Aluminum is becoming the go-to material for designers and construction industry professionals looking for compliant cladding solutions to use on projects in the US. This versatile metal boasts many benefits, including its flexibility, lightweight, and durability. It also comes in various grades, each of which is suitable for different applications. Therefore, it’s important to consider which grade of aluminum is required for your project. Each series starts with a number between one and seven – to indicate which alloying element has been added to the aluminum.
The 3xxx and 5xxx series are the most commonly used in the building construction industry and we will cover this in more detail, but we will also look at all seven alloys and their most common uses.
Alloying elements are the backbone of different aluminum grades. When looking for the right grade of aluminum for your project, it is essential to consider the properties of the alloy. Different alloys offer different benefits, including workability, corrosion resistance, heat treatability, electrical conductivity, strength, and flexibility. These properties impact where and how these alloys are best utilized.
Here is an overview of each different alloy series:
1xxx Series: these alloys contain at least 99% pure aluminum and are the most commercial of aluminum grades. They are highly corrosion-resistant and are often softer than other alloys. They are ideal for food processing equipment or use on outdoor structures.
2xxx Series: these alloys include copper as the main element. This increases strength following heat treatment but has a low corrosion resistance. Common uses for these alloys include aircraft structures and propellers, automotive bodies and screw fittings.
3xxx Series: these alloys are known for their formability and weldability due to their high manganese content. They are also highly resistant to corrosion but tend to be softer than other alloys. Typical uses include radiator cores, fuel tanks, cooking utensils, and building products.
4xxx Series: these alloys contain silicon as the main alloying element. These alloys have a low melting point and are commonly used for welding wires or brazing rods.
5xxx Series: known as ‘marine grade’ aluminum, these alloys contain magnesium which provides excellent corrosion resistance and improved strength, making them a perfect choice for marine applications for example boat hulls, storage tanks and construction materials.
6xxx Series: this type of alloy contains a combination of magnesium and silicon, that improves its strength whilst also enabling it to be formed into complex shapes. These alloys are easy to weld and offer good corrosion resistance. Common applications include transportation equipment.
7xxx Series: contains zinc making it the highest-strength aluminum alloy. However, its formability is limited due to the hardening effect on the metal when heated during welding and other fabrication processes. It is also highly corrosion resistant making it an ideal choice for structural components for use in bridges or aircraft frames.
As mentioned earlier, when it comes to fabrication of solid aluminum plate for the construction industry, the most used grades of aluminum are the 3xxx or 5xxx series alloys. Of these two, the 3xxx series is used more often as it has superior workability to the 5xxx series. The 5xxx series marine grade aluminum is strong and corrosion-resistant, which makes it ideal for ships and decorative features on marine vessels and for buildings near coastal areas. However, it lacks the machinability and lower thermal expansion of 3xxx series alloys and therefore the 3xxx series is more commonly chosen for construction projects.
There are other benefits to using 3xxx series alloys which adds to its appeal amongst fabricators and installers of building facade cladding:
- rigid structure
- increased spanning performance
- superior machinability
- lower thermal expansion rate.
For your convenience, our Vitraplate 3mm(1/8”) solid aluminum panels are available in both 3xxx and 5xxx series aluminum. If you need help deciding which alloy is right for your specific project, please contact our team to discuss. You can also request a complimentary sample to see the product for yourself and even trial fabricating the material in your own shop. Contact us to find out more.