Prevention Through Design: Aluminum in Corrosive Situations

Whether you work in the New England marine industry or have a business that is otherwise located in a corrosive location or situation, it is important to think about corrosion resistance when it comes to the materials that you choose for equipment, tools, and products. One example would be a gate, fence or railing used in a marine setting. While some might think that steel would be the best choice, a closer look reveals that custom aluminum extrusion would provide better results. When it comes to custom solutions, it is also possible to prevent corrosion through design, increasing the natural anti-corrosive abilities of aluminum products. Working with an experienced engineer to develop custom solutions can help to improve the value and performance of the finished product.

Types of Gates, Fencing, and Railing
Keeping with the example of creating gates, fencing or railing that could be used anywhere within the New England marine industry, at a sailing marina in California, or even for professional fishing in Florida, it is important to think about the function and use of the finished products in addition to where they will be installed. There are a lot of things to consider, such as the level of security for gates and fencing or the amount of support required for boat or dock railing. Gates have a lot of variables on their own, including swing or lift, the size of the opening, and the thickness of the gate for added security.

When it comes to choosing the material that will be used it is important to think about the local environment. For projects located on or near the water, particularly the salty ocean air, corrosion resistance is key. The common debate about gates, fencing, and railing is often steel versus aluminum, and while both have their pros and cons, it is important to take some time to consider how you can prevent corrosion through design and which material will provide you with the best return on your investment.

Steel vs. Aluminum
When comparing steel and aluminum materials, the first thing you will notice is that steel is corrosive and subject to rusting, while aluminum has a natural anti-corrosive layer that forms as soon as it is exposed to oxygen. Even steel that has been finished with a galvanized layer will ultimately rust in some areas. Any welds at the joints of the steel will break down over time, despite being coated with a cold galvanizing paint. Hot dip galvanization is another alternative, but not usually for heavy gates, fencing, and railing. Products used in areas outside of the coastal New England marine industry or other maritime locations will also be exposed to the elements, including ice, snow, and rain, which will speed up the breakdown process and cause corrosion.

The natural protection from corrosion that helps give aluminum the edge over steel is aluminum oxide. It is a natural rust-resistant layer that forms on its own, and it is even self-healing if it becomes damaged during use. Also, corrosion resistance can be amplified by the use of finishing solutions, including galvanization, anodizing, powder-paint and paint coating options. However, even without these extra services, custom aluminum extrusion can be used to prevent corrosion through design, eliminating nooks, crannies, and corners that can allow moisture to collect or create a weakness in the natural corrosion resistance layer.

Extrusion Increases Strength
Not only is extrusion an excellent way to save time and money for the manufacture of aluminum parts and products, but the process itself also increases the tensile strength and overall yield strength of the aluminum material. It also helps to enhance the corrosion resistance abilities of the metal. Strength is important when designing gates, fencing, and railing materials that will get heavy use, either inland, near the water or out at sea. The lighter weight of aluminum is also a significant advantage, especially when considered in comparison to its overall strength. The light weight allows for lower cost of shipping and delivery for the finished products and requires less effort for installation and use throughout the lifetime of the gate, fence, or rail.

Custom aluminum extrusion provides manufacturers with many advantages over the use of welded steel or other metals. It is important to work with an experienced team of designers, engineers, and technicians to get the best results. Silver City Aluminum offers a broad range of services at our one stop shop facility including custom design, fabrication, finishing, and specialty services. Give us a call at 508-542-7200 and speak with one of our technicians to start your order for standard or custom aluminum extrusion.