Expert insight - Malgorzata Chojak Halseid
“Designers and producers are showing increasing interest in this versatile and beautiful material because it is one of the most sustainable metals out there,” says Senior Research Scientist at Hydro, Malgorzata Chojak Halseid.
She works with surface treatment of aluminium and advises engineers and designers on how to realize their ideas.
“You can make use of aluminium in an infinite amount of ways. It is light but strong. It efficiently conducts electricity, it’s not magnetic, it’s corrosion resistant, it can be recycled and it’s incredibly easy to form,” she says.
By casting, rolling, forging or extruding aluminium, you can transform it into almost anything. This makes assembling a product easier, because you reduce a lot of the need for welding and assembly.
“When you extrude your design in one, or just a few pieces, you save a lot of work afterwards. This makes for a cost-effective production,” she says.
No creative limits
Aluminium can be surface treated in a number of different ways: anodized with a matte or glossy finish, painted or simply brushed. You can also add colour, text or images to the anodized layer, or even create a wooden or glittery 3D effect on painted structures.
“Surface treatments are very on trend right now. It provides the designer with the autonomy to shape and enables them to create whatever they desire, in a sustainable way.”
You can rely on Hydro’s experts
Aluminium normally requires no maintenance, but you need to consider where and how your product will be used.
“Although aluminium in most cases will not corrode, some specific conditions can alter the natural oxide layer protecting the metal. If you are a designer or an engineer, you need to ask yourself if your product will be used indoors or outdoors, if it will be exposed to coastal climate or if it is going to be in contact with other metals. No matter the challenges, Hydro’s team of experts will help you decide what course of action is necessary to realize your product,” she explains.
The challenges of sustainability
All aluminium that is produced can be recycled; however, one of the biggest challenges remains finding ways to make use of the scrap.
“Often there are several types of metals combined in one product, and it can be difficult to separate them from each other. This makes it a challenge to retain equal properties in the recycled product, based on just scrap aluminium. You usually need to blend the recycled aluminium with some new to keep the tight chemical composition. Designers need to consider this when making new products, so that we can easily separate and recycle the metals when needed. Keeping life cycle in mind when designing makes scrap sorting easier,” she says.