ALUMINUM IN AEROSPACE
Aluminum is one of the most popular metals in the world, having a wide influence on everyday life. From ovens to aircraft structural elements, aluminum’s light weight and high strength make it ideal for many applications.
History of aluminum
Aluminum has been used in the aerospace industry since the Wright brothers built their first airplane. Although the original aircraft structure was made of wood, the engine crankcase was created from aluminum, and during the Second World War it was used so widely for the manufacture of aircraft that civilians were encouraged to donate aluminum. scrap for the war effort.
Today, like many industries, aerospace makes extensive use of aluminum production. Due to its invaluable properties, aluminum has become ideal for reducing aircraft manufacturing costs while maintaining the stringent specifications required in the industry.
Benefits of aluminum
With a number of beneficial properties, aluminum is an easy choice for aircraft manufacturing. Wood was originally used to build airplanes, but it rots easily and can crumble if not properly maintained.
Likewise, steel is stronger than aluminum, but significantly heavier. Steel is only used in aircraft where extreme strength is required, such as landing gears, or extremely high-speed aircraft.
Some of the benefits of aluminum include:
Light weight – The use of aluminum alloy reduces the weight of the aircraft significantly. At about a third lighter than steel, it allows an aircraft to carry more weight or become more fuel efficient.
High Strength – Aluminum’s strength allows it to displace heavier metals without losing its bond strength with other metals, while also benefiting from its lighter weight. In addition, load-bearing structures can leverage the strength of aluminum to make aircraft manufacturing more reliable and more cost-effective.
Corrosion Resistance – For an aircraft and its passengers, corrosion can be extremely dangerous. Aluminum is highly resistant to corrosion and chemical environments, especially valuable for aircraft operating in highly corrosive marine environments.
Aluminum alloy in aviation industry
There are several different grades of aluminum, but some are more suited to the aerospace industry than others. Examples of such aluminum include:
2024 – The main alloying element of 2024 aluminum is copper. Aluminum 2024 can be used where a high strength-to-weight ratio is required. Like alloy 6061, 2024 is used in wing and fuselage structures because of the tension they receive during operation.
5052 – As the highest strength alloy of its kind that cannot be heat treated, aluminum 5052 offers ideal performance and can be drawn or formed into various shapes. In addition, it provides excellent resistance to saltwater corrosion in marine environments
6061 – This alloy has good mechanical properties and is easy to weld. It is a common alloy for general use and, in aerospace applications, used for wing and fuselage structures. It is especially common in home-built aircraft.
6063 – Often referred to as an “architectural alloy”, aluminum 6063 is known for providing exemplary finishing properties and is often the most useful alloy for anodizing applications.
7050 – A top choice for aerospace applications, alloy 7050 exhibits much higher strength and corrosion resistance than 7075. Because it maintains its strength properties at wider sections, 7050 aluminum can maintain resistance to fracture and corrosion.
Aluminum alloy 7068 – 7068 is the strongest alloy available on the commercial market today. Light weight with excellent corrosion resistance, 7068 is one of the hardest alloys available today.
7075 – Zinc is the main alloying element in 7075 aluminum. Its strength is similar to many steels, and it has good machinability and fatigue properties. It was originally used on the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter during World War II, and is still used in aviation today.
Aluminum has proven to be very versatile throughout history and continues to be so to this day. The aerospace industry continues to benefit from the alloy’s properties to create safer, more reliable and less expensive aircraft. This will ensure that aluminum will continue to be a valuable material in the future.