ALUMINIUM – PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE In 1974 a group of workers excavating on the banks of the river Mures in Romania discovered three objects in a sand trench. Two of the objects were Mastodon bones believed to be at least 11,000 years old. The third object was an aluminium wedge, similar in shape to the head of a hammer. This ‘Wedge of Aiud’ is claimed to be 89% Aluminium with alloy elements of Copper, Silicon, Zinc, Lead, Tin, Zirconium, Nickel, Cobalt, Bismuth, and Galium. We believe that pure Aluminium was not available until the mid-19th century. Only in the last 100 years has technology existed to allow the separation of Aluminium from the mineral bearing rock at 1000 degrees centigrade. There is some speculation that this object could be of extraterrestrial origin. If it was made here on earth its original purpose and history are as yet unknown.
SMALL PACKAGES Especially at this time of year many chocolates lie temptingly in homes and workplaces. They are often wrapped in brightly coloured Aluminium foil. The Aluminium foil wrappers keep the chocolates fresh and also provide protection from light and heat. In December 1907 Aluminium foil was first applied as a protective barrier for food products. By 1913 it was being used for wrapping chocolate and other confectionary. As you pop the chocolate into your mouth don’t forget that it was made possible by Aluminium, and don’t forget to recycle the wrapper.
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE Aluminium plays a vital role in modern printing to produce high quality books, maps, magazines, and newspapers. The process relies on a high definition image being created on Aluminium plate, which is wrapped around rollers. These ‘offset rollers’ transfer the image in ink onto the print rollers which generate the printed pages. The lithographic printing process was invented in 1796 by Bavarian author Alois Senefelder for printing theatre scripts. These early printing presses used flat plates which were made from stone or rigid metal. With the development of the modern rolling printing presses the plates needed to be flexible, leading to the use of Aluminium. The news and printed word is brought to you by Aluminium.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION Scaffolding and ladders were used during the building of the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Wall of China, providing temporary support and access during construction. The first versions of scaffolding and ladders to appear were made from timber or bamboo, but Aluminium is now the material of choice. Scaffolding and ladders need to be rigid and durable. They also need to be lightweight, to make transport, erection and dismantling easy. Perhaps the most important feature of Aluminium ladders and scaffolding is a property called “consistent strength”. Simply put, Aluminium is predictable and reliable because it is manufactured under strict procedures and guidelines. It remains maintenance free and retains its physical properties.
ALUMINIUM POINTS THE WAY The history of modern road signs can be traced back to the development of the 'ordinary' bicycle during the 1880’s. Since the 1960’s the shape, content, and reflective properties of road signs have been strictly regulated across the developed world. Most signage is now manufactured using Aluminium for the sign and the bracing. In addition to durability the road signs need to strong and lightweight. Changes in road layouts and regulations mean that there is a continuous supply of redundant signs which need to be recycled. The unique combination of properties and recyclability means that Aluminium is the ‘sign of the times’.
National Metalforming Centre,
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