Which is better for metal fabrication—aluminum or stainless steel?

When we talk of metal fabrication, aluminium and stainless steel are the most commonly used materials. These metals are well-known for their capacity, strength, and resistance to get corrosive. As a result, manufacturers often utilise metals for a wide range of usages, including those in manufacturing, automotive, and general household and workplace equipment.

Despite having a similar look, stainless steel and aluminium differ in many ways beyond having the same distinctive silver-grey shine. It is crucial to understand what these metals are and how they differ from one another. However, let’s first examine what sheet metal fabrication entails.

What Is Sheet Metal Fabrication?

It is an essential part of many industries. Many things you use daily are made using this refined manufacturing method.

Although it has existed for centuries, metal manufacturing changes as technology progresses. Its applications range from producing precise pieces for machinery to producing metal frames for various buildings and bridges.

It is basically a process of turning a flat steel or aluminium sheet into various shapes or products. This is done by cutting, bending, and moulding the sheets into a desired form.

Now that you are well aware of what sheet metal fabrication is, let us move forward and understand what aluminium is.

Understanding Aluminium

Almost every plant, animal, and rock type has aluminium, a chemical and metallic element. Regarding the latter, aluminium makes up most of the metallic components of bauxite ore, a sedimentary rock combination in the Earth’s crust. The aluminium extracted from bauxite ore is a non-ferrous, soft metal. It must be alloyed with other elements to strengthen and increase the characteristics needed for product manufacture, primarily silicon, zinc, magnesium, copper, and manganese. Because aluminium is highly flexible, designers and fabricators may use it to make complicated designs and distinctive shapes.

So, hope you have understood what aluminium is. Let us now move towards understanding stainless steel.

Understanding Stainless Steel

Iron is combined with a small amount of carbon and at least 10.5% chromium to produce a family of corrosion-resistant steel alloys known as stainless steel. Chromium provides steel with corrosion resistance that distinguishes it from other alloys that are only carbon-based and gives it its name. Steel is an iron and carbon alloy. Adding elements such as nickel, silicon, molybdenum, titanium, niobium, and manganese increases its mechanical properties as well as corrosion resistance. Depending on the precise attributes required for a given application, any grade of stainless steel might have a varied alloy composition. A mixture of alloying elements determines increased corrosion resistance, high or low-temperature resistance, strength, weldability, or formability.

You must have learned what stainless steel means by this point. Now, let us discuss how they differ from one another. 

Aluminium VS Stainless Steel

You must be aware that while both appear to be similar, they are very distinct. Let’s examine the distinguishing characteristics:


Aluminium is less dense, heavier as well and stronger than stainless steel. The former is approximately 1/3 of the weight than the latter. This makes it much better than stainless steel. 

The lightweight and strength-to-ratio of aluminium make it a perfect pick for numerous elements and parts used in industries such as aeroscape, automotive, construction and electronics, which help enhance fuel efficiency while expanding the load capacity. On the other hand, stainless steel’s strength is preferred by fabricators for making structural components and for adding designs as well as architectural characteristics to a building.


High oxidation and corrosion resistance properties are present in aluminium. It is due to its passivation coating. When oxidised, its surface turns white, and sometimes it gets holes. It can erode quickly in excessively acidic or base conditions, with fatal outcomes.

Stainless steel comprises minerals such as iron, chromium, nickel, manganese, and copper. It has corrosion resistance properties due to the presence of corrosion. Moreover, its non-porous surface helps in increasing its corrosion resistance.

Thermal And Electrical Conductivity

Compared to stainless steel, aluminium is a greater conductor of electrical as well as thermal energies. Pick aluminium when conductivity is key in choosing which metal to use for a given application. It is appropriate for power lines due to its high electrical conductivity, lightweight, as well as corrosion resistance properties. Aluminium is often used as a heat sink for gadgets that need rapid cooling, like radiators, electronics, and air conditioning systems, just because it is a thermal conductor.

Welding Properties

It is always simpler to weld stainless steel than to weld aluminium when having your appliances welded. It becomes challenging due to its low melting point and strong thermal conductivity. Hot cracking occurs with aluminium when the metal starts to cool down. At the same time, stainless steel’s high tensile strength is 2-3 times stronger. 

Winding Up

After learning the basics of these two metals, you can start organising your project, getting better appliances, and choosing the right equipment. We have provided a list of the most crucial elements to consider when choosing between steel and aluminium, but your search should continue.