Curving or rolling aluminum can be a little bit more difficult than curving or rolling normal carbon steel. If the operator is not familiar with the tendencies of aluminum, the material can crack or become deformed. Although there are many different grades and tempers of aluminum, two of the most frequently worked with are 6061-T6 and 6063-T52.
6061-T6 has great formability, weldability and corrosion resistance. It has a tensile strength no more than 18,000 psi (125 MPa), and a maximum yield strength of no more than 8,000 psi (55MPa). One of the reasons that 6061-T6 is the most commonly worked with is that it can be elongated approximately 25-30% before it fails. While 6061-T6 has great qualities to work with, these qualities are most prevalent when the material is “fresh”. One of the unique qualities about aluminum is that it precipitation hardens, or in other words it age hardens. Precipitation hardening (age hardening) is a technique used to amplify yield strength of malleable materials. This process is also used on nickel, titanium and some stainless steels. Sometimes, aluminum has encountered too much hardening and must be heat-treated or stress relieved to adjust the formability. Included with this blog are photos of an example of how proper stress relief can take a tube that could not be rolled into one which rolls beautifully.
6063-T52 has generally good mechanical properties as well, and it is heat treated and easily welded. It has a tensile strength of at least 20,000 psi (152 MPa) and a yield strength of no more than 14,000 psi (110 MPa). Unlike the 25-30% elongation that 6061 presents, 6063-T52 can only be elongated 8%. The unique qualities of 6063 make its useful for architectural and ornamental applications.
An expert rolling company can bend most all aluminum structural shapes as well as aluminum sheet and plate. Common applications would include plate being rolled into cylinders then welded together and used as pipe. Structural shapes can be rolled in to rings for many uses, the corrosion resistance as well as its strength-to-weight ratio make aluminum rings very useful. A previous blog outlined the use of curved aluminum for trusses used in lighting and stage sets. As well, many sports and entertainment arenas use curved aluminum for its light weight and strength when making curved supports for overhead signage, display boards, and monitors.