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Aluminum Alloys in Shipbuilding – A Fast-Growing Trend

Till the 90s and early 2000s, the shipbuilding industry relied heavily on steel. Over the past few years, the trend has changed. Shipbuilders around the world now extensively use aluminum alloys in shipbuilding. Aluminum is a highly versatile metal. It is lightweight yet durable, has excellent corrosion resistance, and can be recycled.

Compelling Reasons to Use Aluminum Alloys For Shipbuilding

Shipbuilders use aluminum alloys for ships to increase their payload and improve fuel efficiency. Ships made from aluminum alloys can weigh up to as much as 50 percent less than those made from low-carbon steels.

Aluminum alloys help reduce the weight of the structure of a ship and improve its stability. Some aluminum alloys fit for use in corrosive environments are non-heat-treatable 5000 and heat-treatable 6000 types alloys.

5000-series and 6000-series alloys have excellent strength, formability, and weldability. 6000-series aluminum alloys are stronger than 5000-series alloys but are less corrosion-resistant than them.

Technological advancements make manufacturing an aluminum vessel less expensive and easier today than 20-25 years ago. Shipbuilders around the world use work kitting, complex extrusions, and router cutting to improve labor productivity, which in turn leads to reduced labor costs. Additionally, technology has addressed the challenges that manufacturers faced earlier when working with aluminum.

Aluminum is used in the construction of tankers, big ships, yachts, and motor boats. Most sport boats manufactured today are made from aluminum. Aluminum components help reduce the weight of a sport boat, increasing its top speed.

What about high-capacity vessels? Most parts of heavy-duty cargo vessels are made from steel; still, their superstructure and auxiliary equipment utilize aluminum, which reduces total vessel weight and increases the ship’s cargo-carrying capacity.

Many ship manufacturers make entire ship hulls from aluminum. An aluminum hull offers several benefits, from better fuel economy to reduced maintenance costs.

According to some estimates, shipbuilders use around 1-1.2 million tonnes of aluminum in shipbuilding.

Aluminum vs. Steel

Under normal conditions, a thin layer of aluminum oxide forms on the surface of aluminum when it comes in contact with oxygen. This layer protects aluminum against corrosion. No such protection is afforded against corrosion in the case of steel.

A study found that steel corrodes at the rate of 120 micrometers per year, whereas aluminum corrodes at the rate of only 1 micrometer per year. Aluminum alloys also have a high strength-to-weight ratio. No wonder they are fast becoming the material of choice for shipbuilding.

The unit weight of steel is around 17,306 pounds per cubic meter, whereas the unit weight of aluminum is a little more than 5,864 pounds per cubic meter, which is roughly 33 percent the weight of steel.

Bayou Metal Supply offers all major aluminum grades. Whether you want to manufacture household items or build a heavy-duty vessel, we have the right aluminum grade for your project. To learn more, call (888) 201-6417.

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