Clear Anodized Aluminum: The Ultimate Finish for Aluminum
Clear anodizing is one of the most popular and most used surface finishing methods for aluminum. Because of the different features and benefits it offers, buyers from various industries prefer it on their parts.
If you’re looking for a great finish for your aluminum parts and considering a clear anodizing finish, you’re in the right place. Because here in this guide, I’ll walk you through every aspect of this finish.
What is Clear Anodized Aluminum?
When aluminum goes through a clear anodization process, it’s called clear anodizing aluminum. This exceptional finishing makes aluminum more stable, effective, and controllable for the user by improving its features and characteristics.
Compared to raw or mill aluminum, anodized aluminum is much stronger and more durable. For higher strength and better lifespan, you must go with the clear anodization process to get the best result.
With a combination of chemistry and electricity, it converts aluminum to aluminum oxide. The word “anodized” comes from the process of how it’s electrically charged.
Anodized finishing provides great resistance to corrosion or rust. This is one of the core advantages of this method. The anodization process creates a thick anodic oxide layer with an electric charge.
At the end of the process, sealing the oxide coating is necessary as well. This also increases corrosion protection. The oxide layer beneath the dye keeps the surface protected even if the overlying dye is worn off or damaged.
Clear Anodized Aluminum Process
The process takes a very short amount of time and is easier to apply. The whole process takes around 1-2 hours of time at most. If you have a short amount of time in hand, this can be the perfect choice for you.
We put the aluminum metal in an acidic bath with current passing through the acid. With the combination of electrical current and acid, it forms an oxide layer over the metal. And this is basically it.
Here are the complete step by step process of anodizing aluminum metal:
First, we need to rack the metal in a conductive bar to automate the process. One common way to do this is to clamp the sheets tightly and load it on a conductive bar. We need to ensure that the metals are held tightly and are able to pass the electricity easily as well.
In the second step of the process, we clean the surface of the metal from any impurities in a cleaning bath. When cleaned completely, it’s moved to a rinse bath using the crane.
Here the aluminum is dipped into an acid bath where fluorides react with the metal. It creates a rough surface that tackles any other aluminum imperfections. And then it’s moved to the next rinse bath.
In this step, we remove the fluoride left on the metal from the last step and move it to the next rinse tank.
Here we remove any silicon and magnesium substance attached to the aluminum to make it more soluble and pure. In this bath, the metal becomes completely pure and ready to go under the actual process. And again, we move it to a rinse bath.
This is the most significant step of the process where we anodize the piece. The metal is charged positively first. And then an electrical current is passed through the acid making an oxide layer on the surface. We run the electrical current through the acid for roughly about half an hour.
This is the final and one of the most significant steps of the process. Here we seal the aluminum oxide coating. It ensures that the final product is more resistant to corrosion.
Non-anodized Aluminum vs. Anodized Aluminum
Why should you apply the finishing rather than using the raw aluminum for your application? After all, what difference does it make?
Aluminum oxide is one of the most robust substances on earth. So with it, your parts become way more stable and stronger. You can get the most out of your parts when it becomes significantly stronger than the basic raw aluminum.
The anodization process improves the corrosion-resistant to a great deal. Which allows the metal to retain its appearance and increase the lifespan significantly.
It creates a hard and wear-resistant layer on the surface making it more durable and stronger. That won’t be possible with raw or non-anodized aluminum.
If you’re using aluminum for building materials or any heavy-duty applications, you want it to be durable and strong. As well as wear and corrosion-resistant. And with the anodization process, you can easily achieve that.
When you’re using the parts for visible applications, you want to have a better appearance. And if you choose non-anodized aluminum, the appearance won’t be something that you can be proud of.
Anodized aluminum has a really appealing look and you can customize the shades of it according to your taste.
Being more corrosion resistant, your parts remain intact for years without much maintenance. All you need to do is to clean the parts once a year and that’s it.
The scenario is entirely different from raw metals. As you’ll have to invest a lot of time into the maintenance of the parts you’re using.
Stainless Steel vs Aluminum Anodizing
Before we compare both these metals, you need to understand what stainless steel is. It is a recyclable and corrosion-resistant material that is made with a combination of iron and chromium.
Here are the key differences:
Which offers better strength? Stainless steel or anodized aluminum?
When you’re comparing stainless steel vs anodized aluminum cookwares, strength might not be the first thing that you consider.
But when you’re ordering it for commercial and residential building products, you want it to be extremely strong and robust. And that’s where anodized aluminum wins.
The additional oxidized layers give the metal a significant strength and make it perfect for all kinds of heavy-duty uses.
Both of these materials offer great durability and lifespan. But there are multiple grades and levels or stainless steel which are not all equal.
If the quality is well above the average then you can be satisfied with the stainless steel’s durability. And if you compare an average grade stainless steel to anodized aluminum parts, you want to go with the aluminum option.
The costs vary from one grade to another in stainless steel. But in general, stainless steel is more expensive and it’s not practical to use it for building materials. Even in automotive or aerospace applications, you should consider aluminum.
Applications for Aluminum Anodizing
Here are some of the major applications of anodized aluminum metal:
Anodized aluminum parts are widely used in building materials like storefronts, storefront or roofing systems.
Automotive and Aerospace Industry
In the automobile and aerospace industries, the use of these finished metals is endless. In motor vehicles, you’ll find it on the wheel parts, control panels, name plates, and many more. While in the aerospace industry, the exterior panels use this finishing.
Doors and Windows
Glass doors and windows frames, storm doors are a great example of this finishing too.
Appliances such as refrigerators, microwave ovens, and televisions have metal as components.
Lots of furniture are made with this finishing like tables, chairs, staircases, etc.
There are numerous examples of anodized aluminum in the leisure industry like boats, golf carts, golf vehicles, etc.
Other appliance and electrical uses
There are many products that we use every day containing anodized finishing. Clocks, food preparation equipment, bathroom fittings, solar panels, fire extinguishers, and many other examples are available.
Benefits From Aluminum Anodizing
This particular finishing is one of the favorites for numerous industries throughout the world for its versatility and effectiveness. If you’re considering anodizing your aluminum parts, you should be aware of these benefits, so you know what you’re getting beforehand.
Strength and Durability
The oxide layer makes the surface harder and stronger than normal aluminum. And this wear-resistant layer makes the metal more robust and increases the lifespan. Which makes it suitable for use in long term applications and industrial uses with heavy-duty.
The anodizing process is completely safe for human health and the final product is also non-toxic with great heat resistant ability.
Low Maintenance and easy cleaning
Compared to other metals or non-anodized aluminum, the maintenance is way lower and easier. You can just clean the parts once a year in general use.
While using it for industrial or heavy-duty use, you might want to clean it twice a year and that’s it. No need a further maintenance.
It is widely used in the automotive and aerospace industry is because of its lightweight feature. Anodized aluminum is lighter than iron, steel, and many other metals. Which makes it very user friendly in terms of installation and maintenance.
Anodized aluminum costs less than stainless steel or most other quality metal parts. And if you consider the life long value of the parts, you’re winning big time with aluminum with this finishing.
Unlike other finishing methods, anodizing does not require very complex and heavy machines, which keeps the cost to a minimum.
The lightweight characteristics of the parts make it more affordable for shipping. Which saves a significant amount of cost while ordering from China manufacturers or any other countries overseas.
The finish adds a beautiful and pleasing look to the metal no matter what shades you choose for your parts. It maintains a clear metallic appearance and doesn’t fade in a short period of time.
And you can change the appearance or customize it by stamping, engraving, or silk screening. The possibilities are endless, lastly, you should consider the excellent corrosion resistance it offers.
How to Clean Anodized Aluminum
Although it requires a very low amount of maintenance, you should consider cleaning the metals on a routine basis. It will increase the appearance as well as the durability of the aluminum.
If it’s not clean and all surface staining may occur which will affect the structural integrity of the metal. But don’t worry, cleaning the metal is not a very big deal. I will tell you how exactly.
- First, you’ll need to select a pH neutral cleaner so it won’t react with the finishing at all.
- Use a damp sponge to remove any dust or substances sticking to it. Ensure that you’re not scratching the surface with a defective sponge.
- Use water or spray nozzles to rinse and clean the surface thoroughly by using a hand or a soft cloth. Wipe off the surface with dry towels to remove any water spots.
- And then mix the detergent or cleaner you’ve chosen with water and apply it on a soapy sponge. Start rubbing it on the surface. Don’t use any harsh chemicals as it will harm the surface.
- Now rinse water on the surface and wipe off with a dry towel.
- If you need polishing, you can do that as well easily on the aluminum surface. First, use 800 grit sandpaper to make the surface ready. And then use a hand buffing machine.
- You can then apply commercial polish or anodized aluminum polish and rub it in a circular motion to apply evenly. And that’s it.
Contact Sunrise Metal
Here’s our effort to provide you with the latest and updated information about clear anodized aluminum. The goal of this article was to give you a clear idea on what this finishing is and how it can help you achieve your goal.
If you have any more questions about this finishing, feel free to leave a message and we’ll get back to you as early as possible.