Aluminum Supply and Production
Aluminum supply comes from both a natural source and the manmade effort of recycling. It can be combined with other materials to make a number of alloys with different attributes. The aluminum or alloy can be prepared in many different ways to make a very wide variety of products.
Where Aluminum Comes From
Contrary to popular belief, aluminum isn’t just pulled out of a mine as a finished product. The majority of aluminum being used is taken from the ground as bauxite ore, which then goes through a chemical process to become aluminum oxide. The aluminum oxide then is smelted through a special process to make pure aluminum.
As you are probably aware, aluminum is a highly recyclable metal, so it may not be surprising that almost 75 percent of the aluminum that has ever been made is still being used today. As a matter of fact, almost 40 percent of the aluminum supply used in North America these days is recycled aluminum, according to The Aluminum Association.
While aluminum is popular in its pure form, it is also an excellent material with which to form alloys. It can be mixed with copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, zinc or other materials to form different types of alloys. Each alloy has its own unique properties. There are very strong alloys, like 1100, 2014 and T-651, there are highly formable and weldable alloys like 5052 and 6061, and there are corrosion-resistant alloys like 2124 as well.
Types of Aluminum Products
Aluminum is used in many forms. Aluminum is molded, welded and pressed into shapes like beams, rods and bars to build strong and light structures. It can be flattened into sheets and used to make signs or used as the skin for boats or aircraft. One of the most popular types of aluminum, however, is extruded aluminum.
Aluminum extrusion involves heating a log of aluminum called a billet and pushing it through a heated die under high pressure to create a long length of that shape. This common method can create aluminum channels, Z Clips, aluminum angles, aluminum bars, aluminum J caps, aluminum extrusions for architectural millwork, store fixtures and store displays and aluminum extrusions for custom and OEM manufacturing . The advantages of this process include the ability to make large, continuous pieces and to form pieces into basically any shape of cross-section you desire.