How Aluminum is Made
Aluminum is used for a variety of applications from soda cans to airplanes, signs to automobiles. What you may not know is that these everyday items basically started with dirt.
The type of dirt I am talking about is bauxite ore. Bauxite is rich in aluminum oxide. This dirt, or bauxite ore, is loaded into trucks and taken to a plant for refining. Essentially a truckload of bauxite ore can be refined into two tons of aluminum.
The next step is to turn the bauxite ore into alumina (the primary ingredient for making aluminum). This is done by grinding the ore and mixing it with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide).
The mixture, now known as slurry, is pumped into a high-pressure container and heated to approximately 230-520 degrees Fahrenheit. The aluminum oxide is dissolved by the caustic soda and precipitated out of the solution, meaning it is separated from the mixture. It is then washed and heated to get rid of the water.
This leaves us with a white powder called alumina. There are many other uses for alumina, but today our focus is on turning it into sheet metal.
The process of turning alumina to aluminum includes an electrolytic reduction, or smelting. Alumina is dissolved in a cryolite bath inside large pots lined with carbon.
Aluminum metal separates from the chemical solution after an electrical current is passed through the bath. It is then separated out.
After smelting, the aluminum goes into a furnace for further mixing to form the various alloys. The metal goes through a purification process and is then poured into molds or cast into ingots.
From here, the aluminum will either undergo further fabricating, including casting, rolling, extruding, etc., or it will be sent directly to customers.
Aluminum has many desirable qualities. It is lightweight yet strong, and nonmagnetic and nontoxic. It conducts heat and electricity; it also reflects heat and electricity. The metal is easily workable and can retain strength under extreme cold, ideal for trailers. It is also one of the most easily recyclable materials, especially when it comes to metal.
What is Aluminum Used For?
Aluminum is used in many end markets. Some of the markets we provide aluminum products to include truck & trailers, commercial lighting, roofing & siding, heat exchangers, outdoor furniture, framework, and much more.