When it comes to metals like steel and aluminum, both have a wide range of applications. They are critical in so many industries, providing parts for cars, planes, rails, pipelines, and bridges, among thousands of other less visible applications. They are as important in construction as they are in manufacturing and the production of other parts. However, in order to compare the two, we must examine different aspects of the two substances.
The good news is that we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about conductive stainless steel and non-conductive aluminum in an objective manner. This will help you figure out what materials to buy for your next project and give you some general information.
Which is better: aluminum or stainless steel?
This may appear to be a simple question, but the answer appears elusive. Is it going to be difficult for you to choose between aluminum and stainless steel? The best way to answer both of these questions is to look at what the material is meant to be used for before you buy it.
After reading this article and considering your specific circumstances and needs, you will know which one is best for you. In the following questions, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of aluminum, as well as the various types of stainless steel and their properties. First, let’s look at aluminum and stainless steel separately, noting their most notable characteristics.
When it comes to steel properties, you’ve probably heard of stainless steel. One steel alloy has properties that make it less likely to stain, but it is not completely corrosion-resistant. There is regular steel and mild steel, but we will focus on stainless steel in this article.
This is because stainless steel is the ‘improved’ version of steel, and it is frequently compared to aluminum on many scales. For example, different metals are frequently compared in terms of electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, density, and other similar factors. Stainless steel, for example, is denser than aluminum, and the scale also demonstrates that stainless steel is a far better heat conductor than aluminum.
When you see the term “ferrous” next to stainless steel, it means that it contains (or is made of) iron. Most ferrous metals and alloys rust when exposed to the elements due to the high amounts of carbon used in their manufacture. Carbon steels are typically galvanized to increase corrosion resistance. Galvanized steel that doesn’t rust has a layer of zinc on the outside that becomes part of the steel’s chemical makeup.
Types of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is classified into three types. These are the following:
Austenitic stainless steel
Austenitic stainless steels are nonmagnetic stainless steels with high levels of chromium (16–26 percent) and nickel (6–12 percent). They also have low carbon levels. These alloys give austenitic steel high formability and corrosion resistance. As a result, these stainless steels are the most commonly used. 304 and 316 stainless steel are two common types of austenitic steel.
304 Stainless Steel: It is impossible to tell which materials are made of 304 or 316 stainless steel with the naked eye. Their chemical composition, properties, and applications, however, differ. For example, 304 steel is an austenitic alloy composed of 18% chromium and 8% nickel. As a result, 304 steel is resistant to oxidation and corrosion and has increased durability. 304 stainless steel is commonly used in automotive molding and trim, electrical enclosures, wheel covers, stainless steel cookware, storage tanks, and piping, among other things. Simply put, 304 steel is the least expensive corrosion-resistant option.
316 Stainless Steel: 316 stainless steel is composed of 16% chromium, 10% nickel, and 2% molybdenum. The addition of molybdenum improves the steel’s corrosion resistance even more. At high temperatures, it fared much better against chemical corrodents such as seawater and brine solutions, as well as sulfuric acid solutions, iodides, and fatty acids. Molybdenum-containing steels are often used in medical equipment and in many offshore, marine, and washdown settings.
Ferritic stainless steel
Ferritic stainless steels have a high chromium concentration (typically 12.5% or 17%, but as much as 27%) and low carbon content. They are also free of nickel. As a result, ferritic steel is magnetic and cannot be heated. Even though it is brittle because of impact transition, it is easy to shape, resistant to corrosion, doesn’t crack under stress, and is ductile.
Ferritic steels have applications in the automotive and industrial industries, as well as certain stainless steel cookware, despite being less corrosion resistant than austenitic-grade steels and generally less expensive. Molybdenum, aluminum, and titanium are also present in some ferritic steels.
Martensitic stainless steel
Martensitic stainless steels: the least common type of stainless steel alloy, martensitic stainless steels are low in carbon content, containing between 0.2% and 1%, and their chromium content ranges between 10.5% and 18%. In general, no nickel is present, but small amounts are occasionally added to increase corrosion resistance and toughness. Some grades may also contain selenium or sulfur to improve machinability.
Because of its low chromium and alloying content, martensitic stainless steel is less expensive than other types of stainless steel. They are known, however, for their hardness, strength, and moderate corrosion resistance. Due to their metal-to-metal wear and abrasion resistance, martensitic stainless steels are often used in industrial blades, vehicle springs, staple guns, cutlery, cookware, springs, scissors, and some surgical and dental instruments.
Anodization is to aluminum what galvanization is to steel. The application of this outer, passive layer of thick oxide coating improves the resistance of aluminum to corrosion and abrasion. Although aluminum and stainless steel have some similarities, we will focus on how they differ. The conductivity and ferrousness of aluminum and steel are the first distinctions.
Non-ferrous materials, such as aluminum, lack magnetic properties, making them ideal for small electronics. When it comes to malleability, aluminum is usually the first thing that comes to mind. It can be easily bent, molded, and pressed into shape without requiring too much force. Steel is stronger, but aluminum can be hard-anodized to make it just as strong if needed or if there is no other choice.
Differences Between Aluminum and Stainless Steel
Aluminum and Stainless Steel might look similar, but they are actually quite different.
Strength to weight ratio. Aluminum usually isn’t as strong as steel, but it weighs almost a third less. This is the main reason why aluminum is used to make planes.
Corrosion. Stainless steel is composed of iron, chromium, nickel, manganese, and copper. The chromium is added as an agent to provide corrosion resistance. Furthermore, because it is non-porous, its corrosion resistance is increased. Aluminum has a high oxidation and corrosion resistance due to its passivation layer. When aluminum is oxidized, the surface turns white and sometimes pits. Aluminum may corrode rapidly in some extremely acidic or base environments, with disastrous consequences.
Thermal Conductivity. Aluminum has a much higher thermal conductivity (heat conductivity) than stainless steel. One of the primary reasons it is used in car radiators and air conditioning units.
Cost. Aluminum is typically less expensive than stainless steel.
Workability. Aluminum is relatively soft and thus easier to cut and shape. Because of its resistance to wear and abrasion, stainless steel can be difficult to work with. Stainless steels are more difficult to form than aluminum.
Welding. Stainless steel is relatively easy to weld, whereas aluminum can be challenging.
Thermal properties. Stainless steel can be used at much higher temperatures than aluminum, which becomes very soft above about 400 degrees.
Electrical Conductivity. When compared to other metals, stainless steel is a terrible conductor. Aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity. Aluminum is commonly used for high-voltage overhead power lines due to its high conductivity, lightweight, and corrosion resistance.
Strength. Stainless steel is more powerful than aluminum (provided weight is not a consideration).
Effect on Foods. Stainless steel is less reactive to foods. Aluminum can react with foods, altering their color and flavor.
Aluminum VS. Stainless Steel
Hard-anodized aluminum or stainless steel: which is better?
The simplest way to look at this is to compare which pots are better, aluminum or stainless steel. Hard-anodized aluminum pots are typically nonstick and resistant to rust. Stainless steel pots and pans may last a little longer and are easier to clean. Anodized aluminum has a distinct advantage over steel and regular aluminum in that it is a superior heat conductor. Aluminum vs. stainless steel cookware is a common source of concern for chefs and home cooks, so if you intend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you should research these differences.
Which is heavier: aluminum or stainless steel?
Steel density has been briefly mentioned. Indeed, one of the most significant differences between stainless steel and aluminum is density. In comparison to aluminum, stainless steel is much denser, making it much more difficult to scratch. In comparison, aluminum is two and a half times lighter than stainless steel.
Which is more durable: aluminum or stainless steel?
When it comes to strength, stainless steel vs aluminum is a no-brainer. Steel is much tougher, more difficult to bend or mold, and more impact-resistant. Aluminum, on the other hand, can be hard-anodized to make it much stronger than it would otherwise be. This process ensures the durability of aluminum. If you need strength while keeping component weight to a minimum, anodized aluminum is the way to go.
Which is safer: aluminum or stainless steel?
The context determines the answer to this question. Both are safe to use in construction, but the degree of safety varies depending on the application. Similarly, when it comes to cooking and cookware, both are used in the preparation of food, and neither is a bad choice. While steel is the “safest” material, aluminum and anodized aluminum are close behind.
Which is more expensive: aluminum or stainless steel?
Steel is more common and easy to obtain, and it can be easily recycled and resold, making it much more affordable than aluminum. Steel can be less expensive than aluminum, even after it has been processed, galvanized, chem-treated, and painted. Aluminum is more difficult to produce or find in scrap, so its price can be slightly higher.
Now that you understand the fundamentals of these two metals, you can begin planning your project, purchasing better appliances, and selecting the appropriate tools. We may have listed the most important factors to consider when deciding between steel and aluminum, but your search should not end there. You can learn more about anodized aluminum on our website, or you can comment below and tell us what you think about the whole stainless steel vs. aluminum debate.
If you are looking for custom aluminum or stainless steel parts, please contact LEADRP at leadrp.net.