Shortages of both consumer goods, and materials have become all too familiar since 2019. However, nearly halfway 2023 many of those shortages are starting to ease. Including a shortage of aluminum products. However, one area where scarcity isn’t noticeably easing is in the supply of cast aluminum plates. Specifically, there is a shortage of aluminum MIC-6.
This is an issue for many industries because MIC-6 aluminum has unique properties that give it dimension stability during machining, and under changing temperatures. This makes cast aluminum plate invaluable in creating aluminum vacuum forming molds, and aluminum injection molds. MIC-6 has long been the standard for cast aluminum. To the point where many manufacturers are not aware of MIC-6 alternatives, and the current shortage of aluminum MIC-6 is causing serious disruptions to production schedules. Understanding the current shortage of aluminum MIC-6, resolving issues of supply, or finding MIC-6 alternatives is a priority for many companies in the aluminum business.
What Is Causing the Shortage of Aluminum MIC-6?
The roots of most shortages in 2023 including an aluminum shortage in 2023 can be traced back to either th covid-19 pandemic, or the war in Ukraine which started in 2022. The covid-19 pandemic disrupted manufacturing of aluminum, orders for aluminum products ensuring that manufacturers weren’t sure how much aluminum they should produce, but also production of materials used to produce aluminum like magnesium with a magnesium shortage impacting aluminum production in 2022.
This, however, does not explain the ongoing difficulties in obtaining MIC-6. MIC-6 is a highly specialized material from Arconic, one of the largest if not the largest manufacturer of aluminum, and aluminum products. Delays in production during a global pandemic, followed by a war that’s unprecedented in this century are understandable. A mainstay primary product from a major manufacturer having severely limited availability after even complicated electronics and consumer durables like game consoles and automobiles have managed to largely shake out their supply chains is notable, and it breeds speculation to the cause of the shortage.
Changes With the Arconic Company
MIC-6 aluminum is a product of the Arconic Company. This may come as a surprise to many, even those with long experience in the aluminum industry as MIC-6 is closely associated with Alcoa, or the Aluminum Company of America. The explanation is that Arconic is a spin-off of Alcoa made to produce lightweight metal and alloys for aerospace and other industry, while Aloca focused on the core business of mining bauxite and smelting raw aluminum. This original split happened in 2016, and to make matters more confusing Arconic split its engineered products for the aerospace industry into Howmet Aerospace. Finally, in May of this year Arconic itself was purchased by the Apollo Global Management financial group.
In addition to these changes in corporate structure and management the last decade has seen Arconic linked with potential scandals in the United Kingdom. In 2017 the Grenfell Tower block in London caught fire, and the fire rapidly spread out of control. Seventy-two people died and another 70 were injured. The rapid spread of the fire was linked to aluminum cladding manufactured by Arconic, although Arconic has vehemently denied any responsibility. The legal issues surrounding this fire are still ongoing with a final determination expected later in 2023. In 2020 the Arconic Mill Products plant in Lancaster Pennsylvania was rocked by an explosion and fire. Additionally, and again in the United Kingdom in 2021 protestors occupied the roof of an Arconic building in Birmingham.
Now, it is impossible to say for certain if the corporate restructuring, or any of these unfortunate incidents play a role in the current shortage of Aluminum MIC-6. Arconic itself has made no statement regarding the availability of MIC-6 or any of its other products. It is fair to say that can’t be helping though. Notably, new owner Apollo will be taking the company private, and a notable focus will be investing significant capital into making upgrades to Arconic’s plants and mills. A welcome investment in an industry that has seen significant disruption, but does nothing to relieve supply woes in the near term. Manufacturers will need to find MIC-6 alternatives to fulfill their needs. Fortunately, there are more than a few to choose from.
Finding Alternative Cast Aluminum Products
Although it isn’t generally known, the days when MIC-6 was the only cast aluminum plate available on the market are long past. Not only are there MIC-6 alternatives, some of these alternatives might actually be superior for MIC-6 aluminum for certain purposes. MIC-6 is from the 7000 series of aluminum which has high levels of zinc and silicon as part of the alloy.
These elements tend to react poorly when anodizing cast aluminum for example. Alternative cast aluminums come from the 5000 series of aluminum which uses magnesium as its primary alloying element. This responds much better to anodizing, and is far more weldable to boot. These MIC-6 alternatives are:
|Alca 5 plates are built using a vertical direct chill casting process which leads to a few superior material properties. Alca 5 is used for construction equipment, machine parts and mounts, index tables, jigs and fixtures, and precision applications.
|Engineered using a horizontal casting process. Double-sided and precision-milled ACP 5080 cast aluminum plate has distinct mechanical properties that offer exceptional machinability and makes it suitable for the aerospace industry, general engineering, food technology, mold and gauge making, and CNC components.
|A modified 5083 aluminum alloy in a vertical DC casting process with fine-grained structure minimizing internal stresses. These qualities of K-100S make K-100S suitable for assembly jigs, aircraft parts, vacuum chambers, prototypes, medical instrumentation, and automotive tools.
|Is a cast aluminum plate known for stringent flatness tolerances and dimensional control. This makes it a preferred alternative for applications in robotics, plastic molds, semiconductor, solar panel manufacturing, medical testing equipment, and packaging machinery.
These alternative cast aluminums are all from the 5000 series and offer some superior properties when compared to MIC-6. Given the ongoing shortage of aluminum MIC-6 aluminum these alternative 5080 aluminum tooling plates are well worth considering. However, if Mic-6 is what is called for in a spec sheet and Mic-6 is what a fabricator is most comfortable with looking too verified remnant aluminum Mic-6 might be an option.
Look to Industrial Metal Service foxr Your Cast Aluminum Needs
At Industrial Metal Service, we have been supplying new cast aluminum ACP 5080, Alca 5, and others as part of our extensive inventory of new and verified remnant aluminum. Combined with our state-of-art precision aluminum cutting equipment, we can easily help you meet your production goals..