1) Types of Aluminum Alloys:
In the United States, the alloy designation system is derived from the Aluminum Association. For cast alloys a 3 digit system is used. For wrought products (sheet, plate, forgings, extrusions) a 4 digit system is used. These digits are followed by a letter digit that denotes the temper or heat treat condition.
1000 Series Aluminum: 99% pure aluminum. No major alloying additions. Most common type is I 100 which is commercially pure aluminum It is soft and very ductile, having excellent workability. Well suited for applications involving severe forming as it work hardens more slowly during forming. It is the most weldable of all aluminum alloys. It can not be heat treated. It has the best resistance to corrosion of any aluminum alloy, and is widely seen in the food and chemical processing industry. Can be chem film treated and anodized easily. Commonly used as the top or Alclad layer in other aluminum alloys needing extra corrosion resistance. Poor machineability due to soft nature.
2000 Series Aluminum Alloys: Principal alloying element is copper with minor additions of manganese and magnesium. This series of aluminum is the original heat treatable alloy group developed in the 1920's. The best known, most widely used heat treatable alloy for aircraft and aerospace is 2024. Can be spot and friction welded but not fusion welded (a few exceptions being tank structures in the Titan Missile). Has good formability in the annealed temper condition and some formability in the solution treated and aged condition, but needs intelligent application in complex designs. Has excellent fatigue properties when compared to other aluminum alloys, excellent strength to weight ratio. Good machinability. Poor resistance to corrosion without alclad layer or secondary chem film, anodize and/or prime and paint. Can be chem film and anodized readily. Other 2000 series alloys include 2017 seen widely in aluminum rivets, fasteners and screw machine parts and 2014 which is used heavily in forgings. These three alloys, 2024, 2014, and 2017 can be considered the foundations of aluminum aircraft, missiles and space vehicles during these past 75 years.
3000 Series Aluminum Alloys: 3003 is the most widely used of all aluminum alloys when measured in thousands of tons per year. It is essentially commercially pure aluminum with the addition of manganese which increases its strength about 20% over the 1100 series aluminum. Normally not heat treatable. A popular alloy in this group is 3003, which is used as a general purpose alloy for moderate strength applications requiring good formability. Applications include home, recreational, commercial and light industrial. Not normally seen for aircraft and aerospace uses.
5000 Series Aluminum Alloys: Magnesium is the principal alloy addition. A higher strength, non heat treatable family of alloys. 5005 is an improved version of 3003, better suited for anodizing with less tendency to streak or discolor. Similar applications to 3003. 5052 is the highest strength. Has good resistance to marine atmosphere and salt water corrosion. Excellent formability. Good fatigue properties in higher temper conditions. Used in a variety of applications including home, marine, ground transportation and aircraft. Good weldability by all methods. Probably over a dozen different alloys in this 5000 series group. Other popular alloys include 5056, 5083, & 5086. Many times used for aluminum rivets (bucked and pulled).
6000 Series Aluminum Alloys: Magnesium and silicon are the major alloy additions, making these alloys heat treatable. 6061 is the principle alloy. It is one of the least expensive and most versatile aircraft aluminum alloys available. A good range of mechanical fatigue properties and excellent corrosion resistance for a heat treatable aircraft alloy. Can be fabricated by virtually all methods. Excellent spot and fusion weldability for a heat treatable grade. Can also be furnace brazed. Available as a clad alloy for even better corrosion resistance. Although not as strong as the 2000 or 7000 series of heat treatable alloys, its corrosion resistance is far greater. Far ranging applications including aircraft, missiles and space, ground and marine transportation, screw machine parts and some industrial commercial uses. 6063 is widely seen in extrusion products for architectural applications. Has excellent finishing characteristics it is the best alloy for anodizing applications, either plain or dyed.
7000 Series Aluminum Alloys: Probably the highest strength series of aluminum alloys for aircraft applications. Relies on zinc as the primary alloy addition. Excellent fatigue properties, but in the T6 temper the fracture toughness can be inferior to other alloy choices. Many aircraft applications in the late 1940's and 1950's used 7075 T6 before some bad habits were understood. Normally formed fabricated in the annealed (0) condition. Can be spot welded but not fusion welded. Poor corrosion resistance if not protected by chem film, anodize, prime or paint. In sheet forms almost always used as a clad alloy. Other popular alloys now include 7049, 7050 in the overaged temper condition (T7xxx).
Clad Aluminum: Sometimes called Alclad. Many times the design engineer specifies a clad alloy, or a specific alloy type with a very thin layer of pure aluminum roll bonded to both sides of the alloy sheet. This provides us with the best of both worlds the high strength of the heat treatable alloy with the superb corrosion resistance of a purer aluminum top layer. This roll bonding is a true metallurgical bond and it's strong as the aluminum itself. Our U.S. coins are roll bonded clad alloys take a look at the dime or quarter in your pocket. Yes, it is nickel, roll bonded to a copper core.