LCS award puts shipbuilding spotlight on light metal

Feb 01, 2011 | 05:07 AM | Bill Beck

Aluminum has been an integral part of shipbuilding for more than a century. Its structural strength and light weight make it ideal for replacing steel in ships' superstructures.

In a century's time, the average weight of ships has more than doubled, making the use of aluminum attractive to shipbuilders despite the cost of the metal, which can run as much as four times the cost of low-carbon steel. Now aluminum might be coming into its own as a material of choice for a new generation of U.S. Navy vessels designed to protect American interests around the world.

At roughly one-third the weight of steel, aluminum has long been used for the construction of lifeboats, motor launches, patrol boats, yachts, cabin cruisers and search-and-rescue vessels. Aluminum also has come into its own in the past quarter-century in the cruise ship industry, used for such structures as deckhouses, hatch covers, ladders, gangways, stack enclosures, bulkheads, fuel tanks, lifesaving equipment and deck plates.....

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