When choosing a material for your prototyped component, aluminum offers versatility for a wide range of applications. From consumer goods—like pots, pans, and furniture—to the aerospace and marine components needing rust resistance, machined aluminum alloys provide several advantages.

Aluminum also offers specific benefits during prototyping phases of product development, making it an ideal choice when testing a product’s form and fit. 

Plethora’s 3-axis and 5-axis CNC milling and turning capabilities produce aluminum components for applications in:

  • Aerospace 
  • Construction
  • Marine
  • Medical
  • Recreation
  • Consumer electronics
  • Household appliances
  • Transportation
  • Robotics

We machine various aluminum alloys in different forms and sizes for our customers’ custom aluminum prototyping projects.

Aluminum Alloy Types and Uses

Compared to plastics or steel, aluminum alloys meet the needs of many industries and applications. 

Top Benefits of Aluminum

Resists scratches, dents, ultraviolet radiation, and corrosion.

Strength and reliability that surpasses all plastics. 

Higher reflective coefficient, electrical conductivity, and heat conductivity than plastic or steel.

Stands as a lightweight, robust alternative to steel.

Absorbs shock better than steel.

Doesn’t burn or release toxic gases and is recyclable.


Aluminum alloy types vary in strength, formability, weldability, machinability, and accepting heat treatment. 

The vast majority of machined aluminum parts use aluminum alloys 6061 (AA 6061) and 7075 (AA 707:5). Plethora keeps inventory of 6061 and 7075 in stock, and can secure other aluminum alloys within 24 hours upon request.

  • Alloy 6061 provides versatility and is the preferred choice for automotive parts, consumer goods, structural components, and screw machine parts. Because AA6061 has lower hardness, it machines easier than other aluminum alloys. The lower tensile strength of AA6061 also means that the alloy forms easily.
  • Alloy 7075 has the highest strength of all aluminum alloys. Compared to AA 6061, AA 7075 has almost twice the tensile strength and approximately 1.5 times more shear strength than AA 6061. Transportation, marine, and aerospace industries take advantage of the outstanding strength-to-weight ratio of AA 7075 for critical and non-critical applications.

Key Applications

Although Alloy 6061 and Alloy 7075 differ in ductility and strength, many industrial applications use both types of alloys:

  • Aluminum’s use for car and truck radiators, wheels, bumpers, cylinder blocks, and body parts reduces vehicle weight and improves fuel efficiency. 
  • Precision tubing manufactured from aluminum supports solar panels and carries liquid and gases for consumer and industrial applications.
  • In the aerospace industry, components ranging from antennas to fuel tanks consist of aluminum alloys. 
  • Contoured seats and instrument panels require the ductility and formability of aluminum 6061. 
  • Structural supports, wing spars, wing skins, rods, or gears that endure higher mechanical stress levels and the temperature usually rely on the exceptional tensile and shear strength of aluminum 7075.

Consumer goods also leverages aluminum’s properties:

  • High heat conductivity enables aluminum pans to radiate heat to foods efficiently, for example. 
  • Electronic devices ranging from smartphones to televisions rely on aluminum’s lighter weight and ability to absorb or dissipate heat.

 Close-up of CNC machined aluminum part

 

Aluminum’s Advantage for Quick-Turn Prototyping

Our machining customers appreciate the combination of clean, smooth finishes and toughness given by aluminum alloys. The high reflective coefficient seen with aluminum allows us to provide different finishes and respond to your design’s unique preferences. 

The combination of lighter weight, strength, and ease of fabrication makes AA 6061 a favorite of the designers we work with because those properties translate into the ability to rapidly produce and test prototypes.