10 01, 2019

Environmental Advantages of Aluminum Extrusions

2019-01-10T19:19:41+00:00January 10th, 2019|

Beautiful country side with grassy mountain vistas and artistically-styled green cityscape & airplane

Aluminum. It’s light. It’s strong. It’s highly recyclable. And it’s leading the charge in our planet-wide quest for a more renewable, sustainable future… and aluminum extrusions are definetly part of the conservation puzzle..

Strides in aluminum alloy technology have allowed aluminum products to lower energy and carbon emissions in countless applications. From the automotive and aerospace industry, to construction and marine, consumer products, and beyond, aluminum is no doubt the sustainable solution for the modern world.

The facts don’t lie. The energy required to create new aluminum has decreased by 26% in the last two and a half decades, and the entire industry’s global warming potential has decreased by 37% (source: aluminum.org). This is due in large part to robust aluminum recycling programs that manufacturers have adopted.

Let’s dig deeper into the different facets of aluminum that is making it the material of the future.

LIGHTWEIGHT DESIGN

Implementing lightweight aluminum into manufacturing designs presents a great opportunity to increase the sustainable use of energy. Aluminum’s light weight contributes to increased fuel efficiency in transport vehicles, from consumer automobiles to military vehicles and airplanes. Aluminum’s 95% reflectivity property can be used in building materials to reduce heating costs within green buildings, and improves the efficiency of solar panels and solar cells.

We will go over the sustainability aluminum provides due to recycling further below, but it is important to note that the greatest environmental benefit comes from the day to day use of vehicles and buildings that are built with aluminum.

For buildings, the use of aluminum in extrusion-based building components (such as windows, sunshades, facades, etc.) can massively decrease the operating costs and energy usage over the lifetime of a building.

Aluminum extrusions’ combination of low weight and high strength provides immense benefits to pretty much anything with a motor and wheels. In using this material, you are reducing the mass that must be moved by the transportation system. Mass reductions in this way can lead to further downsizing elsewhere in the design, which results in reduced carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Each pound of aluminum used in place of high-strength steel provides the following benefits:

  • saves the equivalent of 3.1 gallons of crude oil over the life of the vehicle (source: org)
  • saves CO2 from day one, using recycled aluminum (source: org)

RECYCLING

The sustainability benefits that come from recycling aluminum are unmatched. As with any recyclable material, recycling aluminum conserves energy and our natural resources, as well as reduces water and air pollution.

Aluminum is INFINITELY recyclable. That means that it can be recycled over and over with virtually no limit.

Since 1884, billions of metric tons of aluminum have been produced, and today, roughly 74% of that amount is still in use today.

Yes, aluminum is truly unparalleled when it comes to recycling.. In fact, all aspects of products made from aluminum can be reused. That means that a simple act like tossing your aluminum cans into the recycling bin, instead of the general trash, can conserve 95% of the energy that it takes to create a new aluminum can.

For every 1 ton of aluminum recycled, the planet is spared 9 tons of CO2 emissions.

Members of the Aluminum Extrusion Council are deeply involved in scrap collection and secondary smelting programs. (source: AEC.org).

CONCLUSION

Although modern technology is making the world much smaller, it’s also introducing a lot of design challenges as we work towards creating a better, more sustainable future. Taber Extrusions is proud to be a prominent member of the aluminum extrusion industry, as it gives us the opportunity to assist manufacturers in reducing their carbon footprint in their designs, and work towards a better tomorrow.

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13 06, 2017

The Lightweight Revolution and Lightweight Aluminum

2017-07-26T17:47:10+00:00June 13th, 2017|

“Sometimes in life, you will find that you must let things go simply because they are heavy.” Of course, we are talking about the metal, steel, and aluminum market. We’re editors for an aluminum extrusion company, after all – so our primary interest is focusing on lightweight aluminum and where lightweight aluminum alloys stand in regard to the lightweight revolution that has infiltrated virtually every industry involving buildings, infrastructure systems, technology and transportation over recent years.

Everything is becoming lighter. Planes, trains, automobiles, and even Apples. (We know which Apples.) The reason for “lightweighting” is obvious: lower costs, smaller carbon footprint, stronger, more robust and corrosion-resistant products, and the big one… better fuel economy.  So how does lightweight aluminum fit into the picture? What are the “aluminum alloys to be reckoned with?” Are we going to find these super strong lightweight aluminum alloys in everyday items like bridges or automobiles?

Nope. Unless you’re an astronaut. Aerospace is where you’ll find 2XXX and 7XXX alloys. Military applications are a distant second. And not even a speck in the rearview mirror? Auto.

For more interesting tidbits like this, lightweight aluminum extrusion news, and Taber culture, visit the blog section of our website – or if you are interested in contacting us directly please e-mail info@taberextrusions.com or call us at 888-985-4913.

2XXX and 7XXX are the name of the game when it comes to “strong and light.” 2XXX alloys are aluminum-copper. Adding lithium to the mix creates an even higher strength alloy – AA2195 is one example. You’ll find these in Boeing airplanes and SpaceX rockets… but not in automobiles… lithium is expensive. Which is why 7000 series alloys are being considered for the automotive sector, but may not be as lightweight as the lithium-containing 2000 series alloys. (A glimpse of perspective: The only mass-produced aluminum is beverage cans, and that is 3XXX for the body and 5XXX for the top/lid.) The challenge to be met regarding 7XXX for automotive use is formability. 7XXX series alloys really like to remain flat, and testing techniques such as high temperature forming are expensive and slow. A rough comparison: 1 day of auto production = 1 year of airplane production.

Currently the strongest lightweight aluminum alloys are going to be found in low volume applications only. “Warm forming” of 2XXX and 7XXX can be found in aerospace and not automotive because the slower manufacturing process combined with the extra expense of alloying and energy (heating the metal and/or the tooling) are relatively low in aircraft manufacturing.   This process has a significantly higher percentage of total costs when it comes to manufacturing an automobile.  So, friends, it’s going to be a while until we see 7XXX in cars, and due to its expense, 2XXX will likely remain an aluminum alloy that stays in the sky.

Aluminum alloyed with anything after it on the periodic table will be heavier than pure aluminum. Aluminum alloyed with anything before it will be lighter. The further before, the greater lightweighting. Which is why Al-Li (lithium) are the lightest aluminum alloys.

A very special thank you to Daniel J. Schaeffler, Ph.D., President and CEO of Engineering Quality Solutions, for lending your thoughts, opinions, and pun ideas to our blogs.