While base aluminum can withstand corrosion, it develops an even higher resistance level when alloyed with other elements, making it the perfect material for marine applications. Alloys consisting of copper, bronze and aluminum are some of the most common types of casted marine-grade materials. Throughout the marine industry, many boats and ships contain these metals.
Copper Marine Alloys
Copper alloys are also prevalent in marine applications like propellers, valves, pumps, piping and heat tubing. Some advantages of using copper-specific alloys are their thermal conductivity, durability and ease of forming. Also, there is a lower chance of marine animals and organisms attaching to copper alloys. Several of the most popular copper-based alloys used in the marine industry include:
- Copper-nickel: The dominant alloy in boat hulls, leg and riser sheathing, cooling systems and aquaculture cages.
- Copper-nickel-chromium: Popular in wrought condenser tubing, cast seawater pumps and valve components.
- Copper-nickel-aluminum: Ideal for fasteners, gears, bolting, bearing bushes and shafts.
- Copper-nickel-tin: The main component of lifting nuts, valve actuator stems, drills and bearings.
The strength content of many copper-based alloys can increase with the addition of zinc.
Bronze is common in marine applications, as well. Like copper, bronze-based alloys fight off mussels, algae and other disruptive organisms. Bronze alloys also have superior resistance to ammonia-stress corrosion.
Casted aluminum is helpful in marine applications, too. The most common marine-grade aluminum alloys are aluminum-magnesium and aluminum-magnesium-silicon. These alloys are popular in docks, structural shipbuilding, boat lifts and many other marine applications.
Cast aluminum alloys are widespread in various marine applications, as casting techniques can form relatively complex sizes and shapes. Cast aluminum is practical for structural shipbuilding because of its ability to have customized, smaller-lot manufacturing runs.
Most marine-grade aluminum falls in the 5000- and 7000-series ranges of alloys.
Benefits of Aluminum Alloys in the Marine Industry
In addition to corrosion resistance, there are several other advantages to using aluminum-based alloys in the marine industry. Several examples include:
- Speed: Aluminum’s low density combined with its durability and high strength allows for significantly reduced seafaring vessel weights. Saving weight means higher speeds, which is ideal for vessels like patrol boats, military craft, ferries, fishing boats, hydrofoils and work boats.
- Weldability: A ship is usually built with chine bars, stringers and framing on the inside to reinforce its watertight shell. Aluminum’s properties makes it one of the most practical metals to weld, so it is helpful for this task.
- Affordability: Aluminum extrusions are cost-effective in smaller-volume production runs that dominate the marine industry, mainly due to low tooling costs. Because aluminum is much easier to handle compared to other metals, it also increases manufacturing efficiencies. Vessels made from aluminum alloys tend to have much longer lives, lower maintenance costs and higher recycle values.
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