Aluminum is Earth’s most abundant metallic element, but it is rarely found as-is. It is present in many minerals, but its primary source is bauxite ore. The Bayer process converts it to aluminum oxide and then the Hall-Heroult process converts it to metallic aluminum. Before the Hall-Heroult process, invented in 1866, the production of aluminum was a complicated and expensive process. In fact, it was once referred to as the “Metal of Kings” because it was more expensive to produce than gold.
There are few metals that are stronger, more durable or more useful than aluminum. More aluminum is manufactured each year than all other non-ferrous metals combined. It has the ability to be machined, formed and shaped, is second only to copper in conductivity, conducts heat well, is non-sparking so it can be used near flammable substances, resists corrosion and rust, and is non-magnetic. Aluminum coatings are highly reflective of both visible and radiant heat, and don’t deteriorate like silver, so reflective coatings are used for telescope mirrors and many other products. Aluminum has thousands of uses in homes, in commercial and retail enterprises, building construction, transportation and many other industries.
Aluminum properties are a great combination of strength and lightness. Some aluminum alloys rival medium-grade steel in strength, but it is lightweight and less costly. It also resists oxidation, which causes steel to rust. These qualities make it indispensable for reducing the weight of automobiles, trains, buses and even boats, thereby reducing energy consumption and pollution. Unlike steel, aluminum can be extruded. It can be joined using a wide variety of methods, such as fusion and resistant welding, soldering, brazing, riveting, bolting and adhesive bonding.
Some unique aluminum properties include its impermeability. Even when rolled quite thin, aluminum does not let light, smell or taste in or out. It’s also non-toxic, making it ideal as a packaging material for foods, beverages and pharmaceutical products. Aluminum is second only to copper as a good conductor of electricity, making it extremely useful in telephone wires and light bulbs.
Because it is so malleable, aluminum can be manufactured in an infinite number of shapes, including basic bars, channels, angles, and round, square and rectangular tubes and pipes. Extruded aluminum shapes also include angles, bars, corner extrusions, channels, division bars, decorative mirror trim, sliding t-slotted tracks, J channel, F channel and H or Z channel. This wide variety of choices makes extruded aluminum shapes appropriate in the manufacture of everything from screws and rivets to skyscraper frames and spacecraft.
Sapa Extrusions is the North American leader in common alloy extruded aluminum products, offering the industry’s most comprehensive product line. Our extruded aluminum products are available in standard and custom shapes (solid, semi-hollow and hollows). We offer complete solutions for extruded aluminum products required by the automotive, mass transit, bridge decking, and solar/renewable energy industries, as well as green applications for the building & construction market.