Aluminum and Stainless Steel: 7 Key Differences

Aluminum and stainless steel are widely used in metal fabrication across different industries. They may look similar at first but they have a lot of differences.

Both metals have qualities that make them ideal for certain applications. Learn about their key differences and find out which metal is best for your project.

7 Key Differences between Aluminum and Stainless Steel

1. Origin — Aluminum is a silvery-gray, soft, naturally occurring metal. Stainless steel is a metal alloy made up of 10% chromium.

2. Strength — Stainless steel is tougher and more resilient than aluminum. The chromium property of stainless steel improves the strength of the metal.

While it is not as strong as stainless steel, adding elements like magnesium to aluminum creates an alloy that can be as strong or even stronger than other metals.

3. Malleability — Aluminum is more malleable and elastic than stainless steel. It’s easier to create shapes with aluminum. Since stainless steel is firmer, it can be difficult to work with. Generally, stainless steel can’t be pushed to the extreme like aluminum without breaking or cracking.

4. Corrosion Resistance — Aluminum does not rust since it doesn’t contain iron or steel. However, aluminum does corrode when exposed to extreme weathering and atmospheric oxygen. The corrosion results in aluminum oxide, which actually protects aluminum from further corrosion.

Stainless steel is more resistant to corrosion in comparison to other metal alloys. The chromium in stainless steel provides this corrosion resistance. Stainless steel is also non-porous, which helps to increase its resistance to corrosion.

5. Weight — Stainless steel is heavier and denser compared to aluminum. The weight of aluminum is typically one-third of stainless steel weight.

6. Conductivity — Aluminum is a better conductor than stainless steel when it comes to heat and electricity.

7. Cost — Aluminum is relatively cheaper than stainless steel. Since stainless steel is an alloy, the cost varies according to its grade. The difference in density also makes a big difference in price per volume for these two metals.

With its strength and corrosion resistance, stainless steel is the material of choice for transportation and processing equipment, engine parts, and firearms.

Since aluminum is very versatile and malleable, it can be fabricated and used in different metal applications — automotive, aerospace, building materials and more. Aluminum is also a good conductor of heat and electricity, making it ideal for car radiators, HVAC units and in energy industry projects.

At OK Fab and Machining, we have a dedicated team of skilled welders and fabricators and the latest technology and equipment to fabricate aluminum and stainless steel.

Contact us for custom engineering support and know which metal is best for your project. Or request a quote now!