It is the 6061 aluminum properties that make it one of the most widely used aluminum alloys, being applied in various fields since 1935. A member of the “6000” alloy series, it typically consists of 97.1% aluminium, 1% magnesium, 0.7% iron, 0.5% silicon, 0.3% copper, 0.2% chromium, 0.1% zinc, 0.05% manganese, and 0.05% titanium.
6061 Aluminum Applications
Among the various 6061 aluminum properties it is considered to be very versatile, easy to work with, and relatively cheap. Its is used in aerospace engineering (CubeSats and the Pioneer plates), aircraft and helicopters, screw machine parts, yachts and boats. It is also perfect for tanks, bicycle frames, structural components, food and drink cans. You will also find 6061 aluminum used regularly with automotive chassis, truck frames, flashlights, fishing reels, pistol suppressors, cover plates and platforms, vacuum chambers, and many more.
The 6061 aluminum alloy can take many forms including:-
so it can literally make up almost anything that we need.
6061 Aluminum Subcategories
The 6061 aluminum is divided into a further 22 basic subcategories. These are based on the type of the induced tempering process which helps manufacturers achieve specific hardening levels. A selection of different types include:
- Annealed (type O)
- Heat treated in solutions and then naturally aged (type T4)
- Artificially aged (type T6)
- Heated, shaped and then gradually cooled (type T1)
- Strain hardened (type H1)
- Strain hardened and partially annealed (type H3)
Each manufacturer will also develop their own individual tempering processes to achieve more specialized and specific results. So the number of 6061 subcategories available in the market is practically endless.
6061 Aluminum Properties
In general, 6061 is considered versatile because it combines many beneficial mechanical and physical characteristics that make it so useful in a wide spectrum of applications. Here are the typical physical properties of 6061 as defined by ASM:
|Melting Temperature||585 oC (1085 oF)|
|Thermal Conductivity||151 – 202 W/(m*K)|
|Linear Thermal Expansion Coefficient||2.32 x 10-5 K-1|
|Specific Heat Capacity||897 J/(kg*K)|
|Young’s Modulus||68.9 GPascal|
|Tensile Strength||124-290 MPascal (depending on the subtype)|
|Yield Point||40000 PSI|
|Elongation at break||12-25% (depending on the subtype)|
|Volume Resistivity||32.5 – 39.2 nOhm*m|
What Makes 6061 Aluminum Standout?
In isolation the above figures don’t mean an awful lot. However, here is a list of the material properties that make 6061 stand out against the numerous types of aluminum alloys:
- Very good formability/workability making it relatively easy to form using a machining tool.
- Good weldability so it can be welded using different methods and tools. It can be also re-tempered to restore its hardness on and around the welding points.
- 6061 features a good brazeability which means that two parts of the material can be joined together by melting.
- Types T4 and T6 feature a very good level of machinability, meaning that they can be cut or have material removed through milling with ease.
- It boasts excellent corrosion resistance to the atmospheric air, as well as sea water. These corrosion resistance properties are maintained even with heavily abraded surfaces.
- Alloy 6061 aluminum properties mean it can be heat treated which is not the case for all aluminum alloys. This brings a whole set of benefits as previously described.
- The surface of the material allows for a high finish – creating a useful aesthetic result.
- The response to anodizing of the 6061 alloy is also at a good level – especially in the case of the T6 type.
- 6061 is a relatively strong alloy which is why it is used in medium to high load applications.
6061 Aluminum Properties Make It Versatile
It is important to note that 6061 is not the best in any of the above property categories across the range of alloy types. However, it is the only one which combines properties from all categories. For example, alloy 7075 is stronger than 6061 but it has poor weldability and corrosion resistance. This is why 6061 is considered such a versatile alloy, and why it is universally used by countless manufacturers in so many items/products.