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Do you need a steel or an aluminium framing system?

Machine frames are a vital part of many engineering applications.  One of the many design decisions you need to make is the material to use.  For most heavy industrial applications, fabricated steel is the answer.  However most applications are not ‘heavy industrial’.

Most other applications can use either steel or aluminium for the framing system.  Whilst aluminium fabrication can be appealing, steel itself is a cheaper per kilogram.  However, in the end, aluminium is most cost-effective more often than not.

Let’s look at the problem from the point of view of overall costs, which is topical in today’s financial markets, so you can make the right decision for your machine frames.

The case for a steel framing system

The overriding reason why you might choose steel for your machine frames is because kilo for kilo, it is cheaper than aluminium. It is also more than twice as dense as aluminium and is well suited to heavy load applications or where high vibrations are inherent. Sometimes, you just need the added strength that only steel can provide and your decision is made for you.

If your only consideration is the cost of the raw materials however, and you could use either steel or aluminium, then steel is your best option. There are however, other important factors during the construction phase that you need to consider, before you make your final decision.

The case for an aluminium framing system

Whilst it is a more expensive raw material than steel, aluminium fabrication makes it much easier to replace parts and components in structural systems, than if it was composed of steel. You also don’t need expensive and complex assembly tools and the machine frames can be built much faster with aluminium than with steel.

Aluminium is also more lightweight than steel, making it an ideal material where weight is an important consideration. Due to its additional weight and density, steel is less likely to bend, warp or deform under stress than aluminium however, the additional weight can be an issue for some framing applications. The knock on effect of aluminium’s lower weight is that applications made with an aluminium framing system can use cheaper motors and other components, rather than the expensive heavy duty motors required by steel machine frames.

For help deciding whether a steel or an aluminium framing system is best for your requirements, call us on 07 3823 1079 or send us an email.

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