New technology has made it possible for aluminum and steel to share almost the same advantages in the world of vacuum chamber machining. The new types of products on the rise and the improved processes connected to their production are also a part of the reason why the big difference has been neutralized.
Also, time has had its positive tool on the experience that has been gained regarding the welding of the aluminum. Vacuum leak-tight welds now can b achieved with much greater ease. This has accounted for the opportunity to use aluminum in areas where steel was the only option and vice versa. Therefore, aluminum is no longer viewed as the prominent choice when it comes to all of those high vacuum applications.
From a historical point of view, the factors that have brought about the preference towards machining steel are mainly the ease with which vacuum leak-tight welds can be achieved, the high rate of availability regarding standard sealing systems and the ease with which steel can be cleaned and baked out.
On the other hand, aluminum has perks that machining metal could never achieve, such as the lightweight nature, the ease with which aluminum can be machined and, of course, its lower price.
The aluminum processes of today’s world have surpassed the advantages that stainless steel once had regarding vacuum chambers fabrication.
The three factors that have contributed for the rise of machining stainless steel as preferred option are: the ease with which vacuum leak tight welds can be achieved, easy maintenance and high UHV levels. Stainless steel requires standard sealing systems in order to attain UHV levels.
In conclusion, due to the lower material cost, its lightweight aspect, the ease regarding the manufacturing process and the total cost advantages linked to the cost of raw material, aluminum is the most probable and more convenient choice that imposes itself over the more complicated and pricy process of machining steel.
It becomes clear that aluminum vacuum chambers come with the option to be used thoroughly according to the rules imposed by vacuum regimes that include the processes of insulation and UHV.
Additionally, aluminum chambers come with cost advantage of 20% when compared to the vacuum regimes of stainless steel chambers and weight becomes no issue when aluminum is the material that has been chosen.
At the end of the day, we all care about lowering the weight, both metaphorically and literally, and it seems like aluminum can offer both and thus cast a shadow over the need and preference for machining steel.