The South African Aluminium industry is one of the industrial pillars of the South African economy. Along with the economic impact and contribution to the fiscus, the industry generates significant foreign exchange revenues and provides an estimated 11 600 employees in the sector with decent jobs. The multiplier effect takes the number to 28 900, and dependencies to 55 700.
Manufacturing of aluminium products and components play a vital role in the architectural, building and construction, automotive, transport, consumer durable, electrical, packaging, chemical and explosives and general engineering sectors. Growth in the South African use of aluminium in automotive and packaging applications has been impressive in recent years.
Before discussing the industry, it is pertinent to briefly discuss aluminium and its alloys. “Aluminium” is a generic term for a group of alloys (wrought and cast) that are characterised by their chemical composition. There are eight active alloy groups for wrought alloys and five for casting alloys. The behaviour in service of these alloys depends on the composition, hardness and temper. There are both heat treatable and non-heat treatable alloys. Careful selection of the most appropriate aluminium alloy and its condition is critical to success in any application. Details of the alloys and their best application are available from the Federation and from the suppliers. AFSA is able to advise on properties, design criteria, corrosion resistance, machinability, formability, weldability and surface finishing of all common alloys. (see the diagram “Wrought Aluminium Alloy Series Family).
Aluminium is an element (no 13) and can be recycled indefinitely without loss of metallic properties. Off cuts, waste, dross and end of life scrap are all capable of being recycled by remelting. This is performed by the secondary smelters, but also by the producers of semi-fabricated products, some foundries and dross processing plants. Melting aluminium requires 5% of the energy used to produce primary aluminium. Aluminium’s recyclability, low melting energy and light weight characteristics are fundamental to the metal’s sustainability, and GHG emission reduction potential.