Aluminum extrusion methods have remained the same for many decades. Common extrusion shapes provide structural support for many applications in the industrial world. However, in today's challenging world, technology is constantly changing. New demands are placed on extrusion technology every day.
Today, it is more important than ever to come up with the right shapes for extrusion manufacturing. The right shape will cost the least amount of money, will be simple to manufacture, and will fit the structural requirements of each application. In today's world, the best way to do this is through the functional approach.
The functional approach to extrusion design uses common sense to create the design. Rather than thinking about what shape the structure needs to be, the first thought is what the piece will need to do. After determining the use of the structure, the engineer should then consider what shapes provide that support, how the elements would relate to one another in a 3D environment, and then create the design. Thinking of the design process this way eliminates the limitations of current designs and prevents in-the-box thinking that can reduce the effectiveness of new designs.
Engineers that use the functional approach are better able to serve their customers in any industry. With the functional approach, it is possible to create new extrusion designs that not only meet the function of the job at hand, but can then be used in similar situations in other applications. This benefits the industry as a whole, as well as the customer.
Aluminum extrusions are linear aluminum products highly valued in a wide spectrum of structural applications due to aluminum's high strength-to-weight ratio and the cost effectiveness of the metal extrusion process. Like other types of metal extrusions, extruded aluminum is either hot extruded or cold extruded through a die, shaping aluminum stock into various types of extruded aluminum shapes, such as angles and beams, aluminum channels, aluminum profiles or aluminum extruded tubing.
Extruded aluminum products like aluminum
channels, shapes and profiles are both strong and lightweight, making them
perfect for structural applications such as light poles, building and window
frames, lighting fixtures, car bumpers, hardware joints, trim, and many other
uses in construction, industrial and automotive industries. Shapes and channels
can be extruded into complex, precision tolerance shapes to interlock with
other aluminum channels or structures, or they may be extruded into heat sinks
for cooling electronics, refrigerators and heat engines. Because aluminum is
strong, rust and temperature resistant, easily fabricated and 100% recyclable,
aluminum and aluminum alloy extrusions are often the first choice in building
or structural materials.
The number of industries which use aluminum extrusions is both extensive and diverse since a wide number of shapes are achievable through the extrusion process. For example, extruded aluminum channels make great components for automotive and transportation construction, as it is light and corrosion resistant; aluminum channels and profiles are used in vehicles such as trains, SUVs, semi trucks and cars for parts and components including panels, window panes, runners and bumpers. In addition, machinery and industrial equipment such as scaffolding, process and mining equipment use extruded aluminum tubing, shapes and profiles as lightweight, durable equipment components, while many types of office and hospital furniture use aluminum tubing and channels in their construction. The building, architectural and construction industries use aluminum profiles extensively, whether it be practical application such as for structural and ceiling beams or for aesthetic applications such as decorative trim and window paneling. Capable of being extruded through complex dies into close-tolerance shapes, small extruded aluminum shapes are frequently fabricated into medical and electronics components such as heat-absorbing and dissipating heat sinks.
The process of extruding aluminum may use "hot extrusion", "warm extrusion" or "cold extrusion", each of which have their own benefits and drawbacks. In order for stock aluminum to be formed into tubing, channels, shapes or profiles, round aluminum stock called "billet", 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. 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. The temperature of both the billet and the die are crucial for uniform extrusions. In cold extruding, aluminum billet is pressed through the die at room temperature or near room temperature, yielding close-tolerance components with high strength and a good surface with minimal finishing required. Warm extruding, or forging, is done on billets brought to temperature ranges between 800 and 1800 degrees F, with ideal ranges being between 1,000 and 1,330 degrees; these temperatures remain below material recrystallization temperatures, enhancing billets' ductility while keeping the material solid. Warm extruded aluminum requires less ram force (and energy) and often requires no secondary heat treatment. Hot extrusions are performed on aluminum which has been fully plasticized by heat and is often performed in a vacuum to avoid oxidation. After a shape or channel has been extruded, it is straightened by a stretcher.
Although the process of extracting aluminum ore from the Earth's surface is relatively costly, aluminum has a far longer service life than most metals and may be fully recycled while retaining 100% of the material's original properties. In addition to the ability to be fully recycled, other green uses of aluminum extrusions include using aluminum extrusions in transportation often saves on carbon emissions, as aluminum is a far lighter metal than its alternatives, such as steel; aluminum combines stainless steel's beneficial properties of corrosion resistance and strength with 1/3 the weight. Aluminum is easily formed and machined and is an excellent conductor and reflector of heat, making it an ideal material for heat shielding applications such as heat sinks. As the recycling industry expands its capabilities to recycling a broader range of aluminum parts, large aluminum extruding and manufacturing companies are also beginning to invest in aluminum recycling. Recycling aluminum requires only 20% the amount of energy used by acquiring virgin materials; this energy savings is converted into a significant cost savings by aluminum extruders who use recycled aluminum materials.
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Aluminum Extrusion Terms
- An aluminum alloy that
is very simple to maintain and remains stable under a wide variety of
temperature and pressure conditions.