An aluminum channel is an extruded aluminum product that is lightweight, has a high strength-to-weight ratio and is cost effective. Although aluminum is the third most abundant element on Earth, it is one of the most recent metals to be used in industrial manufacturing processes with just over a hundred years of usage in industrial and commercial applications. This is because the process of extracting aluminum ore from the Earth's surface is relatively costly; however, aluminum-formed channels offer many advantages such as a far longer service life than most metal channels and the ability to be fully recycled while retaining 100% of the material's original properties.
According to data by the Aluminum Association, although the US market has seen around a 3-5 percent decline in sales recently, the demand for aluminum channels and other aluminum extrusions products has picked up again. The rise in demand is attributed to two factors- an increase in vehicle sales and the return of new construction due to a higher demand in the housing market.
Both the automotive industries and the construction industries are volatile markets, and while business is up for these markets recently, it will likely fall again at some point in the future. To ensure that the extrusions market does not suffer, manufacturers can supplement sales from the automotive and construction industries with uses in other markets. Some of the best places to introduce sales are the transportation industries and the electrical industries.
Alternative transportation, like busses, railways, and boats, are one industry that will continue to grow as more companies and cities seek greener forms of transportation. The electrical industry will always be a growth industry as long as electric power remains the number one source of energy. Other possible uses involve the commercial and household appliance industries. Educating these markets on ways they can benefit from the use of aluminum is one way companies can keep ahead.
Diversifying the sales of aluminum extrusion products is one way extrusions manufacturers can stay ahead of the competition among the hundreds of other extrusion companies in the industry. Educating potential customers about the benefits of aluminum extrusion products is yet another way to keep ahead in the competitive market of today.
One of many possible extruded aluminum shapes, aluminum channels are smooth, linear and fairly narrow. Extruded aluminum channels often provide a supportive frame for roll formed products and are ideal for engineering and structural applications such as light building frames, frame extensions, light poles, lighting fixtures, window frames, car bumpers, hardware joints and boat dock ladders. Aluminum channels also have high electrical conductivity and are good heat conductors and reflectors, making them ideal for heat transfer and heat shield applications. Industries that benefit from the utilization of aluminum channels include construction, industrial manufacturing, shipping, automotive, aerospace, medical and automotive.Aluminum channels are formed during the extrusion process, in which round aluminum stock called "billets" or "logs" are pressed by a ram through a die, which is a hollow profile that shapes the aluminum into a specific extruded shape as the billet is squeezed through. Aluminum channels can be made using two different types of extrusion process: indirect extrusion and direct extrusion. Direct extrusion holds the die stationary while the ram forces the aluminum alloy through the die opening, while indirect extrusion holds the die stationary as the hollow ram moves into the stationary billet from one end, forcing the metal to flow through the die. In addition, extrusion processes include hot extrusion, cold extrusion and warm extrusion. In cold extruding, aluminum billet is pressed through the die at room temperature or near room temperature. Warm extruding, or forging, is done on billets brought to temperature ranges between 800 and 1800 degrees F. Hot extrusions are performed on aluminum which has been fully plasticized by heat and is often performed in a vacuum to avoid oxidation. After an aluminum channel has been extruded, it is straightened by a stretcher. On an additional note, aluminum channels are an environmentally-friendly product because using aluminum channels in transportation often saves on carbon emissions, as aluminum is a far lighter metal than its alternatives, such as steel.
Images Provided by Johnson Bros. Metal Forming Co.