It’s an important cog in the wheel of the manufacturing process of aluminum parts. Good extrusion can mean a great finished product. This article gets you familiar with what extrusion is and some of the best aluminum extrusion products.
What are aluminum extrusions?
Think of piping bags used for Christmas cookie decorations or squeezing toothpaste through the tube. The extrusion pushes heated metal through a die to achieve the desired cross-sectional shape of aluminum. These shapes can range from hollow to solid. It depends on the manufacturer’s requirement. The finished goods are used in every industry imaginable. Keep reading to find out how these goods are all around you.
Where is it used?
If you think this innovative technique is only used in construction, think again. The transportation sector and automobile air conditioners are just some of the few extrusion uses. The furniture industry and telecommunications sector would not be functional if it weren’t for the AE procedure.
For instance, extrusion is used for car chassis and roof rails. They are also components of boats and trucks.
Automobile engineers are using them due to the concerns around emissions from vehicles and improved mileage. They are moving towards using AE for designing lightweight cars and vehicles that can give better fuel economy. They want to keep the environment in mind.
But apart from such complex uses, you can see AE products all around you if you look hard enough. Most everyday objects can only be finished after going through the AE process. Even the monkey bars at the playground have been a part of this factory process.
Why is it so popular?
Dies are versatile, and many shapes can be extracted from them. Thousands of end products can be made after going through the extrusion process. But first, let us take a look at why these metal alloy products are so popular in the first place.
|Strength||Thermal and electrical conductivity||Versatility|
Aluminum was known to be the most precious metal before discovering gold. This was due to its undeniable strength. It’s suitable for a variety of temperatures around the globe. Even the winter cold can’t break this metal since it only gets stronger as the mercury drops.
It only weighs one-third of the weight of steel. This alloy is surprisingly lightweight, considering its high strength and durability. There is no wonder that 29 million tons of aluminum are in demand each year globally.
- High electrical and thermal conductivity
After alloying with other elements, it can be a great conductor used in conductor electrical cables. It is often the first choice of engineers since it is one of the lightest engineering metals found in nature. A good example of its thermal conductivity is the foil used in packaging food and keeping it warm for a long duration.
Why did steel and aluminum become so popular? Because of iron’s property to rust quickly? These alloys have a top layer of oxide which protects them from rusting. After anodizing, this bad boy is good to go rust-free for a lifetime.
Aluminum is highly malleable and ductile, but it can also be made to look as you desire. Processes of painting and anodizing can give it the finishing you wish to achieve.
What is it used to make?
Now that we know how resourceful the alloy is let’s look at several industries that make lightweight products.
Here is a field where the uses of finished extrusion products are endless. Thanks to their lightweight properties, structural frames are commonly made from aluminum channel extrusions. This can include both permanent and temporary structures, like sheds and greenhouses.
But it’s not just in the big framing of outdoor structures that this alloy comes in handy. The fine details go into the construction and design of a home or office, where you’ll also find plenty of these products. You’ll find it in the making of a sliding door or foldable furniture.
Moreover, it is even used in the equipment used in DIY projects. For instance, t-track channels are used as safe and sturdy components of a drill press and router tables.
Its weather-resistant property makes it perfect for outdoor fences and awnings. Not only will such products last longer throughout all seasons, but they’ll also look good while doing their job.
- Electronic and electrical engineering
As mentioned above, this metal’s thermal and electrical conductivity is spectacular. It makes it a fine choice for a range of electronic parts. You’ll find that AE technology plays a major role in making power units and computer casings. It’s important for laptops and even everyday cell phones. The glamorous LED lighting in high-end shops and malls is also a result of the AE process.
In 3D printers, you are likely to find the use of the 2020 or 2040 v-rail profiles. Even the small 20x20mm size is very tough and durable. The larger 20x40mm and 20x80mm sizes can be used for more complicated machinery.
Often t-slots can also be used for the same purpose. The only difference between a T-slot and a v-slot is the shape of the grooves on its edges.
Additionally, the excellent thermal conductivity makes for smart solar panel systems and heat radiators smart engineering.
Auto companies are always looking for lightweight materials in heavy-duty vehicles. The AE process comes as a relief for many. It is used in aerospace engineering to produce small, lightweight parts. The common RV is used to make for easy transportation in all kinds of weather.
- Display set-ups
You must have come across those fancy exhibitions showing off luxury products and wondered to yourself, ‘how did they assemble this so quick? Well, the answer is extruded material. These pieces can interlock and pop to assemble and disassemble all over again. The best part is that all showpieces look great while displayed in these display units since their silver finish is spectacular.
How is it made?
Have you ever wondered how this complex but extremely useful product is made? The full step-wise process of aluminum extrusion is explained below for your convenience.
- Preparation of the Die – You will need the tube to get the round toothpaste out. Similarly, the die is your mold to get the cross-sectional shape of the metal you require. Consequently, an H13 steel die is prepared or ordered from a warehouse and preheated for use.
- The billet is preheated and transferred – A billet is made from aluminum-shaped cylindrically. Before loading into the extrusion press, it is preheated at 400 and 500 degrees temperature. It makes it just ready enough for the molding but not enough to melt. A lubricant is applied, and the billet is transferred into the press.
- The ram pressurizes the billet – Now, the hot and extremely malleable billet is pressurized by the hydraulic ram with 15000 tons of weight. This forces the billet to fit inside the container and take its shape.
- The Die – Next, the continual pressure pushes the content material into the die and takes its shape. The ram keeps pushing the weight until the billet has fully molded to the die’s dimensions. It comes out through the opening as the desired profile.
- Puller and cooling – The profile comes out from the opening. It is handled by a puller running at a matching speed to guide it on the runway or runout table. Water and fans on this runway are used to cool the profile even. This process is also known as quenching.
- Cutting – Now that the profile has exited onto the table, it must be sheared according to the table length. Despite the quenching, a temperature-controlled saw is used to cut through the still-hot profiles.
- Cooling – Now, the transfer takes place from the runout table to the cooling station. All profiles will remain here until they reach room temperature. This is crucial for the next step of extending and shaping to occur.
- Straightening and shaping – Even though the process described above is thorough, some natural twisting occurs that aligns the profiles out of shape. The profiles are moved to a stretching station, where they are pulled from both sides by machine hands to tackle this problem. This results in completely linear profiles.
- Sawing – On this station, the profiles are sawed according to the industrial dimensions required for sale. This can be anywhere from 7ft to 22ft.
- Tempering – This whole process has led to making profiles that are T4 in temper. According to the market requirement, they are moved to the oven and brought to T5 or T6 tempers.
- Enhancement through heating- The T4 profiles have a tensile strength of approximately 240MPa. They can be heat-treated in the oven to increase their overall yield stress and strength. This leads to the more load-bearing capacity of the metal. It can further be used to produce more heavy-duty equipment or construction. For instance, heating to achieve the T6 temper means achieving the tensile strength of 310 Mpa.
- Finishing – These profiles are famous for their stunning appearance. It’s due to their ability to be open to options of painting and sublimation. However, all this is only possible after anodizing has taken place. Anodizing involves enhancing the already present oxide layer on the profiles. This makes them weather-proof and rust-resistant. After this step, you’re free to style your metal as you please!
- Final detailing – This consists of any drilling or grooving that your product requires. Any kind of accessories or screws and bolts can now be adjusted in this final step.
What’s the price?
The average price paid by USA and Canada companies for a 6063 aluminum extrusion across the USA is $0.78 per LB. All USA and Canadian companies pay the highest price for the same extrusion is $1.10 per LB. The lowest price paid is $0.45 per LB.
If we specifically look at T-track prices, most brands’ price tags are in a similar range. T-tracks are available in dimensions between 1 foot to 12 feet. Each foot will cost you around $4.50. Custom-made tracks with different lengths will have different pricing.
To go into the details, let’s compare the most popular brands.
Which are the most popular products and brands?
Let’s look at all the common extrusion products and their best manufacturers.
- IXGNIJ’s 2020
20×20 t-slots are the most commonly demanded products, and many brands manufacture them. Amazon’s bestseller remains the 10 pieces 1000mm anodized rail by the brand IXGNIJ. The rails come in choices of two colors: black and silver. The product is rated at a whopping 4.5 stars on Amazon.
- Bella Bays Anodized black linear frame
With a spectacular rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Amazon, Bella Bays’ 10 pieces 20×20 anodized black beauty is hard to ignore. It not only meets all European standards. It is even compatible with M3, M4, and M41. Unlike other brands that only sell for the 3D printer market, this innovative product can be used on workbenches and furniture. It’s great for gym equipment and other DIY projects you might want to take on. The best part is getting this versatile frame for just $111.99 on Amazon! Unbelievable!
- ZYLtech Black 2020
But a brand with even more stars on Amazon is the ZYLtech Black 2020. It’s priced at just $109.9. Thiss high-strength rail features the 6063-T5 alloy for maximum solidity. Established in 2015 as a home-based company, ZYLtech may be relatively new in the 3D Printer parts game. It rose to fame quickly due to its high-quality products.
Other popular products include the 2040 T-slot, 2040 V-groove, and 3030 T-slot. The brand also offers some good combos popular on Amazon, like its 10M Combo Silver 2020 t-slots. They come with 48 angle brackets and 100 screws. You also get 100 hammer nuts. Now isn’t that a sweet deal?
- Faztek’s T-slotted light extrusion
Maybe you’re looking for a real deal instead of buying bulk. This fully corrosion-resistant 4 LB T-slot could be the right match for you. Although it is priced at $27.84, the five-star rating bespeaks value for money. Customers agree that the prime shipping and easy assembly make it worth the price on the pricier side.
Beginning as just a T-slot provider seventeen years ago, Faztek quickly jumped ship to other products. It became a large-scale industrial solutions company. They have established their niche product lines of customizable steel products and electronic devices. Their electronic device range features interlock switches and laser curtains. They also make pressure-sensitive mats, to name a few innovations. Faztek knows its way around the smart metal industry.
- Socell T-Nuts – 180 pieces
Accessories for the above products are a must, and what’s better than a bulk deal on nuts for the 20-series aluminum profiles. You can buy 60 pieces of the M3, M4, and M5 range at just $8.99. If you’re concerned about quality, the composition material is carbon steel. It is even plated with nickel for a rust-free long life. Socell even offers a 3 month warranty period to return the product if not satisfied. But the chances of that seem unlikely, given this combo set has a rating of 4.8 stars on Amazon.
- Hotop T-Nuts 150 pieces
This combo pack is also rated Amazon’s choice and is priced at just $7.99. The included pieces are 150 M5 t-nuts. You can choose the M3 variety if that’s what you’re looking for. You can also visit the HOTOP store on Amazon and shop for other highly rated garden and kitchen equipment.
All products are reasonably priced. For instance, the Aluminum welding rods include thirty pieces priced at just $7.99.
- PZRT profile connector set
There cannot be a more value-for-money pack in the market than this one! The bonanza deal includes twenty pieces of corner brackets and forty pieces of M5x10mm nuts. It also comes with forty pieces of M5x10mm hex socket cap bolts. It’s rated at 4.6 stars. This amazing deal is priced at just $26.99. The nickel finish ensures all accessories are completely weather-proof.
You can imagine its strength when we tell you that it can be used in home and office equipment and ship assembly.
PZRT also sells top-rated accessories like profile hinge installation kits and L-shaped joint plate bracket kits. It also comes with straight-line connectors. All these are budget-friendly and priced in the range of $8-$30.
- Iverntech corner brackets
Corner brackets are the most used accessories used in framing and construction. One example of this would be glass sliding doors. You can get a sweet deal on 4 pieces of 78x78mm brackets for 20×20 profiles at just $17.99. You can also buy different sizes at comparable prices.
Other products in the Iverntech store include 2040 and 2020 V-type rail profiles priced between $22.99 and $27.99.
Why is it called 80/20?
The 80/20 name has become an example of genericization like Hoover or Kleenex. They have become the namesake of the product they endorse. The originating manufacturer of aluminum extrusion was called 80/20 Inc. But why this name was chosen involves an interesting tale that dates back to the 19th century.
The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto principle. The work of Vilfredo Pareto inspired it. Pareto was an engineer and philosopher from Italy. He devised the ‘law of the vital few,’ which stated that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.
Soon enough, this law caught on in many fields. To observe a simple example, the top 20% of earners pay 80% of the income tax. In business, it was seen that 80% of the company’s results are directly a cause of 20% of its efforts.
Now isn’t that an interesting bit of trivia?
Are aluminum extrusions strong?
They are extremely popular for their variety of cross-sectional shapes. The alloy’s strength made its popularity blow over if seen in terms of tensile strength. It is a unit dedicated to assessing the amount of load a material can take before it breaks. Aluminum rates highly.
6063 is the most common alloy used for extrusion, and its tensile strength ranges from 145-186 Mpa. The top-level temper of 6063-T6 has a high tensile strength of 190MPA.
But even with this capacity, it remains lightweight. This is evident when you note that aluminum with 276MPA strength has a density of merely 2.81gcm-3. It becomes the primary factor in its outdoor structural framework and an integral part of heavy-duty construction machinery.
Aluminum can be extruded into any shape or form. The most common aluminum sheet alloy is the 5052 H32. However, the strongest aluminum is grade 6061. It is referred to as the carbon steel of aluminum extrusion. It is also the most cost-effective.
Extrusion dies for simple geometric shapes can cost you between $500 and $750. Hollow design dies are more expensive. They will cost you upwards of $1250.
Alloy 6063 is the most commonly used alloy for the extrusion process of aluminum. It is used for the more common tubing and piping process and heatsinks.
There are a couple of top manufacturers of extruded aluminum products in the USA. These include Astro Shapes, Sierra Aluminum, and Bonnell. Bonnell has been the largest manufacturer of extruded aluminum in North America seen the mid-1950s.
There are a lot of factors to consider for picking the right alloy and die. Let’s take a look below.
How do I choose extruded aluminum?
- Consider the purpose.
Will your extrusions be used for structural parts? Are there non-structural aluminum extrusions to consider?
- Consider the strength requirement.
If you’re going for structural extrusions, you’ll need something of high strength. But non-structural extrusions won’t require much strength in the alloy.
- Find suitable shapes.
If you want extrusions for a certain decorative purpose, you might want complicated shapes. Certain alloys are more suited to this.
The finishing won’t matter in structural uses as it will be hidden. But in decor, you’ll want something with an appealing finish.
That’s it, folks!
Aluminum extrusion products are all around us. We’ve tried to give you the full guide to their making and properties through this article. You can even check out some of our product recommendations and tell us how you liked them. With other alloys like steel in the market, it can be tough to make a final choice for your project. But we’ve tried to highlight the type of projects that aluminum is perfect for. Make sure to consult a professional if you’re beginning your DIY journey.