Aerospace Grade Aluminum
Aluminum (Aluminium) has had a long and successful history in aerospace. It was first chosen by the Wright brothers as the preferred materials to make the cylinder block and other engine parts of their first manned flight in 1903.
Over the years, aluminum (Aluminium) has played a significant role in the aerospace industry, and its demand has subsequently increased.
Various aluminum (Aluminium) alloys are used in aerospace engineering, some more than others.
Commonly used aluminum alloys in aerospace
Aluminum alloy 2024 is the most widely used in aerospace development. The alloy has a high yield strength and is a high-grade alloy with excellent fatigue resistance. It is commonly used in sheet form for the wings and fuselage.
Alloy 2014 is the second most used aluminum alloy in this industry. It is known for its strength and toughness but is susceptible to corrosion. As such, it’s often used inside the framework rather than the shell. One of the other reasons why this alloy is preferred is because it is suitable for arc welding.
This is a non-heat treatable grade of alloy. It provides the highest strength and is highly ductile as well. It can be formed into various shapes and is highly corrosion resistant making it an ideal addition for numerous applications in aerospace.
Grade 6061 is commonly used in light crafts. Its easy machinability and welding are some of the reasons why it’s often preferred for these applications. It is fairly strong and features prominently in the wings and fuselage of the planes.
For its high corrosion resistance and strength in wide sections, grade 7050 is commonly used in the wing skins and fuselage and more so in military crafts. Its high resistance to fractures compared to other alloys is one of the reasons it’s highly regarded in the aerospace industry.
This is one of the strongest alloys in the market, and it has a low mass. It's perfect for crafts that need to stand up to the tough conditions and is also used in military aircraft.
The strength of grade 7075 is comparable to that of steel thanks to its high levels of zinc. It has impeccable fatigue resistance and is easy to machine. It was a popular choice for planes in World War II and remained frequently featured in some military crafts.
Less common aluminum alloys
Several other aluminum alloys not known to many play a crucial role in the development of the aerospace and aircraft industries.
This aluminum alloy provides maximum strength at high temperatures. It was used successfully for the external fuel tank of the first successfully launched space shuttle Columbia. Its properties include good weldability.
Grade 6063 is commonly used for its aesthetic appeal and not necessarily its structural prowess. It’s commonly used for intricate extrusion but also has a high resistance to fracture and fatigue and is very strong.
Finally, there is aluminum alloy 7475, which is at times found in the fuselage bulkheads of large aircraft. Like others mentioned herein, it's incredibly strong.
The demand for aluminum in the aerospace will most likely double in the next few years, especially with the newly developed aluminum-lithium alloys that could reduce aircraft weight and improve performance.