When it comes to choosing the right grade of aluminum for a particular application, it’s best to play it by the numbers. That’s why this post contains a handy aluminum grades chart you can use to match your metal to your manufacturing challenge.
(Fun Fact: We have helpful charts for other materials too. Click here for a stainless steel grades chart, or click here for a carbon steel grades chart.)
What’s in This Aluminum Grades Chart?
First, why use aluminum? Practically a miracle metal, aluminum is almost as popular as steel. It also has some important advantages over steel. For example, aluminum is:
- Less than ½ the weight of steel, so it’s ideal for certain vehicles (i.e. aerospace) and household items (think patio furniture you want to be movable)
- While the toughness of aluminum in terms of impact resistance isn’t great, it does offer natural corrosion resistance. When it corrodes, it actually forms a protective layer to prevent further breakdown
- Fairly resistant to corrosion from chemicals, including salt
- Reflective, making it perfect for many uses, including decoration
- Highly conductive of both heat and electricity, so it’s good for transmission cables, heat exchangers, appliances, and many other applications
- Non-ferromagnetic, non-pyrophoric and non-toxic, making it useful in electronics, flammable and explosives material handling, and food packaging
- Softness makes it easy to fabricate into almost any shape or thickness
Aluminum is so adaptable in large part because of its alloys, and these alloys are what create aluminum’s different grades. You’ll want to keep handy this aluminum grade comparison chart, which accurately outlines these common aluminum alloys and their uses.
Being able to reference all the aluminum alloy strengths, as well as the disadvantages of aluminum alloys, is a time- and cost-saving win for your project.
Aluminum Alloy Categories
|355.0||Cast||Very hard. Good machinability and corrosion resistance||Cylinder heads|
|A356.0||Cast||General purpose alloy. High strength and good castability. Great corrosion resistance||Aircraft parts, pump housings, structural applications, pump housings, impellers|
|A360||Cast||High strength when treated. Average machinability, good corrosion resistance||Low-pressure applications, motor housings, cover plates|
|A380.0||Cast||Very hard. Good machinability and fair corrosion resistance||Electronics chassis, household furniture, tools, engine brackets, gearbox cases|
|A413||Cast||Poor machinability. Excellent corrosion resistance. Softer than other popular cast alloys||Thin sections, manifolds|
|514.0||Cast||High magnesium content, promoting hardenability through heat treatment and strain hardening. Also|
adds susceptibility to intergranular corrosion.
|Commercial food processing|
|712.0||Cast||Good shock resistance. Nice strength at elevated temperature. One of most expensive cast alloys. High zinc content; also includes chromium. This limits weldability||Decorative, farm machinery, machine tool parts, marine castings|
|1100||Wrought||Excellent corrosion resistance, workability. High|
thermal and electrical conductivity
|Food packaging trays|
|1350||Wrought||Excellent corrosion resistance, workability. High|
thermal and electrical conductivity
|2014||Wrought||Easily machinable in certain tempers. Among the strongest aluminium alloys. High hardness. Difficult to weld, as it’s subject to cracking. Commonly extruded and forged. Corrosion resistance is poor.||Cycling frames and components|
|2024||Wrought||Copper used as the principal alloying element and can be strengthened significantly through solution heat-treating. Good combination of strength and toughness, but lower atmospheric corrosion resistance than many other aluminum alloys||Most widely known aircraft alloy|
|3003||Wrought||Moderate strength and good workability. Manganese is the major alloying element||General purposes, heat exchangers, cooking utensils|
|3004||Wrought||Can produce tempers with higher strength but lower ductility. (Is aluminum ductile in general? Yes; just avoid this grade.) Manganese is the major alloying element||Soda can bodies|
|4043||Wrought||Silicon’s addition lowers the melting point without producing brittleness||Filler alloy for structural and automotive applications|
|4047||Wrought||Unique; used as cladding or filler alloy. Filler strips can be combined to bond two metals.||Aerospace, automotive|
|5052||Wrought||Moderate to high strength, as well as good weldability and resistance to corrosion in marine environments.||Electronics, marine craft, other marine|
|5059||Wrought||Resistant to saltwater corrosion||Marine craft, other marine applications|
|5083||Wrought||Highest strength of non-heat-treated alloys. Good weldability and resistance to corrosion in marine environments.||Marine craft and applications, U.S. military’s Bradley|
Fighting Vehicle, inner auto body panels
|5086||Wrought||Resistant to saltwater corrosion||Marine craft, other marine applications|
|5182||Wrought||Moderate to high strength, as well as good weldability and resistance to corrosion in marine environments.||Soda can lid|
|5754||Wrought||Moderate to high strength, excellent weldability||Inner auto body panels, auto frames|
|6061||Wrought||Heat treatable, highly formable, weldable. Moderately high strength and highly corrosion-resistant. Contains silicon and magnesium||Truck, cycle, and marine frames; general|
purpose; marine craft, breathing gas cylinders for scuba
|6063||Wrought||Heat treatable, with moderately high strength.|
Excellent corrosion resistance. Can be successfully extruded.
|Architectural and structural, marine craft, other marine applications, auto and cycling frames and components|
|6111||Wrought||Good corrosion resistance and precipitation hardening||External auto body panels|
|6351||Wrought||Heat treatable, highly formable, weldable. Moderately high strength and nice corrosion resistance||Breathing gas cylinders for scuba|
|6951||Wrought||Heat treatable to provide additional strength||Aircraft fins, heat|
transfer and exchangers for aerospace
|7005||Wrought||Relative ease of welding and manufacture. Does not need heat treating. Similar physical properties to 6061, except with higher density and (depending on temper) possibly slightly higher strength||Less expensive bicycle frames|
|7050||Wrought||Heat-treatable, incredibly strong alloy. Zinc is primary alloying agent. Magnesium, copper, and chromium|
exist in small quantities.
|Aircraft structures, aircraft parts, high-stress applications|
|7075||Wrought||Heat-treatable, incredibly strong alloy. Zinc is primary alloying agent. Magnesium, copper, and chromium|
exist in small quantities.
|Aircraft manufacturing where highest strength possible is a must,|
cycling frames and components
|7475||Wrought||Heat-treatable, incredibly strong alloy. Zinc is primary alloying agent. Magnesium, copper, and chromium|
exist in small quantities.
|Aircraft manufacturing where highest strength possible is a must|
How Does the Aluminum Grades Chart Work?
Aluminum alloys break down into a couple of broad categories: wrought and cast composition. Wrought and cast alloys are each then divided again into categories depending on the mechanism that develops their properties. Very simply put, engineers use either heat treatment or mechanical methods (sometimes both) to develop wrought and cast aluminum alloys.
Now comes the tricky part. The Aluminum Association has devised a four-digit alloy classification system to separate alloy families (for example, 3xxx) for wrought alloys and a three-digit plus decimal system (for example 2xx.x) for cast alloys. The digits tell you the alloy’s chemical composition. The decimal attached to the codes for cast alloys refer to alloy limits, but don’t put too much thought into them.
An example of how to use this chart to your benefit is this: If you’re looking for the strongest aluminum alloy to use in building aircraft, you probably want copper as an alloying metal. But say your specs call for more magnesium and other metals. You can go to your chart and start with #2 on the wrought composition section because it contains alloys with copper as the main alloying metal. Then it’s just a matter of adding the right amount of magnesium and any other specified elements.
Of course, this is more than just an aluminum strength chart — be sure to check out all the other standouts by corrosion resistance, formability, and so on. Each project has a top priority in terms of material properties — what’s yours?
Narrow It Down Yet?
There are more than 500 aluminum alloys registered with the Aluminum Association. You can see how having a chart on hand helps cull the herd rather quickly. It’s all about getting the right metal for your project, saving you from wasting time and money on a redo.
Getting your metal manufacturer involved early in the design process can also benefit your project’s success rate. The right vendor will know which metal is best for your project and which ones are readily available, saving you lead times and maybe even cost.
(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2018 and was recently updated.)