Manufacturing large sheets of aluminum is nothing new. However, even though the process has been around for some time, it is still widely used today. In fact, aluminum alloy plate is made for a wide range of industries and the list continues to grow each year, as more people discover the benefits of aluminum. Let’s look closer at the process of creating plate aluminum for industry today, to uncover some things you might not be aware of.
The Making of Aluminum Alloy Plate
To begin with, large aluminum ingots are cast. In fact, these ingots can be very large with diameters in excess of two feet and can weigh in at 20 tons or more. Different alloys are used depending on the application. For example, 2024 alloy is made with copper and other metals. It can be welded and machined but is not the best for corrosion resistance. 6061 aluminum is created with magnesium and silicon (along with other elements) to provide an excellent general purpose aluminum. For precision aluminum alloy plate with high corrosion resistance a 5083 alloy is commonly used. It is made with magnesium, manganese and other metals.
The Rolling Process
To create plate aluminum ingots must be pressed between large heavy rollers. First, the ingot is softened with heat and placed into a mill where it is rolled a number of times until the desired plate thickness is achieved. If heat treatment is desired, it is done right after rolling. The aluminum is heated and then rapidly cooled or quenched. It is then stretched to straighten it out and trimmed to the desired dimensions.
Aluminum alloy plate is used to make auto bodies and for military and aerospace applications. Depending on the type of alloy used, aluminum plate can be used in the coldest of conditions and produced in thick enough sheets to make armor.
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