With more than 40 years of aluminum manufacturing experience, Tri-State Aluminum is a full-service provider of aluminum channels. Those searching for solutions that include lightweight strength, corrosion resistance, conductivity, and other special properties will benefit from a greater understanding of the various properties of aluminum channels and their industrial uses.
What Are Aluminum Channels?
Aluminum channels are a special type of aluminum extrusion used for a variety of structural applications. The primary characteristics of a common aluminum channel include two flanges protruding from one side of a web that often resemble the letter C in cross-section.
How Are Aluminum Channels Made?
The formation of aluminum channels results from pressing round aluminum stock—known as billets or logs—through a channel-shaped die using a high-pressure ram. There are two main types of extrusion methods: direct and indirect. Direct extrusion fixes the die in place while the ram presses the billet through a hollow die. Indirect extrusion keeps the billet stationary while forcing the die, within a hollow ram, along its length. These three different processes can be applied to either method:
- Hot Extrusion. The process of extrusion takes place after the aluminum stock is heated to full-plasticization (exceeding ranges between 800º and 1800º F, depending on alloy composition), often executed within a vacuum to prevent oxidation.
- Cold Extrusion. Processing of billets into extruded shapes takes place at or near room temperature.
- Warm Extrusion. Extrusion occurs after heating stock to a temperature between 800º and 1800º F, depending upon alloy composition.
Straightening of aluminum extrusions on a stretcher follows the formation process, making them ready for shipping and use.
Aluminum Structural Shapes
Die design determines the various shapes available through the extrusion process, which can be simple or complex. For structural purposes, aluminum channel extrusions typically come in one of seven shapes:
- Zee Bar
Several distinguishing features of aluminum channels make them a valuable solution for a range of applications:
- High Electrical and Heat Conductivity. Conductivity properties of aluminum are twice that of copper by weight, making it the most common material used in large capacity overhead power lines.
- Lightweight Strength. Aluminum has a high strength to weight ratio, making it the best solution where lightweight load bearing is a challenge.
- Heat Transfer and Shielding. Where weight and rigidity are major considerations (aerospace applications), the heat transfer and shielding properties of aluminum hold the advantage over copper shields.
- Corrosion and Rust Resistance. When exposed to air, aluminum forms an oxide coating that protects it against rust and corrosion, enhanced through anodizing if necessary.
- Non-Magnetic. In applications where magnetic properties of materials create issues, the non-magnetic properties of aluminum are particularly valuable.
- Non-Sparking. Because it does not spark, aluminum is often the best solution for highly flammable or explosive applications.
- 100% Recyclable. During the process of recycling, aluminum is equal to virgin material without degradation. Additionally, aluminum recycling requires only 5% of the energy input necessary to process virgin material.
Low toxicity and high reflectivity are other properties of the material that place aluminum channels among the top options. Users with applications that benefit from any of these features look to aluminum channels for the best solution.
Industrial Uses of Aluminum Channels
Material selection is an important component in the production of a range of products. The properties mentioned above provide adequate or superior solutions to various challenges from applications in different industries including:
- Aluminum’s properties make it a top choice in the construction of high-rise buildings and bridges, such as the Empire State Building, the Bank of China Building, and the Zaha Hadid London Aquatics Centre.
- Before the invention of airplanes, zeppelins contained a large amount of aluminum. Today, various alloys of aluminum are present in the fuselage, instruments, and equipment throughout aircraft and spacecraft.
- The properties of aluminum make aluminum channels the ideal solution for X-ray machines, dialysis equipment, hospital beds, dentist chairs, and wheelchairs.
- Aluminum channels are used in chassis construction, as well as door, trunk, and hood construction.
- Aluminum channels allow for the construction of lighter weight commuter trains and commercial aircraft as well as ramps and loading equipment used in the shipping branch of the industry.
These industries represent a significant range of applications for aluminum channels, but their use is expanding throughout other industries as the properties of aluminum provide the best solution for many new challenges.
Contact Tri-State Aluminum for Aluminum Channels
Its range of characteristics like corrosion resistance, high strength to weight ratio, recyclability, and high electrical and heat conduction make aluminum channels the right solution for a variety of applications. Tri-State Aluminum produces both standard aluminum channels and custom designed channels to meet the specific needs of our customers. In addition, we provide value added services like engineering and design, coating (painting and anodizing), and additional shop services.