With so many excellent and versatile aluminium alloys on the market, manufacturers must exercise extreme caution when selecting. Matching the right alloy to the right application is one of the most important factors in a company’s success now more than ever. Your customers want to know that they are getting the most affordable, efficient, and high-quality products possible, and that starts with the aluminium you use.
Among the more popular aluminium alloys, 6061 and 5052 offer manufacturers various options due to their distinct properties. While both have the properties that make aluminium one of the most widely used materials in the world, such as a high strength-to-weight ratio, 100% recyclability, formability, and good corrosion resistance, they also have unique properties that allow them to specialize for specific applications. When deciding between them, you must have a clear understanding of your requirements and a thorough understanding of their differences.
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Types of Aluminium Alloys
Before comparing the two, reviewing the aluminium alloy classification system might be a good idea. An aluminium alloy is formed when other elements are combined with pure aluminium. Scientists and researchers have been experimenting with aluminium for over a century to create the best-performing alloys possible. Iron, copper, magnesium, silicon, zinc, and manganese are commonly added materials.
Aluminum’s core properties, such as strength, density, workability, conductivity, and corrosion resistance, can be improved by incorporating these elements. Both 6061 and 5052 are wrought alloys instead of cast aluminium alloys (recognized because they are designated with a three-digit plus decimal system xxx. x).
A four-digit number identifies wrought alloys. The first number indicates the primary alloying element. Each forms a distinct series, such as the 3xxx and 7xxx series. The main alloying agent in the 5xxx series is magnesium, while magnesium and silicon are used in the 6xxx series.
If the second digit is not 0, it indicates that the original alloy has been modified, and the third and fourth digits are numbers assigned to identify the specific alloy in the series. For example, alloy 5182, used in aluminium cans, has the number 5 to begin with, indicating that it is from the magnesium alloy series.
The 1 denotes the first modification to the original alloy 5082, and the 82 distinguishes the alloy from others in the series.
Characteristics of these Alloys
Let us begin with the 6061 alloys, introduced in 1935 and one of the first commercially available aluminium alloys. We know that magnesium and silicon are the main elements added to it because it is from the 6xxx series. The magnesium increases its strength, while the silicon lowers the melting temperature. Although magnesium and silicon individually produce aluminium alloys that cannot be effectively heat-treated, the 6xxx series alloys respond well to heat treatment when combined. Chromium, iron, and copper are other trace elements found in 6061.
6061 aluminium is known in the industry for its excellent structural strength and toughness, as well as its good surface finish and corrosion resistance. It has good machinability and can be welded and joined easily. 6061 may show reduced strength after welding, but it is possible to heat-treat the alloy again to restore strength.
Regarding mechanical properties, 6061’s tensile strength (for 6061 T651 Bare, for example) is listed at 45,000 psi, with a yield point of 40,000 psi. Brinell hardness is set at 95. The shear strength is 31,000 psi, and the elongation at break is 12%. The thermal conductivity of 6061 is 170 W/m-K. Finally, it has a strength-to-weight ratio of 115 kN-m/kg.
5xxx, on the other hand, is classified as a non-heat-treatable aluminium alloy because it is primarily treated with magnesium alone. Alloys in this series, such as 5052, have moderate to high strength and good weldability and corrosion resistance. 5052 contains trace amounts of chromium, copper, iron, manganese, silicon, zinc, and magnesium.
Because of its high corrosion resistance, 5052 aluminium alloy is ideal for applications that regularly come into contact with salt water, wastewater, and chlorine. It is widely acknowledged to be the best for welding aluminium. Because of its high modulus of elasticity, this alloy has a high strength-to-weight ratio, a smooth surface, and good formability. However, as previously stated, it cannot be heat treated.
Aluminum 5052 (H32) has a tensile strength of 33,000 psi and a yield point of 28,000 psi, according to its specific mechanical properties. It has a Brinell hardness rating of 60. It has a modulus of elasticity of 10,200 KSI and an elongation at a break of 12% at 1.6 mm. 5052 (H32) has a thermal conductivity of 138 W/m-K.
Each of these alloys is best suited for a particular application. 6061 was originally used in the manufacture of aircraft. Because of its incredible versatility, this alloy can now be found in various products and industries, including construction materials and the automotive industry. Motorcycles, boats, bicycles, scuba tanks, camera lenses, fly-fishing reels, firearms, and electrical fittings are all manufactured. Many aluminium cans used in the food industry are made from 6061. This alloy is also used to build docks and gangways.
As previously stated, 5052 is frequently used in welding applications. Marine parts, aircraft, architecture, general sheet metal work, heat exchangers, fuel lines and tanks, flooring panels, street lights, appliances, and rivets and wires are also applications for 5052. Many large marine structures and transports use 5052 because of its excellent corrosion resistance against seawater and salt spray.