Aluminum Extruded Shapes
Aluminum shapes 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. Aluminum 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. However new though, aluminum shapes have a far longer service life than most metal extruded shapes and are therefore embraced. Standard aluminum shapes include beams, trim caps, rods, angles, bars and channels, all of which are available in a wide range of configurations and sizes.
Aluminum extruded shapes are commonly formed from stock aluminum using three types of extrusion processes; each of these processes have their own benefits and drawbacks. Extruded aluminum shapes are highly versatile and can be designed for specific applications such as fitness machines, wall siding, structural applications, car bumpers, window frames, electronic components, hardware joints and light building frames. Serving industries including construction, medical, office furniture, industrial manufacturing and transportation, aluminum extrusion shapes are lightweight and flexible.
Aluminum extruded shapes 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. Extruded aluminum shapes can be made using three different types of extrusion process: cold extrusion, warm extrusion and hot extrusion. In cold extrusion, aluminum billet is pressed through the die at room temperature or near room temperature. Warm extrusion, 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. Aluminum can be extruded through the die using two different methods of extrusion: 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. After an aluminum extrusion shape has been extruded, it is straightened by a stretcher. Also, aluminum shapes can be considered ”green” products because they are 100% recyclable and recycling aluminum requires only 20% the amount of energy used by acquiring virgin materials; this energy savings is converted into a significant cost savings.
How a Functional Approach in Aluminum Extrusions Is Changing the Manufacturing Landscape
Technology is constantly changing and evolving. The same goes for aluminum. The strength of aluminum and its alloys are not enough for the manufacturing industries, new demands are placed on aluminum and extrusion technology is fulfilling that demand.
However, extrusion technology is also changing. 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.
What is 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 also be used in similar situations in other applications. This benefits the industry as a whole, as well as the customer.
Industries that are using aluminum extrusions
The numbers of industries that use aluminum extrusions are both extensive and diversesince 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, bumpers, and chassis
- Machinery and industrial equipment such as scaffolding, process and mining equipment use extruded aluminum tubing, shapes and profiles as lightweight, durable equipment components
- Architectural and construction industries use 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
Since aluminum is 100% recyclable, aluminum and aluminum alloy extrusions are often the first choice for a number of manufacturers. Now, regulatory agencies too are advising manufacturers to use aluminum extrusions for various purposes.