The Difference Between Steel vs Aluminum

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Both steel and aluminum are widely used materials across industries and for a variety of projects and products. Steel, for example, is used for everything from kitchenware and cutlery, to the construction of buildings, to many of the appliances we use every day. Aluminum is integral to the construction of most automobiles and motorcycles, bicycles, and aircraft, in addition to the architectural aluminum extrusions used in moldings and trims of residential homes and commercial buildings.

With so many uses for each material, you might be curious to know the difference between the two, and how to determine which material is the right option for your specific application. When you compare the strength, weight, corrosion resistance, and cost of aluminum vs steel, you will quickly see why Eagle Mouldings relies on the many advantages of using aluminum for custom extrusions and stock profiles.

Aluminum vs Steel: Strength

Is aluminum stronger than steel? In comparing the overall strength of steel vs aluminum, there is not a clear and simple answer. This is because, while steel is technically stronger than aluminum, aluminum is often much lighter, so you have to take into consideration the weight to strength ratio. However, in focusing just on shear strength, steel has a high amount of carbon contributing to its general strength advantage.

Also important to take into account when comparing the strength of steel vs aluminum is malleability. Aluminum is much more malleable than steel, meaning it can be successfully bent or extruded into a variety of custom shapes or profiles without suffering breaks or cracks. Aluminum is also known to be very ductile, enabling it to be stretched without breaking. Aluminum extrusions can be made as strong as needed for most applications. Cold-weather applications are well-served by aluminum because as the temperatures fall, aluminum actually becomes stronger.

Aluminum vs Steel: Weight

Given the fact that aluminum is regarded and recognized for being lightweight, steel is well known to be the heavier of the two. As mentioned, steel gets its weight from the high concentration of carbon. The more carbon an alloy contains, the heavier it will be. The primary benefit to the weight of steel is that it is incredibly durable. Its strength means that it is unlikely to bend, warp, or deform underweight, heat, or force. On average, steel will be 2.5x denser than aluminum. There are lighter forms of steel, such as mild steel, that weigh less than carbon steels. However, mild steels that weigh the same as aluminum are not as strong and are more susceptible to breaks and cracks. Because aluminum extrusions weigh less than most other metals, this makes it easier to handle and less expensive to ship.

Aluminum vs Steel: Corrosion Resistance

When it comes to corrosion resistance, aluminum is the clear winner. Aluminum is incredibly resistant to corrosion, without requiring the need of additional treatments after it has been extruded. Further, aluminum does not rust, and does not require any coatings or paint that will wear or scratch off. Aluminum is protected by its own naturally occurring oxide film. On the other hand, steel is susceptible to resistance. Carbon steel does require a coating of paint or other finish treatment to protect against rust or corrosion. This is especially true if the steel will be located in an environment that is wet or moist, or particularly abrasive. Aluminum can be further enhanced with a variety of finishes such as anodizing, powder coating, brushed finish, media blasting, painting, polishing or chemical wash techniques.

Aluminum vs Steel: Cost

When comparing the two alloys, the cost of steel vs aluminum is one of the most important factors in determining which materials to use for a job. When it comes to the cost of steel vs aluminum, steel is usually less expensive. In saying this though, we must distinguish which type of steel we’re talking about. Mild steels and carbon steels tend to be less expensive than aluminum, but stainless steel is more expensive than aluminum. While you may be tempted to go with the cheaper material for your project, it’s important to weigh all factors. When designing a custom shape or profile, creating a custom aluminum extrusion is surprisingly inexpensive because of the affordable tooling and die costs.

Eagle Mouldings is a manufacturer, stocking warehouse, and supplier of custom and OEM aluminum extrusions. If we don’t have the extruded aluminum part that meets your specifications, our professionals will help you create and engineer one to meet your needs. Our custom and OEM extrusion services enable us to meet nearly any aluminum extrusion requirement. Contact our specialists for more information to discuss which material is right for your unique needs.