Aluminium tubes and steel tubes are ubiquitous in automotive, aerospace, industrial, construction, research, and medical applications. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages, but each material has its obvious characteristics to be suitable for corresponding industries. So, for your project, which is better, Aluminium or steel? In fact, the most important thing is to consider the following 6 factors:

  1. Mechanical Properties
  2. Corrosion Resistance
  3. Thermal Conductivity
  4. Electrical Conductivity
  5. Machinability
  6. Cost
aluminum tube

1. Aluminium VS Steel: Mechanical Properties

Mechanical properties include weight, strength and malleability.

Weight: As we all know, Aluminium is lighter than steel. In the same volume, the weight of Aluminium is one-third of steel. The main advantage of heavier steel is its high durability. Its strength means that it is unlikely to bend, warp or deform under the influence of heat or external force. However, mild steel with the same weight as Aluminium is not as strong and is more prone to fracture and cracking. So Aluminium is easier to handle and cheaper to transport.

Strength: As mentioned above, the increase in the weight of steel leads to an increase in strength. Compared with Aluminium, steel can withstand higher shock, impact, stress and pressure. It is not easy to warp, deform or bend underweight, force or heat.

Malleability: Aluminium is more malleable than steel, which means it can be successfully bent or extruded into various custom shapes or contours without breaking or cracking. Especially for parts with deep and straight walls, Aluminium is the preferred material. Aluminium can also cope well with cold weather, because as the temperature falls, Aluminium actually becomes stronger.

aluminum tube

2. Aluminium VS Steel: Corrosion Resistance

In terms of corrosion resistance, Aluminium undoubtedly performs better. Aluminium has high oxidation resistance and corrosion resistance, which is mainly due to its passivation layer. The Aluminium does not need to be processed after extrusion. In addition, Aluminium does not rust and does not require any coating or paint that will wear or scratch. Aluminium is protected by its own naturally occurring oxide film. On the other hand, steel is susceptible to resistance. Carbon steel does require paint or other surface treatments to prevent rust or corrosion. This is especially true if the steel is placed in a humid or humid environment, or especially in an abrasive environment.

3. Aluminium VS Steel: Thermal Conductivity

Aluminium has a better thermal conductivity (thermal conductor) than steel. The thermal conductivity of Aluminium is three times greater than that of steel, which has led to its use in heat exchange equipment. This is also one of the main reasons why it is used in car radiators and air conditioning devices. If transferring heat in your application is important, Aluminium may be a better choice.

4. Aluminium VS Steel: Electrical Conductivity

Compared with most metals, steel is a very poor conductor. Aluminium is a good electrical conductor. Due to its high electrical conductivity, light weight and corrosion resistance, high-voltage overhead power lines are usually made of Aluminium. Among them, 1000 series Aluminium alloy is the best conductor. This series is used to manufacture products such as bus conductors. If you are looking for lower conductivity, steel is your better choice.

Aluminium cable

5. Aluminium VS Steel: Machinability

Because Aluminium is quite soft, it is relatively easy to cut and shape, and it can be recycled for remolding for reuse. Steel has higher weldability than Aluminium. It’s easier to weld, and the final welds are more consistent. Therefore, steel has a higher secondary processing rate.

6. Aluminium VS Steel: Cost

Generally, a pound of Aluminium is more expensive than a pound of steel. But because Aluminium is lighter than steel, you can get more material per pound. This means that more units can be produced per pound of Aluminium than per pound of steel. However, the cost of raw materials and processing must be taken into consideration. In general, the cost of Aluminium tubes will be slightly lower than that of steel tubes.

How to choose? It depends on your project

Aluminium pipes and steel pipes are widely used in various industries. In summary, the main factors to consider when choosing the most suitable metal material for your application are the above 6 factors. In addition to choosing the type of metal that best suits your application, you should also consider how the metal is processed. Regarding steel processing, it is relatively simple. And Aluminium processing will be more complicated, you can refer to this article “What are the processing techniques of aluminium alloy?” 

The following is about the application of different grades of Aluminium tubes and steel tubes in different industries.

Aluminium Tube Uses & Applications

Metal GradeCommon UsesApplications
1100 AluminiumChemical Equipment, Electrical Components, Decorative Parts, Spun Hollowware, Tanks, Sheet MetalAir Filtration & Movement, Chemical Processing, Cryogenics, Electrical, Oil &Gas, Power Generation, Telecommunications
3003 AluminiumChemical Handling Equipment, Lawn Furniture Components, Architectural Components, Food PackagingAir Filtration & Movement, Bulk Handling, Chemical Handling, Cryogenics, Oil &Gas, Telecommunications, Trucks & Trailers
5052 AluminiumHighway & Road Signs, Marine Boats, Fuel Tanks, Flooring Panels, Pressure Vessels, Kitchen AppliancesAerospace, Marine, Transportation, Off-highway Automotive

Steel Tube Uses & Applications

Metal GradeCommon UsesApplications
304 Stainless SteelHoppers, Tank Heads, Cones, Hemispheres, Reducers, Air Movement Parts, Filtration ComponentsAutomotive, Aerospace, Food/Drug, Marine, Plastics
316 Stainless SteelChemical Processing Equipment, Laboratory Benches & Equipment, Pollution Control Equipment, Food Processing Equipment, Condensers, EvaporatorsAutomotive, Aerospace, Electronics, Medical, Pharmaceuticals
409 Stainless SteelHeat Exchangers, Heating System Components, Off-Highway Exhaust PartsAutomotive, Aerospace, Heating
430 Stainless SteelSinks, Dishwashers, Range Hoods, Roofing, Restaurant EquipmentArchitecture, Construction, Food/Restaurant

Generally, if your application is a consumer product or a lightweight product (such as kitchen supplies, heat exchange and heat transfer or aerospace), Aluminium tubes will be easier to use. If your application is structural or weight-independent, steel tubes will be more cost-effective.

However, today, in many industrial applications, Aluminium tubes are gradually replacing steel tubes. Why? For specific information, please refer to this article “Why Do Manufacturers in these Industries Prefer to Choose Aluminium Tubes?” 

aluminum tube

Still, have questions about the difference between aluminium tube and steel tube?

If you still have questions about the difference between Aluminium tube and steel tube applications, let CHAL’s experienced team provide you with exclusive answers. If you have any demand for any Aluminium tube, you can also contact us at any time. As the leading Aluminium tube supplier in China, we are ready to provide you with the best service.

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