Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum Pulley Stock

stainless steel vs aluminum pulley stock

Often utilized for prototyping or crafting replacement parts, a pulley stock is the heart of the timing pulley. Both steel and aluminum stock are among the most common. However, selecting the best material for your application is not always a simple choice. In the content below, we compare stainless steel, aluminum, and plastic pulley stock, seeking to guide you towards the best decision for your needs.

Stainless Steel Pulley Stock                   

Steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, is among the most important materials utilized in engineering and construction. Multiple applications in the home and workplace exist due to the unique properties of steel, from washing machines to surgical scalpels. Interestingly, over 3,500 grades of steel exist, each with differing physical, environmental, and chemical properties.

Over time, strong and light modern steels have been developed. According to one prominent resource on steel: “If the Eiffel Tower were to be rebuilt today, the engineers would only need one-third of the steel that was originally used.”

Steel is prevalent. Although not a natural resource, steel is a prevalent material and produced in millions of tons annually.

Steel is environmentally friendly. Steel requires little energy to produce in comparison with other manufactured materials. Modern steel is lightweight and allows for energy conservation during transportation and handling.

Steel is extremely durable. Due to its density and carbon concentration, steel is hard-pressed to warp or deform, even under intense conditions. The durability of steel eliminates the need for frequent replacement.

Steel is recyclable. The properties of steel remain unchanged, regardless of how many times it is undergoes the recycling process.

What Are the Differences Between Steel and Stainless Steel?

Chromium, nickel, nitrogen, and molybdenum are added to steel to create stainless steel. As such, stainless steel possess greater chromium content than steel, forming a layer on the surface that helps prevent staining, corrosion, and rusting.

Benefits of Stainless Steel Pulley Stock

Stainless steel pulley stock is not easily warped or deformed in harsh environments. The strength of stainless steel allows it to handle heavier loads. As mentioned, steel stock has the ability to withstand severe environmental conditions, including extreme heat or cold.

Aluminum Pulley Stock

Aluminum is a strong, light material, utilized in many applications for a range of uses. Aluminum’s sheer abundance is one primary reason for its popularity. In fact, aluminum is one of the most plentiful elements within earth’s crust. In addition to its abundance, aluminum is lightweight, malleable, recyclable, and easy to maintain.

Aluminum is light. In fact, aluminum only weighs one-third of steel, allowing for easy handling and transportation. Furthermore, aluminum’s lightweight characteristics make it an economically-viable material.

Aluminum is malleable. The malleability of aluminum allows it to be easily shaped and designed, adaptable to a plethora of needs among industries. Additionally, aluminum can be processed in both hot and cold conditions.

Aluminum is recyclable. Aluminum is one of the easiest materials to recycle! In fact, aluminum “requires only 5% of the energy needed to produce the initial primary metal to recycle it… 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use.”

Aluminum is easy to maintain. Aluminum is naturally corrosion resistant. Simply reacting with oxygen forms a protective oxide coating. Aluminum is low-maintenance and often requires fewer replacements than other metals. Industries often prefer aluminum for its cost-effective, environmentally-friendly properties.

Benefits of Aluminum Pulley Stock

Along with the benefits of aluminum itself, aluminum pulley stock is often favored for its tensile strength, durability, and resistance to high temperatures. Aluminum stock is the ideal option for heavy materials and large loads. Aluminum’s durability allows it to remain stable during usage. Finally, in environments with intense temperatures, aluminum is often a favored pulley stock material for its resilience – in fact, aluminum actually strengthens in cold-weather applications.

What About Plastic Pulleys?

Although perhaps less common, plastic pulley stock is preferred in certain applications. Plastic pulley stock is less durable than steel or aluminum – however, it is lightest and most cost-effective material of the three. In normal environments, plastic timing pulleys perform well. Furthermore, plastic doesn’t require any regular maintenance or upkeep.

Which Material is Best for Your Application?

Is weight a concern? If the weight of your timing pulley is a concern, aluminum or plastic may be the best stock material for your application. As mentioned, aluminum is much lighter than steel, and plastic is lightest.

Are environmental considerations a concern? Although plastic performs well in certain environments, it can warp in extreme heat or cold. Both stainless steel and aluminum stock perform best in harsh environments.

Is cost a factor? If cost is a significant consideration, steel or plastic pulley stock may be the ideal choice, as aluminum is more expensive to purchase and repair than steel or plastic. However, cost must be considered from every angle. For example, if you plan to design a custom profile or shape, the malleability of aluminum allows for extremely inexpensive customization.

Is strength an important consideration? Likely, material durability is an important consideration. For example, if you do not plan to put extreme weight on the timing pulley, plastic is a viable option. However, if your application requires heavy lifting, aluminum and stainless steel are preferred for their strength. If weight is not a significant concern, the density of stainless steel is often appealing when durability is considered.

Are you looking for a low-maintenance option? As mentioned, plastic demands the least maintenance. Aluminum is naturally corrosion-resistant as well, and additional finishes can enhance the material. While stainless steel is designed to be resistant to rust and stain, by nature it is not as low-maintenance as plastic or aluminum.

Illinois Pulley & Gear

At Illinois Pulley & Gear, we are custom pulley manufacturers who provide efficient, economical, high-quality products to every customer. Our high-quality timing pulley stock is made on demand, allowing us to produce an unlimited variety with quick turnaround time.

We serve many industries including food processing, packaging and labeling, power transmission, pharmaceutical, aerospace, and more – each benefiting from the unique ability to order pulleys according to custom specifications the first time.

To get in touch with our team, reach out at 847.407.9595 or via our online contact form. We look forward to helping you with excellent customer service.

Made-to-Order Timing Pulleys

Illinois Pulley & Gear produces made-to-order timing pulley to exacting customer specifications. Made-to-order timing pulleys may be produced from a variety of materials. Timing pulleys may be produced with other customer specified requirements such as pitch, number of teeth, bore size (English or Metric), keyway, setscrews, lightening holes, and timing marks. IPG, Inc. can produce stock or made-to-order timing pulleys with many tooth profiles.

Flanging Processes

Roll Staking:

Roll staking is an excellent way of attaching flanges to smaller timing pulleys. Roll staking produces a crimp 100% of the way around the edge of the flange. This method is superior to conventional staking methods which only hold a small percentage of the flange to the pulley.

Heat Shrinking:

Heat shrinking is an excellent way of attaching heavy large diameter flanges to timing pulleys. The flanges are heated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit or more and then placed onto the pulleys’ flange step which is 0.015” to 0.020” larger in diameter than the ID of the flange in its cold state. Upon cooling, the flange shrinks onto the flange step of the pulley, permanently holding it in place.

Bolt on Flanges:

For the ultimate in flanges, IPG makes bolt on flanges. These flanges are the heaviest and most durable flanges available. Flanges are held to the sides of the timing pulleys by flat head screws. An additional advantage to bolt of flanges is the ability to remove the flange for belt maintenance. Other flanging methods do not allow the flange to be removed for maintenance purposes.