Stainless Steel or Aluminium – Which Would be Best for your Access Equipment?

Stainless Steel or Aluminium – Which Would be Best for your Access Equipment?

27th March 2019

Here at Safety Fabrications we take pride in providing our customers with a wide range of access solutions to suit their exact requirements.  As such, many of our access equipment products are available in both Stainless Steel and Aluminium, which allows us to ensure that our customers can choose a solution that it tailored to their exact needs.  Today we’re going to take a look at the differences between stainless steel and aluminium.

Stainless steel and aluminium may look fairly similar at first glance, but they are actually quite different in reality.  Here are the ten main differences to bear in mind when choosing safe access equipment:

  1. COST – Aluminium is typically less costly than stainless steel.
  2. STRENGTH TO WEIGHT RATIO – Aluminium is almost one third of the weight of a similar product in stainless steel (which is the main reason it is used to fabricate aircraft bodies) but it is not as strong as stainless steel.
  3. STRENGTH – Stainless steel is stronger than aluminium.
  4. THERMAL CONDUCTIVITY – Aluminium is a much better conductor of heat which is the main reason it is used for air conditioning units and car radiators.
  5. THERMAL PROPERTIES – Stainless steel can be used in much higher temperatures than aluminium which becomes softer at temperatures above 400°.
  6. CORROSION – Stainless steel is made from iron, chromium, manganese, nickel and copper – the chromium is added to provide corrosion resistance.  Because stainless steel is not porous, the corrosion resistance is actually increased.  Aluminium has a high corrosion resistance due to its passivation layer (coating).  When aluminium is oxidised, the surface will turn white.  In some extreme acidic or base environments, aluminium can corrode rapidly and weaken significantly.
  7. WELDING – Stainless steel is much easier to weld than aluminium.
  8. WORKABILITY – Aluminium is relatively soft compared with stainless steel so it is easier to cut and form.  Stainless steel can become difficult to work with because it is so resistant to wear and abrasion, making it more difficult to cut and form.
  9. ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY – Stainless steel is a poor conductor of electricity compared with most other metals.  Aluminium, on the other hand, is a very good conductor of electricity and this, combined with its corrosion resistance and light weight makes it ideal for making overhead power lines.
  10. FOOD SAFETY – Stainless steel is much less reactive with foods than aluminium, which may react to foodstuffs causing both colour and flavour changes in some cases.

This information should be helpful when making a choice on whether to order safety ladders or other access equipment in stainless steel or aluminium.