Aluminum. It's lightweight, malleable, and strong. It's used in a lot of manufacturing projects because it offers these properties at a modest cost. But without the appropriate aluminum finish, corrosion begins almost immediately.
Your customers don’t want that. So, how can you best use this silvery-white metal without worries of it corroding?
You protect it. And protect it quickly.
As an all-in-one manufacturer, we deal with all kinds of finishes for all kinds of projects. Here are some of the most common ways of protecting your aluminum:
What’s the Best Aluminum Finish for Your Project?
There are a number aluminum finishes you can choose. Here are some of the most common:
Rank: Basic Must. Aluminum must be pretreated to reach its potential. The aluminum is first stripped free of film, oil, etc., and then the pretreatment solution is applied.
Pretreating aluminum gives it corrosion protection and preps the surface for coatings. This pretreatment will enhance any future paint or powder coating and help them adhere better to the aluminum.
Rank: Weak. Who likes to add a little color to their projects? All of us, of course.
Thus, the popularity of paint as a protective layer. But paint is made to be pretty, not fight corrosion.
If you insist on using paint as your protective layer, remember that wet paints are more effective than harder paints (i.e. baked enamel coatings). Paints containing Kynar®️ 500 resin are rated as some of the best, with a guarantee of up to 20 years of corrosion-free use both indoors and outdoors.
Rank: Getting There. If you're thinking about environmental regulations and a finish that more evenly distributed, then powder coating is your preferred method. Powder coating services offer a dense finish on metal products that will stand up to abuse better than paint.
Powder coatings are applied as a solid material that fuses and becomes a layer of film on the aluminum during processing.
(Fun fact: Powder coating is also less wasteful and more cost-efficient. Any powder that missed the target can easily be sucked up with a vacuum-like device and reused. That's something you can't do with paint or any other kind of aluminum finish.)
Rank: The Best. Anodizing is an excellent and natural means to protect your aluminum. This self-forming protective layer will not peel or flake. A provider can accelerate the anodization process to get your aluminum ready for prime time.
If you want additional protection in harsh environments, you can choose hardcoat anodizing. The key differences here is that hardcoat anodizing creates a more wear-resistant, smoother, and harder surface than standard anodizing. This nearly corrosion-proof option does narrow your choice of colors to shades of black, gray, or clear.
Rank: Varies. Aluminum can also be put through mechanical finishes, like the following:
These processes both enhance the surface quality and prepare the aluminum for other finishes. A higher-quality surface is more easy to protect with another finishing technique.
Make Your Project Shine with Aluminum
Not all projects are the same, and not all designs can focus solely on corrosion protection. Some require a tight budget. Some require a great look.
If you want to make your project shine, you need to know which aluminum finish works best for your application at the right cost. Will your project be outdoors? Under chemical stress?
To save time and costs, consider how you're going to finish your aluminum from the very start -- at the design stage. If you have questions about what's best for your aluminum project, you probably need an all-in-one metal manufacturer. A full-service vendor can review your project and improve the design so you don’t end up with a bunch of finished parts in the scrap pile!