6061 is a precipitation-hardened aluminum alloy, containing magnesium and silicon as its major alloying elements. Originally called "Alloy 61S", it was developed in 1935. It has good mechanical properties, exhibits good weldability, and is very commonly extruded.
Probably aluminum’s most famous trait that makes it a must-have for engineers is its high strength-to-weight ratio. This is the major factor in aluminum’s popularity in the aerospace and automobile industries. But as mentioned before, it’s also crucial for engineers to be able to build the extremely large spans that are characteristic of skyscrapers and other structures.
Of course, aluminum is also famous for its excellent corrosion resistance. In particular, certain high-grade alloys provide strong protection against atmospheric corrosion, which allows aluminum to be used in many different environmental settings. When engineers are designing structures that will be exposed to the elements over the course of their lifetime, as is nearly always the case with buildings, bridges, and monuments, corrosion resistance is of primary concern. Certain aluminum grades are even appropriate for use in marine structures.
First of all, although aluminum does have a great strength-to-weight ratio, when we’re just talking strength alone, stainless steel is often stronger. So for structures where weight isn’t an issue, steel might be the way to go. In addition, another drawback is that certain alloys of aluminum do not have the same level of corrosion resistance as stainless steel. That’s why, for example, aluminum is not as popular a choice for electrical cables as it used to be. When deciding on an alloy, it’s very important to know exactly what the material will be exposed to so that you know that it will be able to withstand the elements for as long as necessary.
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