Aluminum: Robotics Metal of Choice

aluminum robotics blog article graphic

A lot goes into building a robot. You have to choose the right schematic, choose how you’re going to build it, as well as the materials you’re going to use. It may come as a surprise to some, but building a robot is a tad more complicated than going out to the garage and throwing together spare parts. You also have to plan it out and answer questions to know how to approach it. Do you build it from scratch? Or instead, do you build it by adapting ready-made products to serve as the base of your robot? Finally, what materials are you going to use to build it. For some, the base materials consist of wood and plastic, but for the discerning robotics hobbyist, the metal of choice is aluminum. To robotics hobbyists, aluminum is one of the most important materials you will use. It’s strong, lightweight, resistant to corrosion, affordable, and most importantly, easy to manipulate.

Strength

Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself, “aluminum is strong? But it’s so flimsy and weak!” While aluminum isn’t as strong as steel, it has a much higher strength to weight ratio. What this means is, for a mass of aluminum and an equal mass of steel, aluminum would be stronger, additionally, because of that ratio, you would need less aluminum than steel to achieve the same strength levels.

Corrosion Resistant

One of the most interesting parts of aluminum is that it has an inherent resistance to rust. When exposed to the elements it forms an oxidized layer which acts as a protective coating against any further rust. However, there are some occasions where rust can still occur and potentially present you with a problem. Physical wear over time will wipe off that protective rust layer and cause oxidation to slowly eat away at the metal. There are several ways to permanently prevent oxidation which can be easily found online.

High Heat Tolerance

Almost all heat sinks created are made out of aluminum. This is because aluminum conducts heat extremely well. The only other metal that’s as easily available that has a higher thermal conductivity than aluminum is copper. But, aluminum is still better because copper is three times the cost of aluminum, is heavier, and is too soft of a metal to be used in robotics. How is the high thermal conductivity of aluminum useful for building robots? Simple, if you need to sink heat from your motors to your chassis, aluminum is the best way to do it.

Curious how we can help you with your latest robotics project? We have custom solutions that can fit your needs, give us a call or shoot us an email today to get started. We look forward to working with you!

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