Aluminum is important to the US. Not only is it a key element in manufacturing, but aluminum has a major economic impact. The US aluminum industry accounts for 634,419 direct and indirect jobs (not including fabricators), totaling over $176 billion in economic output.
Let’s look at a few industries using aluminum today.
The aluminum Association states, “By 2026, aluminum content per vehicle will rise by 12% to meet the needs for future hybrid and electric vehicles. Light trucks like the Ford F-150 Lightning are expected to have an average of nearly 550 pounds of aluminum content. Luxury sedans like the Tesla Model S and sports cars like the Acura NSX will boast more than 800 pounds of aluminum content.” Currently aluminum is used by some auto manufacturers on doors, trunk lids, hoods, fenders, tailgates, and more.
For electric vehicles, lightweighting extends the driving range. Manufacturers are turning to aluminum not only for its lighter weight, but also for its high resistance to corrosion.
Finishing aluminum for automotive applications requires specific abrasives. A fast working, non-loading abrasive product that leaves a paintable finish is key. Type 1 wheels for laser braze finishing are commonly used in automotive assembly plants. Rex-Cut manufacturers Type 1 Laser Braze Finishing Wheels with the specific tolerances and specs needed for this application.
Another need for abrasives in the automotive industry is for the repair and bodywork side. Cotton Fiber Quick Change Discs are non-loading and come in grits to grind, blend, and finishing with excellent operator control.
Lightweighting is also a constant evolution for the aircraft industry. The Business Research Company states, “A 20% weight reduction in a Boeing787 is expected to generate a 10-12% improvement in fuel efficiency.”
The most used aluminum in aerospace right now is 2024. Wings and fuselage typically are made of 2024 sheets. The second most common is alloy 2014. This form of aluminum is used for the framework.
For aluminum edge breaking, deburring, and small weld blending, Cotton Fiber Mounted Points are recommended. With their non-loading properties and cushion action while running, these points will debur aluminum without changing part geometry. Rex-Cut makes these points with many grit/bond/shape options to fit difficult applications. A shape chart of Mounted Points is available here.
Aluminum use in construction rose 16% from 2010-2020. Over the years aluminum has become a key part of green construction.
The Aluminum Association estimates, “60+ percent of the aluminum used in buildings built today comes from recycled material.” Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, making it a very environmentally friendly choice. Using aluminum in construction can help your project qualify for green building status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
Aluminum is typically seen in facades, door and window frames, roofing, gutters, solar panels, handrails, and more. With modern skyscrapers, aluminum is vital for large window frames, siding, and more. All About Aluminum notes, “25% of all aluminum produced worldwide is used in construction.”
For rapid beveling or weld grinding, Rex-Cut’s Aluminator is a top choice. Rex-Cut’s Aluminator Grinding Wheel removes an average of 75% - 90% more 6160 through the life of the wheel compared to a sampling of other aluminum grinding wheels on the market.
The Aluminator grinds aluminum fast, without loading, and provides a very consistent metal removal rate for the entire life of the wheel. The Aluminator runs noticeably smoother allowing for safer conditions for grinding operators.
To remove any scratches and achieve a paintable finish, we recommend Max Flex as a second step.
Current State of Aluminum
Just like many industries around the world, the aluminum industry was hurt by COVID 19, but it bounced back strong in 2021. The aluminum demand is up to 26.3 million pounds which is approaching pre-coronavirus levels. The US aluminum exports has been negatively affected by the worldwide supply chain issues. In 2021, aluminum exports decreased by 20.4-percent to foreign countries. But imported aluminum and aluminum products coming into North America grew by 21.3-percent year-over-year in 2021. With demand remaining high in major markets across the globe, aluminum is expected to keep growing.
The price of aluminum is up approximately 14.71-percent since June 2021 but has been falling since late March. It is at the lowest level since December, and down about 29-percent from the peak that was reached, also in March. With China beginning to reopen after a two-month lockdown, experts believe that the demand for aluminum could continue to rise.
Aluminum continues to become more and more popular. In fact, you’re likely to be within 6 feet of a piece of aluminum right now. It is durable, light weight, but does have a reputation for being difficult to work with. Fabricators can learn some key elements that will make aluminum for a competitive advantage.