Aluminum is one of the most essential materials available, currently being used across an incredible variety of industries for many diverse applications. From applications in the auto industry, aerospace industry, construction, and many more, there is little this metal can’t do. However, its versatility is just one major benefit to aluminum. It is also very lightweight, strong and durable, and able to withstand corrosion. While you may already be familiar with all that aluminum has to offer, there is likely still one question you have left to answer: how is aluminum made? Read on to learn the various steps of the aluminum manufacturing process for a better understanding of how this metal gains its most desirable properties.
Step 1: The Bayer Process
The first step in the aluminum manufacturing process flow chart is the Bayer process whereby pure aluminum oxide is produced. First, bauxite, an ore made up of a mix of iron, aluminum oxide, and other metals are mined and submerged into a chemical solution. This chemical solution is then heated to a temperature between 150 and 200 degrees Celsius. The purpose of this step is to dissolve the aluminum oxide in the bauxite, which needs to be extracted before the material can be used for any industrial purposes. Now in liquid form, the newly extracted aluminum compound will be sent through a series of filters until it is finally placed into a precipitation tank. While in this tank, the aluminum compound will start to crystallize. Once this has occurred, the crystals are then heated to a temperature of about 1,100 degrees Celsius, which in turn results in pure aluminum oxide.
Step 2: The Hall—Héroult Process
Following the Bayer process, the next step in the aluminum alloy manufacturing process is the Hall-Heroult process, which is effective and necessary for refining the aluminum oxide into pure aluminum by removing the oxygen atoms. This process begins by first heating the aluminum oxide crystals in a barrel of molten cryolite. During this stage, the molten cryolite effectively dissolves the crystals, subsequently producing an electrolyte solution. Using a carbon lining, a current is sent through the barrel which works to allow the oxygen atoms to separate from the oxygen atoms. Once this is complete, the remaining aluminum that is left over will have achieved almost 100% purity. Once molded, cooled, and finished, the aluminum is now ready to be shaped and used for a wide variety of applications.
Interestingly, despite major advances in technology over time, the process for manufacturing aluminum has not changed much since the end of the 19th century. These advances in technology have helped to produce much purer aluminum and have reduced manufacturing time exponentially.
Benefits of Aluminum
Through this aluminum manufacturing process, the metal gains a number of desirable properties that make it a great choice for applications across industries. Some of the most popular benefits of using aluminum include:
Versatility. Once it has been extracted into its purest form, aluminum can easily be manipulated, molded, extruded and shaped to the exact specifications needed to successfully complete a project. This machinability puts this metal above many other options available on the market.
Lightweight. Weight is an important factor for many applications, particularly for the production of planes and cars. Aluminum boasts a very light weight to strength ratio that makes it an attractive choice for applications where weight needs to be limited but strength is required.
Resistance to Corrosion. Aluminum’s chemical structure makes it highly resistant to corrosion over time, even when used in particularly harsh environments. It is resistance to corrosion, in addition to its superior strength and durability, ensures you will not have to make costly repairs or replacements no matter the application.
Aluminum You Can Trust
At Eagle Aluminum, we prioritize the production of top quality aluminum so that our customers enjoy the best product possible for their unique applications. Our aluminum manufacturing process has been tried and trusted for over three decades, giving us the capability to produce aluminum extrusions that last. For products you’ll feel confident using, browse our selection of aluminum extrusions online, or contact us today to discuss custom extrusions for your next project.