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Aluminum 5052 and aluminum 6061 are varieties of aluminum alloys that are highly valued across manufacturing industries. This is because, they both offer a wide range of properties such as incredible durability, versatility, mechanical properties, and many more. However, choosing an aluminum alloy for a specific project has been an issue in the industry.
As a result, it is highly important to conduct thorough research before investing funds in a particular aluminum grade. The final selection of alloy between 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum will greatly depend on formability, weldability, overall strength, corrosion resistance, and more. To bridge this gap, this post will help to determine how these factors rank among each other in the selection between 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum for your project.
The 5052 aluminum and the 6061 aluminum are both invaluable materials in their respective domains. Before we delve into the comparison between the two, it is important to take a close look at each aluminum grade. This section gives a bit overview of 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum.
5052 aluminum is a member of the series 5xxx grade of aluminum alloys. This alloy has been in use since 1930 and received its standard designation in 1954. Among its benefits are great resistance to corrosion, good weldability, and high fatigue strength. Due to the varied benefits, aluminum 5052 is found in a wide range of applications. Such applications include marine environments because of its resistance to corrosion, architecture, pressure vessel, and fuel containers.
This grade of aluminum is the strongest non-heat-treatable aluminum grade in common use. As a result of this, the 5052 aluminum works exceptionally well as plate or sheet metals. In that way, the metal sheet or plate combines excellent weldability and formability with increased strength. It has a slightly lower density than aluminum at 2.68 g/cm3 (0.0968 lb/in3). Its element composition includes magnesium, chromium, and many more. However, 5052 aluminum contains no copper element which makes it non-susceptible to saltwater corrosion. Hence, its wide application in the marine industry.
Having been found in almost every corner of the manufacturing industry today, 6061 aluminum is widely known and far-reaching. It is said to be the most versatile aluminum alloy while it retains most of the useful properties of aluminum. This aluminum grade was developed in 1935 and was original called the “Alloy 61S”.
The 6061 aluminum is a precipitation-hardened alloy. This means that it is strengthened during a treatment process that involves a lot of activities. These activities include the disbursement of particles within the metals giant structure, blocking motion as well as increasing durability and strength. The alloy of 6061 aluminum is composed of aluminum, silicon, and magnesium as its major element. Other alloy elements may include copper, iron, zinc, and many more. 6061 aluminum can be fabricated easily by many techniques. This confers on aluminum 6061 a great workability with impressive mechanical properties.
5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum grades have excellent properties and they serve different purposes with distinct element composition. Also, both alloys can be used for the same purpose. However, it is of importance to use the alloy with a high level of benefits.
For easy understanding, we will use the properties exhibited by both alloys to draw comparisons between the two. This is to ensure that users have more knowledge about 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum for the effective selection of alloys for projects. The following are the attribute for the comparisons:
The 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum exist in different forms. These variations can be used to draw comparisons. In this section, we will differentiate each alloy from one another by listing out their respective alloy variations.
The 5052 aluminum exists in about 19 alloy variations. They include:
The 6061 aluminum grades exist in pre-tempered and tempered grade. This include:
In a bid to differentiate 5052 aluminum from 6061 aluminum, the chemical components are very important. The chemical composition of these alloys determines their workability for usage. The table below shows a summary of the alloy composition of 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum.
|Element||5052 Aluminum||6061 Aluminum|
|Aluminum||95.85 – 97.70 %||95.80 – 97.90 %|
|Silicon||0.00 – 0.25 %||0.40 – 0.80 %|
|Zinc||0.00 – 0.10 %||0.00 – 0.25 %|
|Magnesium||2.20 – 2.80 %||0.80 – 1.20 %|
|Manganese (Mn)||0.00 – 0.10 %||0.00 – 0.15 %|
|Chromium||0.15 – 0.35 %||0.04 – 0.35 %|
|Copper||0.00 – 0.00 %||0.15 – 0.40 %|
|Iron (Fe)||0.00 – 0.40 %||0.00 – 0.70 %|
|Titanium (Ti)||–||0.00 – 0.15 %|
|Residuals||0.00 – 0.15 %||0.00 – 0.15 %|
The mechanical properties of a material are the physical properties exhibited when a force or impact is acted upon it. 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum both exhibit quite a range of mechanical properties. These properties give us more opportunities to be able to compare and contrast. These properties include:
Modulus of elasticity can be expressed in terms of stiffness of an alloy. This is quantified as a measure of how an alloy material can resist plastic deformation in a presence of an external force. A material that exhibits higher moduli is said to be more elastic. This is because it requires extra effort to permanently lead the material into deformity. As a result, alloys with higher modulus metrics are preferred for forming applications. In addition to this, elastic materials do not easily fracture when deformed. We compare 5052 aluminum with 6061 aluminum and we found out that 5050 aluminum has the highest modulus of elasticity (70.3 GPa). Therefore, if elasticity is considered in the selection of alloy for your project, then 5052 aluminum is a perfect choice.
This phenomenon is the degree to which a material conducts electricity. It is measured as the ratio of the current density to the electric field that caused the flow of current. In the comparison of 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum using equal volume, the 5052 aluminum shows lower conductivity at about 7% lesser than the 6061 aluminum. This shows that the aluminum 6061 may be preferred over the 5052 aluminum if there is more preference for electrical conductivity.
For several reasons, aluminum 6061 failed in terms of formability, but it succeeds as an excellent machining grade. In this context, machinability measures how well an alloy material responds to milling, die-cutting, turning, or other machining operations. These machinability operations can be measured using some machinability scales. However, based on empirical tests, our scales will be reported in a Likert scale manner. This rating is represented in terms of excellent, good, fair, and poor ratings. 6061 aluminum is rated “Good” while 5052 is “Poor” in terms of machinability. This is because 6061 aluminum is more brittle and fractures off more easily with lesser chips when machined. On the other hand, 5052 aluminum is rated poor due to its elastic nature. Larger chips fall off on tooling with less precise cuts.
The hardness of an alloy material depends on its resistance to deformity either by indentation or penetration. in this case, both aluminum alloys were penetrated using different amounts of force, and the result showed that aluminum 6061 resist penetration without much deformity under pressure. This means that aluminum 6061 is harder (276 MPa) to permanently deform than aluminum 5052 (193 MPa).
Based on the norms, aluminum alloys are good conductors of heat. In this situation, both 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum are not an exception to this. The thermal conductivity is a measure of how much a metal alloy can transmit heat. This is applicable in considering material for heat exchangers, heat sinks, and many more. The thermal conductivity of 6061 aluminum is higher than that of 5052 aluminum. As a result, 6061 aluminum is preferred for heat dissipation applications.
For a selection of materials, the yield strength and ultimate strength of that material serve as a central value. In combination, they represent the maximum amount of stress that leads to non-permanent (elastic) and permanent (plastic) deformation. Furthermore, the yield strength is the most important in static applications. This means that the material of choice must never deform permanently e.g. in structural applications. On the other hand, the ultimate strength may be useful for a specific application. 5052 aluminum displayed a yield tensile strength of about 193 MPa with an ultimate tensile strength of 226 MPa. 6061 aluminum exhibits a yield tensile strength of about 276 MPa with an ultimate tensile strength of 310 MPa. This shows that the 6061 aluminum is stronger than the 5052 aluminum.
The shear strength of a material can be referred to as the maximum load that can be supported before fracture to the fasteners axis when applied at the right angle. In this regards the shear strength of 5052 aluminum is 138 MPa (20000 psi) while 6061 has 207 MPA (30000 psi). This shows that 6061 aluminum has a higher shear strength compared with 5052 aluminum. The table below shows more information about the overall strength of both alloys for comparison.
|Properties||5052 Aluminum||6061 Aluminum|
|Shear Modulus||3760 ksi||25.9 Gpa||3770 ksi||26.0 Gpa|
|Modulus of Elasticty||10200 ksi||70.3 Gpa||10000 ksi||68.9 Gpa|
|Fatigue Strength||17000 psi||117 Mpa||14000 psi||96.5 Mpa|
|Shear Strength||20000 psi||138 Mpa||30000 psi||207 Mpa|
|Electrical Resistivity||3.99 x 10-6 ohm-cm||5.15 x 10-6 ohm-cm|
When aluminum alloys are exposed to air or water, they form a layer of oxide. This oxide layer makes the alloy non-reactive with corrosive elements. The corrosion resistance of such materials is dependent upon aqueous/atmospheric conditions such as temperature, airborne chemicals, and chemical composition. Aluminum 5052 does not contain any trace of copper, so it holds up exceptionally well under ambient conditions. It does not readily corrode when used in a saltwater environment that weakens and attack copper metal composite. As a result, the 5052 aluminum is preferred over the 6061 aluminum in chemical and marine applications.
Also, when both alloys are exposed to alkaline soil there may be a reaction called pitting. However, due to the magnesium content of 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum, they both resist corrosion caused by ammonia, ammonia hydroxide, and nitric acid. To avoid corrosion, alloy coating may be used to form a protective layer for both alloys.
For weldability comparisons, both alloys feature excellent weldability properties. The 5052 aluminum has the best welding characteristic of all the aluminum alloys. Its formability properties make it ideal for electrical enclosure fabrications. For 6061 aluminum, proper care must be taken in the selection of the perfect weld filler metal. To get the weld back to the original “T” designation, post-weld heat treatment and aging may be required.
Weight comparison for material selection is important for any application. For example, in the aviation industry, materials with lightweight are preferable. In addition to lightweight, the material must come with enormous strength for higher efficiency. In comparison, we discovered that 6061 aluminum has the same density (0.0975 lb/in3, 2.7 g/cm3) as pure aluminum. Also, 5052 aluminum has slightly lower density (0.0968 lb/in3, 2.7 g/cm3) compare to pure aluminum. It means that, relative to pure aluminum, they are both lightweight and can be used in applications that require lightweight. This contributes to the reason for the usage of 6061 aluminum in the construction of modern aircraft.
In the conventional space, the price of an equal volume of 6061 aluminum is higher than the 5052 aluminum. This expensive nature may be attributed to the processing technology of 6061 aluminum which is more technical. However, the price of both alloys depends greatly on the choice of specification. This specification is greatly dependent on the requirement for your specific project.
The 5052 aluminum has a wide range of applications. As a result of its composition, It offers quite a lot of benefits for manufactures in the industry. This characteristic has made the 5052 aluminum known in the marine industry, electronics industry, and as well in chemical applications. In short, 5052 aluminum has a vast range of usage which include and not limited to the following:
Due to the workability of 6061, it is referred to as structural aluminum alloy. With its formability, it can be formed into a sheet, rounded, squared, extruded, rolled, or any form. The application of 6061 includes the following:
It is used in the automotive industry due to its excellent strength. It also helps to increase both fuel efficiency and cost-effectiveness leading to increased performance.
6061 aluminum possesses excellent machinability. As a result, it is used for welding different aircraft components. Although welding may reduce this strength, it can be corrected by using heat treatment after finishing the welding process. Also, this alloy is used for scuba diving equipment, mooring, marine firearms, fishing equipment, docks, boat hulls, and more.
To tell a physical difference between both alloys, get two parts formed by 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum at 0.03 inch each. Try to bend each alloy sheet at 90 degrees.
The part formed by 5052 aluminum will not break when bent at a sharp radius. For 6061 aluminum, with a bend radius that is less than two times of the material fitness will break at the bend. If the bend radius is greater than two times the material fitness for 6061 aluminum, the part will not break at the bend radius.
5052 aluminum has the best welding properties of all the aluminum grades with excellent finishing qualities. It forms well because it has a high modulus of elasticity, which makes it a bad choice for machining. On the other hand, 6061 aluminum machines easily than 5052 because it forms a small chip better which means you can machine faster. This characteristic makes 6061 aluminum a bad choice for metal fabrication because it cracks when forming.
From our summary table, aluminum 6061 is harder with a metric value of 276 MPa while 5052 aluminum has a metric value of 193 MPa. So, if you are considering hardness for your project, aluminum 6061 is a perfect choice.
In terms of density relative to pure aluminum, 5052 aluminum is less dense compared to 6061 aluminum. 6061 aluminum has the same density (0.0975 lb/in3, 2.7 g/cm3) as pure aluminum. Also, 5052 aluminum has slightly lower density (0.0968 lb/in3, 2.7 g/cm3) compare to pure aluminum.
An equal volume of 6061 aluminum is more expensive than the same volume of 5052 aluminum. 6061 aluminum is more expensive because its processing technology is technical compare to 5052 aluminum.
Based on our analysis as shown on the mechanical properties summary table, the 6061 has proven to be stronger than the 5052 aluminum alloy.
Both 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum exhibit corrosion resistance. The level of resistance depends on their chemical composition. 5052 aluminum contains no elemental copper, so it is preferred over 6061 aluminum in marine and chemical applications. However, another way to improve their resistance towards corrosion is to coat their surface to form a protective layer.
Irrespective of the alloy you are planning to use, they both offer numerous advantages. However, it is crucial to select the perfect alloy for your project. Perfect alloy will help to save time, and funds because of the excellent properties they offer. Such properties include weldability, corrosion resistance, cost efficiency, strength to weight ratio, and many more. The selection of the perfect choice of material for your project requires great expertise. The truth is that the choice of materials depends on the project requirement
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