Where to buy cheap aluminum sheet

Does anybody have any sources besides McMaster to buy 5052 sheet aluminum? McMaster sells for $11 per square foot when buying 48" x 48." Are there any cheaper options?

we got a lot of aluminum road signs donated by our local US Forest Service. you could try checking with your highway departments. kinda low quality aluminum but it works good for some stuff

Aluminum is sold through aluminum suppliers. Find out where your local machine shops buy it and talk to them.

You should be paying less than $3 per pound.

Look through your phone book for local metal distributors, you’ll get the best deal there. McMaster is great for many things, but large pieces of raw material isn’t one of them.

If we need something same day, we have a Metal Supermarket near by.


They will even cut it to the exact size you need free of charge.

About once a year or so we drop off our aluminum scrap with a local metals place for them to recycle, and in exchange they let us pick up a variety of larger cutoff pieces (i.e. 12" x 48" or some pseudo-rectangular piece about 24"x24")… our fabrication sponsors are usually willing to donate the materials they fabricate, so those two options cover most of our aluminum sheet or plate. Work to establish relationships like these, because aluminum isn’t cheap.

When we do order aluminum (extruded, sheet, plate, rod), we usually do so from Online Metals, which now has multiple distributors spread out across the US. Their 36"x48" 5052 .063" thick is $48, which comes to $4 per square foot or $4.50 per pound. They have a pretty wide variety of thicknesses, alloys, extrusions, etc. so we can almost always find what we want from them.

That is actually a really cool and creative idea!


We have to ship all stock in far in advance of build season… Nothing out here but fish!

I like this! IF there is missing signage check your local robotics team!



This is the website of a metal distributor in Urbana, the town next to your team (assuming you are on 4096). They seem to cut to size and have a decent selection. I would give them a call and get a quote on pricing.

We get our sheet aluminum from a local steel supplier (Tri-State Steel, Reidsville - shameless plug for the best metal supplier in the world) and I would concur that the advantages of dealing with someone local or at least semi-local are many and significant. Last season we were able to have metal drop-shipped for free to our fabricator with a one day turn-around (they were faster than our CAD team - the material arrived before the drawings!). Plus, most (possibly all) of what they supply to us they donate…we reciprocate by advertising their generosity, and shamelessly plugging them on CD!

We have Discount Steel and Metals Supermarket, plus a couple scrap dealers. I’ve found Metals Supermarket to be a bit more expensive than Discount Steel, but it’s closer to our school.

For reference, the 36"x48" 5052 0.063" price at Discount Steel is $39.57. The 48"x144" is $168. I usually go over there and pick from the cutoff rack as that’s often cheaper than getting a newly cut sheet.

Packaging thin metal like that for shipment is very expensive. I agree with others that you should find your local supplier for that sort of material. If you can’t figure out who it is, you should call a local machine shop and ask to talk to the person who does their buying – they’ll be able to send you to the right place.

Places to inquire:

  • Machine shops
  • HVAC fabricators (they buy lots of sheet material and will typically get a good price from a supplier).
  • Auto body repair
  • Welding companies
  • Contractors and construction companies
  • Metal supply distributors :wink:

www.midweststeelsupply.com has some good prices, but shipping may be cost prohibitive.

Our team normally buys our aluminum from SAF (http://www.saf.com/) and they tend to be cheaper than McMaster when buying in large quantities and sizes.

I will second the use of Online Metals. They have always had a quick turnaround for us and very good prices with a decent inventory.
For us in Seattle they are in a northern suburb so we can usually order and within a day or 2 we just go and pick it up.

At the facility they also have a variety of cutoff pieces of rod and extrusion along with thicker plate… this stuff is very reasonably priced.