What Is Anodized Aluminum Sheet?

Paul Scott

Anodized aluminum sheet is a sheet metal product consisting of aluminum sheeting exposed to an electrolytic passivation process that imparts a tough, hard-wearing protective finish on its surface. The protective layer formed by the anodizing process is actually little more than an enhancement of the natural oxide layer that exists naturally on the surface of the aluminum. This makes it an intrinsic part of the metal surface thus lending the products their outstanding durability and strength. The sheets are available in a range of sizes and thicknesses, and are used in a variety of applications such as roofing material, architectural cladding, and a wide variety of decorative processes.

Some space shuttle components were made of aluminum-based alloys.
Some space shuttle components were made of aluminum-based alloys.

Aluminum is one of the most versatile metals in general use with various aluminum-based alloys found in items as diverse as space shuttle components, high-tech electronics, and low-cost cookware. Part of the inherent attraction of using aluminum in place of ferrous alloys is the fact that it doesn't rust. It does oxidize, however, but not quite in the destructive manner which iron based alloys do. As a matter of fact, the natural oxide layer present on aluminum forms the base of an extremely durable protective coating process known as anodizing. In addition to protecting the metal from corrosion and surface damage, the anodized layer also offers an extremely receptive base for decorative finishes such as painting and dying.

Anodized aluminum sheet is a processed sheet metal product.
Anodized aluminum sheet is a processed sheet metal product.

The outstanding durability and longevity of the finish on anodized aluminum sheet comes courtesy of the fact that the anodized layer is not an adhesive skin, but an integral part of the metal surface. This makes the finish a lot tougher and hard-wearing than conventionally applied paints, for example. That does not mean that anodized aluminum cannot be painted; the anodized layer is actually highly receptive to paints and dyes imparting in them its inherent toughness in the process. This makes anodized aluminum sheet an ideal medium for many decorative processes where it generally outlasts conventional painted or dyed products by a healthy margin.

Common decorative products produced from anodized aluminum sheet include engraved plaques, name badges, and ornaments. The sheets are also often used as a roofing and cladding material, both in both utilitarian and decorative architectural applications. Cookware, toys, and appliance casings are also regularly manufactured using the sheets. Anodized aluminum sheet is available in a wide range of breadths, lengths, and thicknesses, including a range of ultra-thin foils.

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