Aluminium, steel, plastic, wood

Comparison of materials

Advantages and disadvantages of aluminium compared with other materials

  • Steel refers to metallic alloys that comprise mainly iron and that can be formed into different shapes (unlike cast iron).
  • Plastic refers to a synthetic or semi-synthetic organic polymer that is made from organic monomers or biopolymers.
  • In general usage, wood refers to a solid or hard tissue of the stem axis (trunk and branch) of trees and shrubbery. Wood is the most important raw material in the world.

aluminiumsteelplasticWood
Durability★★★★★★★★★★
Formability★★★★
Very high
★★★
Dependent on the alloy.
Strength low tensile strength, low hardness on stainless steel
Very high tensile strength, wear-resistance and fatigue strength.
★★
Poor, but can be formed into almost any shape by injection moulding.
Depending on the type of plastic – hard, elastic, break-resistant, heat-resistant and chemical-resistant.
Lower tensile strength and rigidity than metals. Can be partially compensated through higher wall thicknesses or fibre reinforcement.

Very low
Processing★★★★
Can be processed in many number of ways: drawing, pressing, cutting, lasering, sanding.
It can be cut, cold-formed and easily welded.
Ideal properties for extruding and casting.
★★★★★★
While metals can be processed at high temperatures, plastic in comparison can be formed into parts with complicated shapes more easily and with less effort.
★★
Typical processing techniques include sawing, sanding and planing.
Moisture★★★★
Very weatherproof. Aluminium does not "rust". Impermeable to water vapour
★★★
Stainless steel is insensitive to moisture. Likewise, rust does not appear on fully galvanised steel. Permeability to water vapour is practically zero.
★★
Plastics are moisture-resistant and can be made completely impermeable to water

permeable to air, absorbs moisture, not a vapour barrier
Temperature:★★★★
Ideal for environments with low temperatures. This is because in such conditions, it retains its toughness and even becomes harder.
★★★★
Its melting point is much higher than that of aluminium. Remains sturdy even at low temperatures

Conventional plastics are not fire-resistant, melt and burn quickly. Plastics quickly become brittle at low temperatures.
★★
Wood cannot withstand high temperatures but remains stable at low temperatures
Heat conductivity★★★★
Very high, therefore suitable for applications requiring heat to be conducted away.
★★
Moderate

Very low, therefore good heat insulating property

Very low, therefore good heat insulating property
Electric conductivity★★★★
Very high
★★
moderate

none

none
Hygiene aspects★★★★
Very well suited for cleaning with cleaning agents, acids, bases, solvents and steam.
Non-toxic and hygienic.
★★★★
Very well suited for cleaning with cleaning agents, acids, bases, solvents and steam.
★★★
Well suited for cleaning with cleaning agents. Sensitive to acids, bases, solvents and steam/heat.

Difficult to clean because of its rough surface.
Ageing, corrosion★★★★
Not sensitive to weathering effects.
UV-resistant, corrosion-resistant oxide layer.
★★★
Only stainless steel (as opposed to steel) and steel with a treated surface are relatively resistant to corrosion and acids.

Most plastics are sensitive to solvents. Plastics will become brittle, decoloured and fatigued through environmental influences, especially UV light.

As a natural material, not very resistant to ageing: decomposition and breakage
Environmental impact★★
Aluminium extraction is energy intensive, but aluminium is 100% recyclable.
★★
Metal extraction through mining is not as eco-unfriendly as with aluminium.

It is based on petroleum (a raw material that is becoming scarcer and more expensive) and can only be partly recycled
★★★★
Eco-friendly, because it is a renewable resource that can be recycled or incinerated. Neutral carbon footprint
Material comparison casesAluminium cases:
Cases that are sturdy, durable and lightweight at the same
Sheet-steel cases:
Sturdy and durable, but approx. twice as heavy as similar aluminium cases
Plastic cases:
A wide variety of shapes and colours; can only be used in a lower temperature range.
Wood cases:
In part advantageous through its natural look. Solid and low-cost.
Material comparison ladders and access equipmentAluminium ladders:
Lightweight and durable while using a low amount of material
Steel ladders:
Heavy and sturdy and therefore especially suitable for fixed ladders
Plastic ladders:
Lightweight, breakproof and especially for working on electric systems.
Wood ladder:
Natural look, solid and low-cost, special shapes mostly impossible to achieve