Choosing between Stainless Steel and Aluminum for Fabrication? Take These Factors into Account

April 11, 2018 by Bob Wilson

Professionals perform stainless steel and aluminum fabrication processes to produce structures and components for a wide selection of industries. Aluminum is often suitable for the marine equipment industry due to its corrosion-resistant properties. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is ideal for the energy industry as it can withstand high amounts of stress.


While these two common fabrication materials have a lot to offer, it’s important to learn the differences between the two, so you know which material best fits your needs. When deciding between stainless steel and aluminum for fabrication, keep these factors in mind.


Tensile Strength and Weight

Stainless steel is definitely stronger than aluminum and is available in pipe, plate, and sheet forms. Moreover, steel is resilient, as it is less likely to bend or warp under heat, weight, or force. The durability and strength of stainless steel make it a good material for construction.

Aluminum, in contrast, may not be as strong as steel, but it weighs less. This makes the material suitable for use in marine vessels.


Reactivity

Stainless steel is not as reactive as aluminum. The material stays inactive and inert when in contact with most food. Thus, culinary professionals and food service companies can safely use steel to help create the most appealing and best-tasting dishes.

Aluminum, on the other hand, can react negatively with food products. This chemical reaction causes the food to change its flavour or colour.


Resistance to Corrosion

Steel is non-porous, which means that corrosion is more likely to happen with this material. Fortunately, there are two ways to make steel less susceptible to corrosion. One way is to add chromium to stainless steel. This element is an agent that helps steel resist corrosion. Another way is to paint or powder coat steel with a corrosion-resistant material to help stop corrosion and rust.

As for aluminum, this material has high oxidation. This means that the material is natural and highly resistant to corrosion, thanks to its passivation layer.

If you’re going to use stainless steel and aluminum solely because of corrosion resistance, choose steel for architecture frames and beams and go with aluminum for underwater applications.


Heat Conduction Properties

When it comes to conducting heat, aluminum trumps stainless steel. The superior thermal conductivity of aluminum makes it a great material in cooling systems for vehicles and heat sinks for computers.

Don’t count out stainless steel, though. Although steel may not be good at transmitting heat, it does have a higher melting point. Aluminum softens at 400 °F, whereas stainless steel can tolerate temperatures up to 2000 °F. This makes steel perfect for use in high-heat environments.


Fabrication Process

Fabricating aluminum can be difficult, as it is a bit hard to weld. Once you overcome the difficulty, however, you’ll find that the material is workable and is great for moulding and cutting into various shapes.

Conversely, welding stainless steel for fabrication purposes is easy. You can use the welded steel to create lasting bonds and joints.

If you need steel materials for one of your projects, turn to Advantage Manufacturing Ltd. As a company that performs stainless steel fabrication in Edmonton, we have the skills and materials to provide custom-made and high-quality steel.


Contact us today to get a quote.