Aluminum Bus Pipe Uses and Finishes for the Power Industry

aluminum bus pipe

This blog was updated in 2024.

Aluminum is an increasingly popular choice for power industry applications like switchgear and substations. As a top distributor of aluminum bus pipe, we’re sharing our guide to aluminum’s advantages in power generation, common alloys and applications, and finishes and packaging.

Aluminum in the Power Industry

From substations to high-voltage power lines, aluminum is a practical choice for the power generation industry. In its pure form, aluminum has an electrical conductivity of 65 percent of the International Annealed Copper Standard. This conductivity changes when its composition is altered, such as when it is combined with other types of metal to create alloys.

Its high conductivity, paired with its strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, make aluminum a highly efficient metal for moving electricity. Aluminum also has the advantage of being recyclable.

For these reasons, aluminum is often used in the construction of electrical components and equipment within switches, panel boards, and electric substation enclosures, typically in the form of bus pipe. These products are also used to connect high-voltage and low-voltage equipment.

Aluminum Bus Pipe Alloys and Applications

At Three D Metals, we offer aluminum bus pipe for use in the substation and switch manufacturing industries, as well as utilities organizations. We stock the most common alloys used to create aluminum bus pipe:

  • 6063
  • 6061
  • 6101

Check out our free aluminum buying guide >>

Aluminum bus pipe is manufactured to a “nominal,” as opposed to an “actual,” inside diameter (I.D.). The wall thickness is described by a “schedule,” which is determined by the American Standards Association. This is in contrast to bus tubes, which are manufactured to an outside diameter (O.D.) of wall thickness.  

Seamless bus pipe is generally made of 6063-T6 alloy in ANSI Schedule 40 pipe because of its excellent mechanical and electrical properties. 6061-T6 alloy tubular bus is used where high strength and lower conductivity are required. 

Many factors influence the type of alloy and design chosen. These include:

  • Whether the electrical current is AC or DC
  • Operating voltage
  • Maximum short circuit current
  • Environmental factors (winds and icy conditions can adversely affect performance)

Surface Finishes for Power Industry Applications

Aluminum bus pipe can be requested with a number of different surface finishes, which may then require special packaging to protect it.

The standard finish is the extruded mill finish. However, extreme high-voltage applications often require specialized exterior finishes to further smooth and protect the product. This enables it to function optimally under these extreme conditions.

Packaging Options for Aluminum Bus Pipe

Another variable to consider is how the aluminum bus pipe will be packaged for transportation to the final destination. Packaging options forAluminum bus pipe packaging aluminum bus pipe include:

  • Bare batten bundle
  • Bus pack
  • Wood separators

The difference between these packaging options is the amount of friction that occurs between the pipes as they’re transported, which can result in dings, marks, and scuffs on the pipe’s surface. According to Donna Wise, product manager of aluminum bus pipe and electrical shapes at Three D Metals, aesthetic imperfections won’t affect the aluminum’s performance in most applications; therefore, it’s typically a matter of personal preference.

Aluminum Bus Pipe Solutions at Three D Metals

Three D Metals is the top distributor of aluminum bus pipe in the United States. When you choose us, you benefit from decades of experience in the metals industry and a team that prioritizes relationship-building.

“We have great relationships with our manufacturers, and we’ve worked really hard to solidify those relationships so that they can support us and we can be the best support to our customers,” said Wise.

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