Category Archive: Anodizing

Anodized vs. Non-Anodized Aluminum

At Tri-State Aluminum, we produce quality custom extrusions that bring your ideas to life. We offer a wide range of aluminum extrusion products and services, including custom extrusions, fabricated products, anodized and non-anodized aluminum, engineering assistance, and more. No matter what size or shape of aluminum product you want to create, we have the team, experience, and equipment to get the job done right.

One crucial consideration when designing and manufacturing aluminum parts is deciding when to use anodized vs. non-anodized aluminum. Although the two have many similarities, there are a few key differences that may make one a better option for your project.

Anodized Aluminum

Anodized aluminum has been electrochemically treated which creates an oxide finish that increases its corrosion resistance, durability, and other important material properties. The anodization process involves submerging the workpiece in a bath of sulfuric acid and electrolytes to create a hard external layer of aluminum oxide. Once this porous oxide layer forms, the components must soak in warm water to close up the pores and create a uniform finish.

This process offers a few key benefits, including strength, long-term cost savings, and infrequent replacement, as well as the ability to dye the part’s surface. These properties make anodized aluminum a great fit for several consumer and industrial products, including:

  • Commercial and residential building products. Aluminum is strong, and anodization adds an extra level of corrosion resistance that enables it to withstand the elements. Together, these properties make it a great choice for building materials.
  • Furniture. Anodized aluminum can take on a variety of aesthetic finishes, including different colors, textures, and lusters. This is important for consumer-facing goods such as furniture, where design is at the forefront of product development.
  • Sporting goods, including boats. Corrosion resistance makes anodized aluminum a good fit for sporting goods, especially those exposed to aquatic conditions. Athletic products must withstand sweat, rain, and other harmful contaminants.
  • Motor vehicle components. Much like furniture, many consumer-facing motor vehicle components require special finishes. Not only does anodized aluminum offer increased durability, but it also ups the aesthetic appeal of the component.
  • Food preparation equipment. Corrosion resistance is a crucial factor for components used in the food and beverage sector. Every food item has a unique set of potentially corrosive properties, from acidic soft drinks to salty preservatives, that anodized aluminum can protect against.
  • Artwork and jewelry. Anodized aluminum allows you to add gorgeous colors to your aluminum pieces, making it an essential step when creating art or jewelry.

Non-Anodized Aluminum

Even without the anodization process, aluminum is a strong, reliable metal used in a broad range of industries. A few popular use cases for non-anodized aluminum include:

  • Transportation. Since it is both lightweight and strong, many aircraft manufacturers choose to build planes out of non-anodized aluminum. It’s approximately 70% lighter than steel but has a relatively equal level of strength and durability. Ships, trains, and cars also frequently take advantage of this high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Electrical components. While aluminum is less conductive than other common metals (i.e., copper), it is much lighter, making it an ideal option for lightweight electrical components like power lines. It’s also a common choice for consumer electronics like phones and tablets for the same reason.
  • Consumer products. Aluminum, particularly non-anodized aluminum, is a relatively inexpensive metal. This makes it a great fit for mass-produced metal consumer products such as televisions, window frames, and laptops.
  • Household or industrial appliances. Many refrigerators, dishwashers, and air conditioners leverage the strength and corrosion resistance of aluminum in their precision tubing and cooling components.

Anodized vs. Non-Anodized Aluminum

As you can see in the examples above, there are a few major differences between anodized and non-anodized aluminum. Anodized aluminum is less reactive, easier to dye, and offers exceptional corrosion resistance. Non-anodized aluminum, on the other hand, is much more susceptible to environmental contaminants and decay over time.

Aluminum Products from Tri-State Aluminum

Regardless of whether you’re looking for anodized aluminum or non-anodized aluminum, Tri-State Aluminum offers advanced manufacturing capabilities for a broad range of aluminum products. Contact us for more information about our capabilities, or request a quote to get started on your next project.

What is Anodized Aluminum?

Aluminum is a versatile metal used for the manufacturing of a wide range of parts and products. Similar to other metals, it sometimes requires additional protective layers to ensure it can resist damage from abrasives, chemicals, moisture, and other harsh environmental conditions within the intended application. While there are many treatments available that add protection to metals, one of the most commonly used for aluminum is anodizing.

Below, we provide an overview of anodized aluminum. We highlight what it is and how it is made, discuss key benefits of the material, and outline typical applications.

What Is Anodized Aluminum?

Anodizing is an electrochemical treatment process that changes the surface chemistry of metal substrates. It increases the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface, which enhances the corrosion resistance, abrasion resistance, and aesthetic appearance of the material. The result of this process is finished aluminum that is durable and attractive. While this treatment method can be used for a variety of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, it is most commonly used for aluminum.

The anodizing process consists of the following steps:

  1. Placing the aluminum in a sulfuric acid bath with added electrolytes
  2. Attaching electrical charges to the metal and placing electrical charges in the bath
  3. Running electrical current through the circuit
  4. Sealing and coloring the newly formed protective layer

The negatively charged sulfuric acid bath pulls positive ions from the aluminum, while the positively charged aluminum attracts negative ions. As the dioxide molecules interact with the surface of the material, they form aluminum oxide. The sulfuric acid corrodes the metal to ensure the creation of a hard, thick, and porous oxidized layer that ranges from gray to black depending on the exact thickness. Placing the treated material in warm water hydrates the ions, which shrinks the pores and seals the surface layer. The addition of dyes in the sealing water enables manufacturers to color the layer.

Advantages of Anodized Aluminum

Anodized aluminum offers many advantages over other standard materials, such as:

  • Higher durability. Anodized aluminum has enhanced abrasion, corrosion, and impact resistance. Additionally, since the finish is made from the aluminum, rather than applied on the surface, it is unlikely to chip, flake, or peel. As a result, it is long-lasting, making it a cost-effective, long term finishing option.
  • Lower material weight. Anodizing provides a good strength-to-weight ratio. This maintains the aluminum’s inherent qualities with added durability.
  • Greater recyclability. The anodization process does not affect the highly recyclable quality of aluminum.
  • Better aesthetic quality. Anodization enables manufacturers to minimize or eliminate surface variations without losing the metallic appearance of the material. Since there are many color and finish options for anodized surfaces, you can customize aluminum components to their exact aesthetic requirementsjust what we specialize in!

Applications of Anodized Aluminum

Due to its numerous advantageous functional and aesthetic qualities, anodized aluminum finds application in a wide range of industries. Examples of typical uses include:

  • In the aerospace, automotive, marine, and transportation industries: lightweight components for aircraft, boats, cars, and trains
  • In the architectural industry: structural elements (e.g., roofs, frames, and supports), visual elements (e.g., lighting fixtures, railings, and trellises)
  • In the art industry: painting surfaces, sculptures
  • In the consumer goods industry: small appliances, luxury vehicles, sporting goods
  • In the food and beverage industry: kitchen equipment, cooking instruments, display cases
  • In the furniture industry: beds, storage chests, tables

Contact Tri-State Aluminum for Your Anodized Aluminum Needs

Want to learn more about anodized aluminum? Ask the experts at Tri-State Aluminum!

At Tri-State Aluminum, we supply anodized bars, rods, tubes, and custom stock shapes for building and manufacturing projects. Our two-step electrolytic coloring process allows us to meet any custom color need ensuring your components meet your aesthetic specifications. If you would like to learn more about our capabilities and how we can benefit your next project, contact us or request a quote today.

Guide to Anodized Aluminum

Metal sometimes needs additional layers of protection to enhance resistances to chemicals, moisture, and abrasion. There are multiple different treatments that can provide protection, each best for different metals, environments, applications, and budgets. Options include processes like metal plating, powder coating, hardening, and anodizing.