There are some aluminum alloys that have been developed for very specific types of applications. While they are ideal for specific uses, because of these unique formulations, they are not a good general aluminum choice.
When it comes to a basic, all-purpose type of alloy that is used in everything from the fabrication vehicles, including passenger cars and heavy duty trucks, through to the development of aircraft, 6061 is the most common choice. Additionally, 6061 aluminum is also used in racing bicycle frames, electronic components as well as in the manufacturing of valves.
Surprisingly, you will also find this alloy used in the manufacturing of food products. With its very high level of corrosion resistance, which is superior to many of the aluminum alloys, it can be used to make cans as well as to provide the wafer thin lining of aluminum foil found in many packaged foods.
Quick Working Facts
6061 aluminum is a wrought alloy, which means that it is produced by working the metal through extruding, to form specific shapes, or by rolling to create the flat plate and thinner foils.
The exact properties of 6061 make it one of the wrought alloys that can be heat worked. Heat treatment of the alloy increases the strength of the aluminum without any compromise in performance. This is also one of the few aluminum alloys that is very easy to work with and can be joined by a variety of techniques. Unlike 7075 aluminum, 6061 is very easy to weld, which is yet another reason it is such a popular choice in many types of fabricating and manufacturing applications.
The areas around the weld will lose some strength due to the process, but through another heat treating process and artificial aging after the welding the original strength of the component can be fully redeveloped.
The 6061 aluminum was first developed in 1935 and was very quickly on the market for all types of commercial applications. There are slight variations in the exact formulation, but it includes up to 98.56% aluminum with the addition of copper, iron, silicon, magnesium, manganese, chromium, zinc and titanium. It is the addition of chromium to the formulation of the alloy that boosted the corrosion resistance and made it so practical for marine applications as well as for aircraft.
It is possible to purchase the 6061 alloy in all types of custom extrusions as well as standard extrusions. It is also available in bars, sheet, foil and plate, and most top suppliers will carry a good in-stock inventory of the very popular alloy.