Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: Which is Best for Your Custom Parts?

Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: Which is Best for Your Custom Parts?

aluminum vs. stainless steel

When searching for custom steel parts, do you know the differences between aluminum vs. stainless steel? Due to their unique physical properties, aluminum and stainless steel are popular custom fabrication materials used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, and commercial construction.  

From density to corrosion resistance and costs, below is a comparison guide on the differences between stainless steel vs. aluminum to make the best choice for your custom steel fabrication needs. 

Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: Which is Best for Custom Steel Parts?

If you’re weighing the options of aluminum vs. stainless steel for your custom steel parts, there are several important factors to consider before making a purchase. Understanding the differences between aluminum and stainless steel, along with their best structural-use applications, is crucial in making an informed decision. This guide will help you learn the distinctive properties and advantages of each material, ensuring you choose the right type for your specific needs and project requirements.

Aluminum vs. Steel: Weight

The first factor to consider between aluminum vs. stainless steel is their weight differences. Since stainless steel has high density, its weight is much more and around three times heavier than aluminum. Aluminum has a lighter density, making its weight much lighter.  

Stainless steel is best for heavy, stagnant, and slow-moving structural applications. Kitchen stoves and ovens are the best structural-use applications for stainless steel over aluminum because of their solid structure and practicality for daily use.  

In contrast, aluminum is a lightweight and low-dense solid steel material. Vehicles and aircraft are commonly manufactured with aluminum because aluminum provides a solid structure without weighing them down. 

Aluminum vs. Steel: Strength, Durability, & Corrosion-Resistance

When it comes to aluminum vs. steel strength, there are differenced between aluminum and stainless steel to consider. Stainless is best for stronger structural applications, as it is heavy, strong, and durable, making it essential for solid structural support. However, it has low durability and isn’t meant to bend.  

Stainless steel can break if it’s stretched or deformed from its original intended use. In most cases, stainless steel is irreparable and hard to repair once it’s broken. It’s also more prone to rust and corrosion much faster than aluminum.  

Aluminum vs. Stainless steel

In contrast, aluminum has higher corrosion resistance but is weaker in strength compared to stainless steel. It’s designed to be elastic and lightweight so it can bend easier. Due to aluminum’s elasticity, it’s still usable if stretched, deformed, or dented – making it easier and cheaper to repair too.  

Stainless steel strength is ideal for structural applications, such as oil and gas storage tanks. For aluminum strength, it’s best for vehicles for a lightweight structure, to prevent rusting, and preserve the paint color.  

Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: Thermal Properties & Weldability 

If you’re considering stainless steel or aluminum for your custom steel parts, you must consider thermal properties. Understanding the differences in their thermal properties impacts weldability, hardness, and strength in hot climates.  

Stainless steel has higher melting points than other types of steel alloys. It’s easy to weld steel parts and ideal for customized design components due to its sturdier structure in high temperatures.   

Aluminum has high thermal conductivity due to its natural lightweight properties, but less than stainless steel. It’s best used for structural applications, such as electrical wiring systems, because it can be formed into wires easier while transmitting electrical energy effectively – but at a lower melting point than stainless steel. Due to aluminium’s natural elasticity, it makes it easy to weld too.  

Aluminum vs. Steel: Magnetic Properties

When it comes to stainless steel’s magnetic properties, not all classifications are magnetic. Some stainless steel alloys have magnetic properties, and others don’t, so it’s essential to know the differences before buying custom steel parts.  

Here are the types of stainless steel alloys and their magnetic properties: 

  • Austenitic Alloys– most used stainless steel and non-magnetic 
  • Ferritic Alloys– magnetic  
  • Martensitic Alloys– least used stainless steel alloy and magnetic 

Magnetic stainless steels offer the benefits of easier manipulation since it’s not a durable material. It prevents the need for additional tools or adhesives, which can have shorter lifespans and be more time-consuming to recalibrate. Magnetic stainless steel alloys are ideal for structural components that must move quickly and precisely, such as commercial building infrastructure parts.  

In contrast, aluminum is non-magnetic. However, due to its durable and softer structure, it’s naturally easier to manipulate.  

Aluminum vs Steel: Average Costs

Since there are different types of steel and grades, pricing for custom stainless steel parts will vary. The total weight, classification, quantity, type, and project size all impact total costs. For example, higher grades like 409, 439, and 441 stainless steel are used for kitchen appliances due to their solid, thicker, and more durable structure than lower grades.  

According to recent reports, on average stainless steel rebar rates are $2.28/Lb and aluminum at $5,651.49/mt.  

More density Less density 
Higher strength Weaker strength 
Higher melting point Lower melting point  
Lower costs than aluminum  Higher costs than steel 
Welding ability May require special welding equipment 
Magnetic Non-magnetic 
Weak corrosion-resistance Strong corrosion-resistance  

If you’re wondering, “Is stainless steel better than aluminum for custom steel parts?” There is no cookie-cutter answer if steel or aluminum is better. It depends on your manufacturing project and the steel part’s intended use. 

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