Aluminium Alloys

Aluminium alloys are alloys in which aluminium (Al) is the predominant metal. The typical alloying elements are copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon and zinc. There are two principal classifications, namely casting alloys and wrought alloys, both of which are further subdivided into the categories heat-treatable and non-heat-treatable. About 85% of aluminium is used for wrought products, for example rolled plate, foils and extrusions. Cast aluminium alloys yield cost effective products due to the low melting point, although they generally have lower tensile strengths than wrought alloys. The most important cast aluminium alloy system is Al-Si, where the high levels of silicon (4.0% to 13%) contribute to give good casting characteristics. Aluminium alloys are widely used in engineering structures and components where light weight or corrosion resistance is required.

Alloys composed mostly of aluminium and magnesium have been very important in aerospace manufacturing since the introduction of metal skinned aircraft. Aluminium-magnesium alloys are both lighter than other aluminium alloys and much less flammable than alloys that contain a very high percentage of magnesium.

Aluminium alloy surfaces will keep their apparent shine in a dry environment due to the formation of a clear, protective layer of aluminium oxide. In a wet environment, galvanic corrosion can occur when an aluminium alloy is placed in electrical contact with other metals with more negative corrosion potentials than aluminium.

Aluminium alloy compositions are registered with The Aluminum Association. Many organizations publish more specific standards for the manufacture of aluminium alloy, including the Society of Automotive Engineers standards organization, specifically its aerospace standards subgroups, and ASTM International.

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