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.

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
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.
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
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.

Very low, therefore good heat insulating property

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


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