storage tanks
  • Pressure vessels
  • Marine applications 

Notable:

  • Aluminum 5052 – electronics, medical equipment, hardware signs, and marine applications

6xxx Series of Aluminum

Characteristics: 

  • Silicon and Magnesium Alloyed
  • Versatile
  • Heat treatable
  • Highly Formable/Weldable 
  • Moderately High Strength 
  • Corrosion Resistant

Applications: 

  • Certain versions of the Apple iPhone 
  • Truck and Marine Frames 
  • Extrusion products

Notable Grades:

  • Aluminum 6061Most Widely Used alloy in this series and often used in truck and marine frames
  • Aluminum 6063Architectural and structural, marine craft, other marine applications, auto, and cycling frames and components 

7xxx Series of Aluminum

Characteristics:

  • Zinc is the primary alloying agent 
  • High strength
  • Heat treatable

Applications: 

  • Aircraft industry
  • Apple Watch 

Notable Grades: 

  • Aluminum 7050/7075 – aircraft – wings, bulk-head, fuselages; cycling frames 

Now that you know the different applications of the several grades of aluminum, you might have a better idea of where to find certain aluminum scrap. Some grades are going to be easier to find than others of course, like aluminum cooking utensils and electronics. Others, like aluminum used in marine, architectural, and construction applications may be a bit harder to come by. 

 


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