As the twentieth century progressed, aluminum became an essential metal in aircraft. The aircraft airframe has been the most demanding application for aluminum alloys. Today, like many industries, aerospace makes wide use of aluminum manufacturing.
Why choose Aluminum Alloy in Aerospace Industry:
Light Weight — The use of aluminum alloys reduces the weight of an aircraft significantly. With a weight roughly a third lighter than steel, it allows an aircraft to either carry more weight, or become more fuel efficient.
High Strength — Aluminum’s strength allows it to replace heavier metals without the loss of strength associated with other metals, while benefitting from its lighter weight. Additionally, load-bearing structures can take advantage of aluminum’s strength to make aircraft production more reliable and cost-efficient.
Corrosion Resistance — For an aircraft and its passengers, corrosion can be extremely dangerous. Aluminum is highly resistant to corrosion and chemical environments, making it especially valuable for aircrafts operating in highly corrosive maritime environments.
There are a number of different types of aluminum, but some are more suited to the aerospace industry than others. Examples of such aluminum include:
2024 — The primary alloying element in 2024 aluminum is copper. 2024 aluminum can be used when high strength to weight ratios are required. Like the 6061 alloy, 2024 is used in wing and fuselage structures because of the tension they receive during operation.
5052 — The highest strength alloy of the non-heat-treatable grades, 5052 aluminum provides ideal expediency and can be drawn or formed into varying shapes. Additionally, it offers excellent resistance to saltwater corrosion in marine environments.
6061 — This alloy has good mechanical properties and is easily welded. It is a common alloy for general use and, in aerospace applications, is used for wing and fuselage structures. It is especially common in homebuilt aircraft.
6063 – Often referred to as the “architectural alloy,” 6063 aluminum is known for providing exemplary finish characteristics, and is often the most useful alloy for anodizing applications.
7050 – A top choice for aerospace applications, alloy 7050 displays much greater corrosion resistance and durability than the 7075. Because it preserves its strength properties in wider sections, 7050 aluminum is able to maintain resistance to fractures and corrosion.
7068 – 7068 aluminum alloy is the strongest type of alloy currently available in the commercial market. Lightweight with excellent corrosion resistance, the 7068 is one of the toughest alloys presently accessible.
7075 — Zinc is the main alloying element in 7075 aluminum. Its strength is similar to that of many types of steel, and it has good machinability and fatigue strength properties. It was originally used in the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter planes during World War II, and is still used in aviation today.