Everyday Aluminum: Europe Edition

Aluminum building in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Guest Blog by Frank Weaver


It is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust—and, as it happens, one of the most useful to humans in our industrial age. I am referring, or course, to aluminum. Most people in the United States come in contact with aluminum every day, in one form or another, most typically in the kitchen. But beyond cooking utensils and aluminum foil, this metal has been put to use in myriad applications outside the home. Indeed, it is estimated that each year every single person in the U.S. uses more than 3,600 pounds of bauxite ore (from which aluminum is extracted) in their daily lives.

Aluminum is everywhere. Of course, we at FramingTech deal with it all the time, in the form of our T-slot aluminum extrusions and related structural framing productsAnd yet ironically, because it has become so commonplace, many of us tend to take it for granted. Nevertheless, the more you learn about this ubiquitous and versatile metal, the more you will notice and be fascinated by it.

On a recent trip to Europe, I made a conscious effort to “notice” and document the many ways that aluminum is put to use, often in ways we are not even aware of. Continue reading “Everyday Aluminum: Europe Edition”

Everyday Aluminum: Winter Fun with the Metal of Kings

Crumpled Aluminum Foil

By the end of February, most of us in the northern climes of the United States are suffering from a terminal case of cabin fever. We become desperate to chase away the Winter doldrums and somehow fill in the dragging hours with something—anything!—to do until Spring finally rolls around.

Aluminum to the rescue! In previous blogs we have written about the numerous elemental physical properties of aluminum, including its lightness, strength, malleability, corrosion-resistance, and so on. These properties are the reason we use this uniquely versatile metal for our T-slot extruded aluminum profiles, aquarium stands, workbenches, enclosures, and other products.

But “all work and no play…,” as they say. Those same unique properties can be applied to at-home activities that are sure to keep you occupied for the remainder of the Winter. Best of all—it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. While aluminum may be the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust, once upon it time it was also one of the most valuable (hence the moniker, “Metal of Kings”). It wasn’t until the discovery of the Hall-Heroult smelting process in 1886 that this abundant metal could be inexpensively produced on a large-scale basis for the general consumer market.

So break out the aluminum foil and let’s have some fun! Continue reading “Everyday Aluminum: Winter Fun with the Metal of Kings”

Everyday Aluminum: Art

Aluminum art

Previously we have discussed some of the more practical (if not prosaic) uses of aluminum in our everyday lives, from car manufacturing to building construction to solar panels, and even in robotics. One delightful area we have not touched on yet is the use of aluminum for purely aesthetic purposes: in the making of art.

It’s hard to imagine an elemental metal more suited than aluminum for creating beautiful objects. For one thing, there’s plenty of it: aluminum is the third most abundant element on Earth and the most abundant metal, making up some 8% of the planet’s crust. This durable metal is strong yet light, has a pleasing silvery-white appearance, can be polished to a highly reflective sheen, and is resistant to oxidation and corrosion. Though sometimes a “finicky” metal to work with (due to its relatively low melting point and high heat-conductiveness), it is also a versatile one: it is both ductile and malleable and can easily be molded, extruded, bent, stamped, cut, riveted, and welded. It can even be successfully painted and glued, since finishes and adhesives retain 100% of their strength when bonded to aluminum, thanks to its unique chemical properties.

Given all this, the world should be fairly bursting with astonishing artworks made from aluminum. And yet such treasures are few and far between compared to artworks made with other materials. Continue reading “Everyday Aluminum: Art”