The story of human dominance over nature really begins at metalworking with bronze. Bronze represents humanity’s first steps in substantively transforming the essence of the object around them, rather than just manipulating the physical shape of naturally occurring materials.
Since the introduction of bronze more than 10,000 years ago, metallurgy has continued to evolve. Most of the “giant leaps” in metalworking occurred thousands of years ago, but the technological age has brought about unprecedented advances of its own. Many of the advances piggybacked on the slow progression of past eras, as is the case with steel. However, aluminum stands out for its rise as a brand new, never seen before metal that arrived to chart the course for a new era of human progress.
This “metal, that looked like silver, but was too light to be silver” appears in the Roman history books of Pliny the Elder. He tells of how the Roman emperor saw the beauty and versatility of the metal, and, afraid of what its discovery could do to the price of silver, ordered the beheading of the only chemist capable of producing aluminum. The chemist, who claimed only he and the gods knew the secret of making aluminum, took the secret to his grave. From then, the gods were slow in trusting the secret to humans again. In fact, it wasn’t until 1825 that chemist Hans-Christian Orsted produced the first pure aluminum. This Danish scientist got to keep his head and the honor of introducing the world to a game-changing element.
With aluminum in hand, a whole new world opened to engineers and manufacturers. A lightweight, durable, corrosive-resistant, conductive, tasteless, and versatile metal immediately transformed the possibilities for industries, from aerospace and transportation to food and beverage. Soon aluminum, which at first was considered a royal, luxury metal, would find its way into everyone’s home through consumer products such as cars and appliances.
Fueled by these past successes, aluminum continues to be a forward-looking material. Innovation characterizes this industry, focused on pushing the boundaries of the youngest member of the great metal family. Today’s research and development in the aluminum industry focuses on testing and understanding aluminum alloys.
To make these alloys, aluminum is melted and then mixed with other elements such as zinc, magnesium, and copper, among many others. Each alloy has a different set of characteristics, and consequently a different set of uses. In order to streamline the transition of these elements from research to application, aluminum alloys are assigned a four-digit number, where the first number indicates the main element that is alloyed with the aluminum. Some alloys, such as the ones found in the 3xxx series (Manganese), are great as cooking utensils, while other alloys, such as the 7xxx (Zinc) series, are perfect for aircraft. This classification of aluminum alloys gives end-users a guide by which they can pinpoint the aluminum alloy to fit their needs.
Specialized aluminum alloys can be found in our power lines, skyscrapers, appliances, automobiles, aircraft, and consumer products, from soda cans to refrigerators. Perhaps the only thing greater than aluminum’s achievements are the promises for tomorrow. From increased electrical conduction, to stronger, more lightweight aluminum, many of the world’s industries count on aluminum alloys to make their own progress possible. In this way, aluminum alloys are a keystone for the world’s continued technological progression.
At Taber Extrusions, our job is to keep up with every twist and turn in the exciting world of aluminum, so that we can deliver the perfect aluminum alloy for the job. Our intricate, precision extrusionsembody our attention to detail and understanding of the nuanced world of aluminum. Taber uses a wide scope of aluminum alloys to deliver quality aluminum extrusions according to customer specifications. That means, every product is tailor made, in substance and in shape.
Many ages have gone by since the first humans began shaping the natural world to their liking. Many, too, have gone by since we began using the power of chemistry to create the perfect materials. At Taber, we take our place within these traditions of progress and innovation, and are proud to work with aluminum, the metal of the future. Come take advantage of our aluminum extrusion expertise and best practices in the sector to meet your needs today!
ABOUT TABER EXTRUSIONS
Founded in 1973, Taber Extrusions originally pioneered a process for extruding rectangular billet which enables the company to extrude solid profiles up to 31 inches wide or hollows up to 29 inches. Taber expanded with the purchase of an extrusion facility in Gulfport, MS in 1995 which houses a new state-of-the-art cast house and two additional presses, micro-extrusion capabilities, and the fabrication area has been expanded multiple times.
Taber continues to extrude billet in a wide range of alloys and sizes and has diversified its markets beyond military since its inception to include aerospace, automotive, marine, infrastructure, and sporting goods, among many others. For these markets, the company supplies cast and extruded products in a variety of soft and hard alloys.
Today, Taber Extrusions is a vertically-integrated supplier of friction stir welding panels and assemblies in North America not previously seen – offering extruded aluminum components, value-added machining services, and raw materials.
“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 email@example.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.