Aluminium plate – Exploring Atomic Number 13
When aluminium is forced between rolls and placed under great under pressure, it gets longer and thinner. This is how aluminium plate is made, along with aluminium sheet and foil. The difference between aluminium plate, sheet and foil is down to the thickness – aluminium plate has a thickness in excess of 1/4 of an inch or 6mm. Plate is probably the most widely used form of industrial aluminium, harnessed for a huge range of applications including construction, aerospace, transport and packaging. Here’s our definitive guide to aluminium plate.
What is aluminium plate?
Aluminium is often used in its purest form, especially when corrosion resistance is important. Alloys are added to change the final product’s properties. Plate is made from the metal itself plus varying amounts of copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and silicon, all added because, in different ways, they enhance pure aluminium’s strength and durability.
How is aluminium plate made?
It’s all about the rolling. The process starts with a pre-heated sheet ingot weighing as much as 20 tons, typically around 6 feet wide, 20 feet long, and over two feet thick. The ingot is heated to something called rolling temperature before being carefully fed into a breakdown mill to be rolled to and fro until it’s a few centimetres thick.
After this the slab that’s been created can be cold rolled without heat, or heat treated to boost the strength. The strongest alloys of all are heat treated, quickly cooled to room temperature, then stretched to straighten the metal and fix any internal stresses and strains generated by the rolling and heat-treating processes.
The plate is then either ‘aged’ naturally at room temperature, or aged artificially via a furnace. This develops the combination of strength and anti-corrosion the metal is so well know for. Last of all it’s trimmed to size either ready for sale or to be machined into a final product.
Aluminium sheet and foil are often made much the same way, but the metal slab is sent through a continuous mill to reduce the thickness before being wound into a coil. These vast coils are cold-rolled several times and can also be re-heated to give the final product the mechanical properties required. Alternatively sheet and foil can be made via continuous casting, where melted metal in a caster generates hot rolled coils without all the casting and hot rolling.
Who invented aluminium plate?
The Danish chemist Hans Christian Oersted first generated tiny amounts of pure aluminium back in 1825. In 1845 the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler created a way to make enough of the metal to study it, and later on the French chemist Henri Étienne Sainte-Claire Deville created the process for the commercial production of aluminium. At $40 per kilogram in 1859, it was an extremely expensive and rare metal back then.
In 1888 the Austrian chemist Karl Joseph Bayer created a new process to extract aluminium oxide from bauxite cheaply. In 1889 Charles Martin Hall finally patented a low cost way to produce the metal commercially, and the rest is history. The Hall-Héroult and Bayer methods are still used today. By 2011 the sheet metal industry boasted 4,400 fabrication shops in the United States alone, worth more than $20 billion.
Why was aluminium plate invented?
Aluminium plate has a plethora of uses, and it can be recycled continuously without losing any of its strength or other properties. Recycling sheet and plate aluminium saves more than 90% of the energy that would otherwise be needed to make brand new aluminium. The military grade version of the plate metal has the best performance of any kind of armour, meeting the US military’s highest standards. Aluminium of 0.250 inches and thicker is called plate, and the colder it is the stronger it is. Some alloys of the metal perform exceptionally well at super-cold temperatures, so are excellent for the cold storage sector and even for cryogenics. Other alloys are strong and light enough to make the skins for the bodies of aircraft.
What are the common uses of aluminium plate?
Aluminium plate has a huge range of exciting applications, including heavy-duty work in the aerospace, military, and transport sectors plus cars, caravans and aircraft parts. It is widely used for cold storage tanks across multiple industries, performing really well even in the extreme cold. Plate is also harnessed in the making of structural elements designed for trains, ships, and military vehicles.
Aluminium sheet, being thinner, is used for cans, packaging, car bodies, tractor trailers, household appliances and cooking gear. As far as building and construction go, it’s used for sidings and gutters, cladding, rooves, car ports and more.
What affects the price and supply of aluminium plate?
The price and supply of the metal itself affects the availability of plate aluminium, as does the price of energy, a significant variable. When energy costs rise, so does the price of aluminium. The metal is doing well in the creation of lighter aircraft designed to use less fuel and emit less CO2, and new demand tends to result in higher prices, simply because that’s the way the world’s economy works.
The construction industry is an enormous player in the aluminium plate market, eating up large amounts of the metal. The sector is nothing if not unpredictable at the moment, and that can also have an effect on supply, demand, and prices.
The virus, political change, economic problems, exchange rates, trade wars, recessions and more all have an impact on worldwide aluminium prices. But because aluminium as a whole has such a bright future as a sustainable, light metal with exceptional strength, efficiency and sustainability, it has a bright future.
We keep our fingers on the pulse, so come back soon for the latest news.
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