What Differentiates Between Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061?

What Differentiates Between Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061?

Aluminum alloy has the characteristics of low density, good mechanical properties, excellent machinability, non-toxicity, easy to be recycled, excellent electrical conductivity, heat transfer and corrosion resistance. And can do anodized also, for purpose of to improve the abrasive resistance of parts, corrosion resistance, insulation, decorative, increase service life and so on.

Aluminum alloys are widely used in custom parts, prototype manufacturing and CNC machining, but there are too many different types of aluminum alloys on the market, how to choose the most suitable aluminum alloy for your CNC machining project? At this point, firstly we should clear that the final main application of the parts and its physical or chemical properties, such as formability, weldability, strength, corrosion resistance, etc., and then combine all requirements to choose the most suitable aluminum alloy as the raw material for your CNC machining project.


Take the common Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 as an example, and compare it in all aspects to help you better understand the difference between Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061, then choose the most suitable aluminum alloy type for your CNC machining parts.

Various grades of aluminum alloys

Aluminum is a metal with low strength and good plasticity. In addition to the application of some pure aluminum, in order to improve the strength or comprehensive performance, metals such as iron, copper, magnesium, silicon, zinc and manganese are added to pure aluminum to form an alloy. Thereby, the strength, density, machinablity, conductivity, wear resistance and corrosion resistance of aluminum are further improved. Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 are the result of the combination of aluminum and other metals, but the content of other metals is different.

grades of aluminum alloy

Nomenclature for aluminum alloy grades by the American Aluminum Association: The grades of aluminum alloys are represented by the 2XXX~9XXX series.The first digit of the grade indicates the main alloy type, which represents a series of characteristics. The second digit of the grade indicates the modification of the original alloy. The last two digits of the grade have no special meaning and are only used to distinguish different aluminum alloys in the same group. We take aluminum 5182, which is widely used in aircraft fuel tanks, as an example, 5 represents from the aluminum-magnesium alloy series, 1 represents the first modification to the main alloy element aluminum, and 82 represents the distinction from other alloys in the aluminum 51xx series. The following are the groups of different grades of aluminum alloys for reference.

GroupsGrade series
Pure aluminum (aluminum content not less than 99.00%)1XXX
Aluminum alloys with copper as the main alloying element2XXX
Aluminum alloys with manganese as the main alloying element3XXX
Aluminum alloy with silicon as the main alloying element4XXX
Aluminum alloys with magnesium as the main alloying element5XXX
Aluminum alloys with magnesium and silicon as the main alloying elements and Mg2Si phase as the strengthening phase6XXX
Aluminum alloys with zinc as the main alloying element7XXX
Aluminum alloys with other alloying elements as the main alloying elements8XXX
Alternate alloy set9XXX

Basic introduction of Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061

Aluminum 5052 is an AL-Mg alloy aluminum, Magnesium is the main alloying element in the 5052 alloy aluminum, and it is the most widely used rust-proof aluminum alloy. This alloy has high strength, especially fatigue resistance, plasticity and corrosion resistance, but can’t do heat treatment strengthening, good plasticity in semi-cold work hardening, low plasticity in cold work hardening, excellent corrosion resistance, weldability, poor machinability, and polishable.

Aluminum 5052 has excellent anodizing coloring effect, excellent metal texture and metal hardness, wear resistance and corrosion resistance, and long service life. It is widely used in high-end mobile phone casings, air conditioner casings and other fields that require high anodizing effect and metal texture. In addition, it can be used for low-load parts that require high plasticity and good weldability, and can work in liquid or gaseous media, such as automobile fuel tanks.

Aluminum 5052 VS Aluminum 6061

The main alloy elements of Aluminum 6061 aluminum are magnesium and silicon, and form Mg2Si phase. If it contains a certain amount of manganese and chromium, it can neutralize the bad effects of iron. Sometimes a small amount of copper or zinc is added to improve the strength of the alloy without significantly reducing its corrosion resistance, and there is still a small amount of copper as conductive material to offset the adverse effects of titanium and iron on electrical conductivity, zirconium or titanium can refine grains and control recrystallization structure; in order to improve machinability, lead and bismuth can be added. Mg2Si is solid-dissolved in aluminum, which makes the alloy have artificial aging hardening function. 

Aluminum 6061 is a heat-treated reinforced alloy with good formability, weldability and machinability, with medium strength which can maintain good operability after annealing. Typical uses of Aluminum 6061 include aerospace fastening device, electrical fastening device, and communications and so on. It is also widely used in automated mechanical parts, precision machining, mold manufacturing, electronics and precision instruments, SMT, and PC board solder carriers.

aluminum 6061

The chemical component for Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061

Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 grades have excellent properties and serve different applications with distinct elemental compositions. Also, both aluminum alloys can be used for the same purpose. However, it is important to use aluminum alloys with a high level of benefit.

For easy understanding, DDPROTOTYPE will use the properties exhibited by both alloys to draw comparisons between the two. This is to ensure that users have more knowledge about Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 to select an effective aluminum alloy for their customized metal parts. The following is the composition table and performance comparison of the two aluminum alloys for your reference:

ElementAL 5052AL 6061
Aluminum (Al)95.85 – 97.70 %95.80 – 97.90 %
Silicon (Si)0.00 – 0.25 %0.40 – 0.80 %
Zinc (Zn)0.00 – 0.10 %0.00 – 0.25 %
Magnesium (Mg)2.20 – 2.80 %0.80 – 1.20 %
manganese (Mn)0.00 – 0.10 %0.00 – 0.15 %
Chromium (Cr)0.15 – 0.35 %0.04 – 0.35 %
Cuprum (Cu)0.00 – 0.00 %0.15 – 0.40 %
Ferrum (Fe)0.00 – 0.40 %0.00 – 0.70 %
Titanium (Ti)0.00 – 0.15 %
Residuals0.00 – 0.15 %0.00 – 0.15 %

Aluminum 5052 vs Aluminum 6061: Mechanical Properties

The mechanical properties of a material are the physical properties exhibited when a force or impact is acted upon it. Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 both exhibit quite a range of mechanical properties. These properties give us more opportunities to be able to compare and contrast. These properties include:

  • Modulus of Elasticity

  • Electrical Resistivity

  • Machinability

  • Material Hardness

  • Thermal Conductivity

  • Yield Strength

  • Shear Strength

Modulus of Elasticity

Modulus of elasticity can be expressed in terms of stiffness of an alloy. This is quantified as a measure of how an alloy material can resist plastic deformation in a presence of an external force. A material that exhibits higher modulus is said to be more elastic. This is because it requires extra effort to permanently lead the material into deformity. As a result, alloys with higher modulus metrics are preferred for forming applications. In addition to this, elastic materials do not easily fracture when deformed. We compare Aluminum 5052 with Aluminum 6061 and we found out that Aluminum 5052 has the highest modulus of elasticity (70.3 GPa). Therefore, if elasticity is considered in the selection of alloy for your project, then Aluminum 5052 is a perfect choice.

Electrical Conductivity

In the comparison of Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 using equal volume, the Aluminum 6061 shows higher conductivity at about 7% than the Aluminum 5052, as the small amount of cuprum elemental contains for Aluminum 6061. 

6061 Aluminum Alloy Chemical Composition


Machinability measures how well an alloy material responds to CNC milling, die-cutting, CNC turning or other machining operations.  These machinability operations can be measured using some machinability scales. Aluminum 6061 is rated “Good” while Aluminum 5052 is “Poor” in terms of machinability. This is because Aluminum 6061 is more brittle and fractures off more easily with lesser chips when machined. On the other hand, Aluminum 5052 is rated poor due to its elastic nature. Larger chips fall off on tooling with less precise cuts.

CNC_Aluminum_Machined Parts

Material Hardness

The hardness of an alloy material depends on its resistance to deformity either by indentation or penetration.  in this case, both aluminum alloys were penetrated using different amounts of force, and the result showed that Aluminum 6061 resist penetration without much deformity under pressure.  This means that Aluminum 6061 is harder (276 MPa) to permanently deform than Aluminum 5052 (193 MPa).

Hardness AL6061 VS 5052

Thermal Conductivity

The thermal conductivity is a measure of how much a metal alloy can transmit heat. Aluminum alloys are good conductors of heat; it is applicable in considering material for heat exchangers, heat sinks, and many more. The thermal conductivity of Aluminum 6061 is higher than that of Aluminum 5052. As a result, Aluminum 6061 is preferred for heat dissipation applications.

Yield Strength

For a selection of materials, the yield strength and ultimate strength of that material serve as a central value. In combination, they represent the maximum amount of stress that leads to non-permanent (elastic) and permanent (plastic) deformation. Furthermore, the yield strength is the most important in static applications. This means that the material of choice must never deform permanently e.g. in structural applications. On the other hand, the ultimate strength may be useful for a specific application. Aluminum 5052 displayed a yield tensile strength of about 193 MPa with an ultimate tensile strength of 226 MPa. Aluminum 6061 exhibits a yield tensile strength of about 276 MPa with an ultimate tensile strength of 310 MPa. This shows that the Aluminum 6061 is stronger than the Aluminum 5052.

Yield Strength AL 6061

Shear Strength

The shear strength of a material can be referred to as the maximum load that can be supported before fracture to the fasteners axis when applied at the right angle. In this regards the shear strength of Aluminum 5052 is 138 MPa (20000 psi) while Aluminum 6061 has 207 MPA (30000 psi). This shows that Aluminum 6061 has a higher shear strength compared with Aluminum 5052. The table below shows more information about the overall strength of both alloys for comparison.

Properties5052 Aluminum6061 Aluminum
Shear Modulus3760 ksi25.9 Gpa3770 ksi26.0 Gpa
Modulus of Elasticty10200 ksi70.3 Gpa10000 ksi68.9 Gpa
Fatigue Strength17000 psi117 Mpa14000 psi96.5 Mpa
Shear Strength20000 psi138 Mpa30000 psi207 Mpa
Electrical Resistivity3.99 x 10-6 ohm-cm5.15 x 10-6 ohm-cm
Hardness (Brinell)95150

Corrosion Resistance Comparison

When aluminum alloys are exposed to air or water, they form a layer of oxide. This oxide layer makes the alloy non-reactive with corrosive elements. Aluminum 5052 does not contain any trace of copper, so it holds up exceptionally well under ambient conditions. It does not readily corrode when used in a saltwater environment that weakens and attack copper metal composite. As a result, the Aluminum 5052 is preferred over the Aluminum 6061 in chemical and marine applications.

Due to the magnesium content of Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061, they both resist corrosion caused by ammonia, ammonia hydroxide, and nitric acid. But when both alloys are exposed to alkaline soil there may be a reaction called pitting. To avoid corrosion, alloy coating may be used to form a protective layer for both alloys.

Weldability Comparison

For weldability comparisons, both Aluminum alloys feature excellent weldability properties.  The Aluminum 5052 has the best welding characteristic of all the aluminum alloys. Its formability properties make it ideal for electrical enclosure fabrications. For Aluminum 6061, proper care must be taken in the selection of the perfect weld filler metal.  To get the weld back to the original “T” designation, post-weld heat treatment and aging may be required.

Weight Comparison

Weight comparison for material selection is important for any application. For example, in the aviation industry, materials with lightweight are preferable. In addition to lightweight, the material must come with enormous strength for higher efficiency. In comparison, we discovered that 6061 aluminum has the same density (0.0975 lb/in3, 2.7 g/cm3) as pure aluminum. Also, 5052 aluminum has slightly lower density (0.0968 lb/in3, 2.7 g/cm3) compare to pure aluminum. It means that, relative to pure aluminum, they are both lightweight and can be used in applications that require lightweight. This contributes to the reason for the usage of 6061 aluminum in the construction of modern aircraft.

Price Comparison

In the conventional space, the price of an equal volume of 6061 aluminum is higher than the 5052 aluminum. This expensive nature may be attributed to the processing technology of 6061 aluminum which is more technical. However, the price of both alloys depends greatly on the choice of specification. This specification is greatly dependent on the requirement for your specific project.

Common Applications Comparison of Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061

Aluminum 5052 has a wide range of applications. As a result of its composition, it offers quite a lot of benefits for manufactures in the industry. This characteristic has made the Aluminum 5052 known in the marine industry, electronics industry, and as well in chemical applications.


Due to the workability of Aluminum 6061, it is referred to as structural aluminum alloy. With its formability, it can be formed into a sheet, rounded, squared, extruded, rolled, or any form.

Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061 both have wide range of applications, which include and not limited to the following:

Grade seriesApplications
Aluminum 5052
  • Electronic Enclosure

  • Electronic Chassis

  • Hardware Signs

  • Hydraulic tubes

  • Marine Equipment

  • Medical Equipment

  • Pressure Vessel

Aluminum 6061

  • Automotive industries

  • Welded Assemblies

  • Modern aircraft industries

  • Building construction industry e.g. subway platforms, stairs, flooring, cover plates, walk away, and more.

  • Consumer products including bicycle frames and components, small utility boats,

  • fishing reel, SCUBA tanks., docks gangways, and more

  • Electrical fittings.

  • Chemical equipment

  • Fasteners

  • Food industries especially for canned foods

How to tell the difference between Aluminum 5052 and Aluminum 6061

To tell a physical difference between both alloys, get two parts formed by 5052 aluminum and 6061 aluminum at 0.03 inch each. Try to bend each alloy sheet at 90 degrees. The part formed by 5052 aluminum will not break when bent at a sharp radius. For 6061 aluminum, with a bend radius that is less than two times of the material fitness will break at the bend. If the bend radius is greater than two times the material fitness for 6061 aluminum, the part will not break at the bend radius.


Irrespective of the alloy you are planning to use, they both offer numerous advantages. However, it is crucial to select the perfect alloy for your project. Perfect alloy will help to save time, and funds because of the excellent properties they offer. Such properties include weldability, corrosion resistance, cost efficiency, strength to weight ratio, and many more. The selection of the perfect choice of material for your project requires great expertise. The truth is that the choice of materials depends on the project requirement

Summary aluminum 6061 vs aluminum 5052

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