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Aluminum in Transportation

A variety of sectors use aluminum, including construction, packaging, food and beverage and the transportation industry. The automotive, aviation and aerospace markets have driven the aluminum industry over the past 50 years — particularly automotive and aviation aluminum.

Learn More About Aluminum Consulting for the Transportation Industry

Applications of Aluminum in Automotive, Aviation and Aerospace

Aluminum has many applications in various sectors of the transportation industry, from automobiles to aerospace.

Aluminum Applications in the Automotive Industry 

Aluminum in cars is a massive and growing industry. Automakers use more and more aluminum instead of steel. Why build cars from aluminum? One of the benefits of aluminum vehicles is that they are lightweight. In fact, aluminum can be 40 percent lighter than steel. Lighter cars require less fuel — reducing a vehicle's weight by 15 percent can reduce fuel usage by up to 20 percent.

More and more car parts are being built from aluminum — transmission bodies, engine cylinder blocks, suspension parts, bumpers, wheels and engine radiators. Car body parts, including frames, doors and hoods, are increasingly being made from aluminum. As a result, the amount of aluminum used in the overall weight of an average car has been constantly on the rise since the 1970s. 

Experts project that, on average, cars' aluminum content will reach 250 kilograms in 2025.

Aluminum Used in Aircraft

The same idea applies to aluminum for airplanes. By using aluminum alloys, you can create a lighter aircraft. Commercial airplane manufacturers use lightweight aluminum to help reduce jet fuel expenses. Today, up to 80 percent of commercial planes are made of aluminum.

Some of the most common aluminum alloys, along with their respective properties, are as follows.

2024-T3

The 2024-T3 aluminum sheet has excellent fatigue resistance and is considered the most common of the high-strength aluminum alloys. 2024-T3 Alclad aluminum sheet is typically used for repair and restoration, aircraft structures, cowls, fuselage and wing skins. 

7075

Aircraft manufacturers often use this high-strength alloy to fortify aircraft structures. Aluminum alloy 7075 has zinc, magnesium and copper for added strength, and it anodizes well. Although difficult to weld, this alloy will result in a top-quality finish and is known to have the best machinability of the alloys. 

3003-H14

This alloy contains pure aluminum with manganese added for strength. It's one of the most widely used aluminum alloys. 3003-H14 may be brazed, welded, spun, or deep-drawn and has great workability. 

This alloy is non-heat treatable and is widely used for baffle plating and cowls. 

5052-H32

This alloy is not structural and has the highest strength in the series of non-heatable alloys. 5052 aluminum sheet has excellent workability and corrosion resistance, particularly in marine applications. This aluminum sheet is most often used to construct fuel tanks. 

6061-T6

This alloy has excellent finishing ability and corrosion resistance. The 6061-T6 aluminum sheet can be fabricated using standard techniques with a strength level comparable to mild steel. Typical uses include structural components, truck frames and bodies and aircraft landing mats.

Aluminum Applications in Aerospace

Many parts of spacecraft are made from aluminum. Examples include the body of a space shuttle, the antenna of the Hubble telescope and the solid-fuel rocket boosters. 

These boosters consist of a binder, an oxidizer — such as ammonium perchlorate — and an aluminum powder. Boosters are used in the first stage of spaceflight. For instance, the world's most powerful launch vehicle, Saturn-5, burns through 36 tonnes of aluminum powder in the period before reaching orbit.

Orbital stations and parts of launch vehicles also use alloys, as do solar panels' fastening units.

Aluminum Market Intelligence and Insights for Transportation

If you are in the transportation industry, you need to know what direction the aluminum market is headed and stay updated on any price fluctuations. HARBOR Aluminum offers all the market trend information you need in our comprehensive daily, weekly and monthly reports and mobile alerts.

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