Steel may have been the flag-bearer for years and years, but then along came aluminum. And with much resistance, the industry reluctantly gave aluminum a try. Soon, the transition was tangible and the result was a manufacturing revolution.
Sound familiar? Given all the hype and news about the Ford F-150, you’d probably think that we were discussing the auto industry. However, the Motley Fool gives us a history lesson on how this happened before:
The year was 1934. After lots of coaxing, the American Can Co. finally persuaded Krueger Brewing to try selling its beer in steel cans. It worked, and by the end of 1935 23 different brewers were selling their beer in steel cans, which were easier to sell because they were lighter and more compact than bottles and quicker to fill.
Steel, however, was pushed out of the market in the 1970s after Coors (NYSE: TAP ) developed the first aluminum beer can. These were cheaper to produce, even lighter in weight, and took less time to chill. The nationwide switch to aluminum cans created a major structural demand shift for the aluminum industry.
That same structural shift is about to happen again. This time, the Ford (NYSE: F ) F-150 is replacing 1,500 pounds of steel with 900 pounds of aluminum in the all-new 2015 model. With this shift, aluminum appears poised to slowly take over the auto industry, much like it took over the beer can industry a few decades ago.
Aluminum has slowly been pushing steel out of cars for decades. In 1975 less than 100 pounds of aluminum could be found in the average car. Today that number has risen to 343 pounds of aluminum.
The rest of the article focuses on the differences in material properties between steel and aluminum. Together, it makes a valid argument as to why manufacturers are starting to see aluminum as the smart choice.