Aluminum anodizing



Anodizing is an electrochemical process that modifies the surface of metals to improve corrosion resistance, hardness, paint adhesion and aesthetic appearance. In aluminum, anodizing creates a protective and decorative oxide layer. There are various types of anodization, each with specific characteristics, applications, advantages and disadvantages.

Basic Principles of Anodizing

Anodizing uses electrolysis to form an oxide layer on the surface of the metal. Aluminum, immersed in an electrolyte and connected to the anode of an electrochemical cell, undergoes controlled oxidation. The result is a layer of aluminum oxide (Al2O3), hard and resistant to corrosion. This layer is porous, which allows coloring by absorption of dyes and subsequent sealing.

Types of Anodization

Conventional Anodizing (or Sulfuric Anodizing)

This is the most common method and uses sulfuric acid as the electrolyte. Typical parameters include an acid concentration of 15-20%, a temperature of 20°C and a current density of 1-3 A/dm². The oxide layer obtained varies from 5 to 25 microns in thickness.


  • Good corrosion resistance
  • Possibility of coloring
  • Variable thickness according to needs


  • Automotive components
  • Architectural coverings
  • Consumable items such as cookware and utensils


  • Relative fragility of the coating
  • Sensitivity to temperature variations
  • Possible formation of cracks under mechanical stress

Hard Anodizing (or High Thickness Anodizing)

This type of anodization uses higher concentrations of sulfuric acid and lower temperatures (0-5°C). The current density is higher, often between 3-5 A/dm², producing a much thicker oxide layer, between 25 and 150 microns.


  • High hardness (up to 60-70 HRC)
  • High resistance to wear and corrosion
  • Low thermal conductivity


  • High resistance mechanical parts
  • Components for the aerospace and military industries
  • Cylinders and pistons


  • High cost of the process
  • Reduced aesthetics compared to other anodizations
  • Possible increase in the fragility of the piece

Chromic anodization

Uses chromic acid as electrolyte. It is less aggressive than sulfuric anodizing and produces a thin oxide layer (2-5 microns), ideal for applications where corrosion resistance is required without significantly changing the dimensions of the part.


  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • Low thickness of the oxide layer
  • Better adhesion of paint and coatings


  • Aircraft coverings
  • Surgical instruments
  • Marine applications


  • Lower hardness and wear resistance than hard anodizing
  • Environmental concerns related to the use of chromic acid, a toxic and carcinogenic compound
  • Higher waste disposal cost

Hot Anodizing (or Low Temperature Anodizing)

This process occurs at high temperatures (35-50°C) using sulfuric acid. Produces an oxide layer with larger pores, making coloring easier.


  • Oxide layer with large pores
  • Easy coloring
  • Moderate thickness (10-20 microns)


  • Decorative components
  • Gadgets and fashion accessories
  • Furnishing elements


  • Lower wear and corrosion resistance than hard anodizing
  • Possible variation in color quality over time
  • Potential decrease in surface hardness

Special Anodizing Processes

In addition to the main methods, there are specialized processes such as plasma anodization and micro-arc anodization (MAO), which create extremely hard and resistant ceramic coatings, used in advanced applications such as high-performance engines and space technologies.

Anodizing System Details

The anodizing tank is the heart of the anodic process, where the electrolytic oxidation of the aluminum takes place. Here are the main details that characterize it:

Construction Materials

Polypropylene (PP) or Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Acid-resistant plastic materials, commonly used for small to medium-sized tanks.

Coated Steel: In some applications, steel that is internally coated with corrosion-resistant materials is used.

Dimensions and Capacity

They depend on the dimensions of the pieces to be anodized and the required production volume. The tanks can range from small containers for laboratory parts to large industrial tanks several meters long. The capacity is proportionate to the volume of electrolyte needed to completely cover the parts during the process.

Main components

Electrolyte: Generally a sulfuric acid solution (15-20%) for standard sulfuric anodizing. The temperature of the electrolyte is kept constant via cooling or heating systems, depending on the type of anodization.

Anode: The aluminum to be anodized acts as an anode.

Cathode: Usually made of stainless steel or lead, it is immersed in the electrolyte together with the anode.

Stirrers: Used to maintain uniform distribution of the electrolyte and to remove any gas bubbles generated during the process.

Heating/Cooling Systems: Maintain the electrolyte temperature within process-specific parameters, essential for the quality and consistency of the oxide layer.

Sensors and Controls: Monitor and control temperature, pH and electrolyte concentration, ensuring optimal conditions during anodizing.

Power Supply System

The power supply system is fundamental to the anodizing process, as it provides the energy necessary for the electrolytic oxidation of the aluminum, below are the main components: 

DC Power Supply (Rectifier): Converts alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC), which is necessary for the anode process.

Voltage: Generally variable between 12 and 24 V, depending on the type of anodization and the thickness of the desired layer.

Current: Adjustable, with typical current density between 1-3 A/dm² for conventional sulfuric anodizing and up to 5 A/dm² or more for hard anodizing.

Controller: A programmable control system (PLC) that manages operating parameters, such as voltage and current, continuously monitoring and regulating the process.


Connection to the Pieces: The pieces to be anodized are connected to the anode of the electrical circuit, while the cathode is immersed in the electrolyte. Electric current passes through the electrolyte, oxidizing the aluminum.

Current Regulation: During the process, the current density must be carefully controlled to ensure uniform formation of the oxide layer. The DC power supply must be able to provide stable and continuous current, avoiding peaks or fluctuations that could compromise the quality of the coating.

Monitoring: Sensors and feedback systems within the controller constantly monitor voltage and current, making automatic adjustments to maintain ideal conditions throughout the anodizing process.


Overload Protection: Protection systems against current overloads and short circuits to prevent damage to the equipment and ensure operator safety.

Automatic Shutdown: Automatic shutdown functions in case of anomalies, to avoid accidents and guarantee the integrity of the anodized pieces.


Aluminum anodizing  is a versatile and fundamental process for improving the physical and chemical properties of the metal. Understanding the various types of anodization and their disadvantages allows you to choose the process best suited to specific application needs, thus maximizing the benefits in terms of resistance, aesthetics and durability. Continued innovation in the field of anodizing promises further improvements and new applications in the industrial and consumer sectors.