Aluminum is conquering the auto industry

Yesterday we wrote about how aluminum is at the heart of Ford's redesign of the F-150, and how the choice of this metal means that the country's best-selling pickup will have improved gas mileage and corrosion resistance, two areas that are particularly important in heavy industry. However, Ford is not alone in their adoption of aluminum as their principle design material.

In fact, many other sectors, including the construction and marine industries, are increasingly relying on aluminum due to its light weight and strength. Aluminum is perfect for construction near the ocean because it has built in resistance to salt spray, thereby decreasing the risk of corrosion. And by using aluminum instead of steel, builders are able to decrease the weight that is placed on load bearing structures.

The New York Times reports that aluminum demand from the auto industry alone is expected to reach one billion pounds in 2014, and increase by 30 percent annually from now until 2020. 

"Docks and other marine structures are also beneficiaries of the features of aluminum," writes Danielle Walter of Crane Materials International in Design News. "It won't crack like concrete, rust like steel, or rot like wood, so maintenance budgets for the long life span of an aluminum dock are reduced, and in many cases, eliminated."

Understandably, this news has the steel industry feeling a bit nervous, as aluminum seems to have several material advantages. For these firms, one factor they have on their side is cost: Steel is still much less expensive than aluminum for many applications.

However, if these companies want to prove more competitive with aluminum, they'll also need to prove that their materials can hold up when exposed to corrosive elements like salt spray and moisture from the ocean. This means putting their products through extensive corrosion testing methods to ensure its durability.