Aluminum extrusion is a manufacturing process in which aluminum is forced through a shaped opening in a die. Once the target material emerges from the die, it takes the die’s shape.
This technique allows manufacturers to transform aluminum alloy into customer-specified objects with clear cross-sectional profiles. Manufacturers use both direct and indirect extrusion methods to produce aluminum and aluminum alloy objects.
Aluminum’s unique physical properties enable it to bring several advantages to the extrusion process. Aluminum is a highly malleable and versatile metal, which mean that it can be easily machined and cast. Additionally, aluminum has about one third of steel’s rigidity and density, enabling it to offer a balanced combination of manufacturing flexibility and strength. Alloys with other metals can reinforce or enhance specific characteristics.
Aluminum Extrusion Process
The aluminum extrusion process consists of ten steps, outlined below:
- Engineers create machine dies in specific shapes and sizes according to production needs. If hollow sections are required, the designer ensures that pins or piercing mandrels are set up at certain points inside the die cavity.
- A cylindrical billet of aluminum alloy is subjected to temperatures ranging from 800°F to 925°F. The aluminum’s alloy determines the specific temperature used.
- The machine operator transfers the heated aluminum billet to a loader. The operator ensures that a film of specialized lubricant called smut is added to the billet to prevent adhesion to the machine, ram, or handle.
- The operator moves the billet to the cradle. The machine’s ram applies a significant amount of pressure to the dummy block, which pushes the aluminum billet through the die into the container.
- As the billet is slowly crushed against the die and progressively conforms to its shape and size, liquid nitrogen flows around sections of the die to cool it. This increases the lifespan of the die by creating an inert atmosphere, and it also prevents the formation of oxides on the extruding shape.
- During the extruding part’s exit process from the press, the operator takes its temperature by means of a 3T (True Temperature Technology) instrument. This tool measures and records the exit temperature of the extruded product, thereby ensuring that the press operates at optimal speed and that the operator can verify that the extruded product exits correctly.
- The extruded part flows onto a runout table in the same shape as the die cavity. Here, the extruded part elongates and is then directed to the cooling table, where fans speed the cooling process.
- Upon completion of material cooling, the aluminum piece is transferred to a stretcher. Here, workers perform straightening and work hardening operations as needed.
- Straightened and hardened extruded parts are moved to the saw table, where an operator cuts the piece to desired specifications.
- Aluminum extrusions are heat-treated in ovens. This hardens the aluminum further by quickening the aging process, which in turn promotes durability, stability, and increased longevity in the end product.
What Are Aluminum Extrusions Used For?
Aluminum extrusion is a useful way to create may different parts and products, from window frames to sporting equipment to components used on the International Space Station.
Industries and applications that use aluminum extruded parts include:
- Automotive: From body and frame components to radiator enclosures, aluminum extruded parts provide high levels of corrosion resistance and durability under environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures, moisture, and road salt. Since extruded aluminum has a good strength-to-weight ratio, many manufacturers consider it to be a perfect match for the requirements of the automotive industry. Vehicles with lighter extruded aluminum parts can carry more weight, travel faster, and be produced at lower costs. For example, trucks towing lighter trailers can devote more torque to forward movement instead of the weight of the trailer itself.
- Construction: Extruded aluminum products have versatile applications in construction environments. Fixtures like elevator shafts and stairwells often use different applications of extruded aluminum. Lengths of extruded aluminum joined together can serve as long-lasting and rust-resistant frames for roof-mounted solar panels.
- Architecture: Extruded aluminum works well in canopy design and construction. Since extruded aluminum sections are both stiff and lightweight, they can form reliable support beams for temporary or permanent roofing.
- Industrial applications: Many industrial accessories and equipment are made from extruded aluminum, including workbenches, inspection tables, and carts. This is because extruded aluminum products are lightweight, durable, cost-effective, and relatively easy to cut and drill. These products can also be easily extended or modified if necessary.
Different Types of Aluminum Extrusions
Extruded aluminum parts come in a broad spectrum of shapes, sizes, and alloys. Types of aluminum extrusion include:
- Round tubing: Round tubing is frequently used to build structural, architectural, or aerospace projects. Customers often request these products in one of three alloys: 6061 (moderate mechanical strength with acceptable surface finish), 6063 (low mechanical strength but exceptional surface finish), or 2024 (high strength but poor corrosion resistance).
- Rectangular tubing: This type of aluminum extrusion is commonly used in framing and fencing applications. Producers often use either 6061 or 6063 alloys in these manufacturing processes.
- Extruded aluminum angles: These parts are generally used in structural or architectural applications and typically comprise 6061 and 6063 alloys.
- Extruded aluminum channels: Extruded aluminum angles typically have V-shaped “faces” or profiles and are employed in edge and joint applications. Many channels have U-shaped profiles and can be used in different structural and architectural applications. Similar to angles, channel products usually come in 6061 or 6063 alloys.
- Profiles: Extruded aluminum profile types can come in various patterns and thicknesses. Manufacturers can create profiles that feature intricate void spaces in accordance with the client’s specifications.
Partnering With a Custom Aluminum Extrusion Supplier
Aluminum extrusion can be a cost-effective manufacturing solution that results in highly versatile, long-lasting end products that weigh little but can withstand the test of time. For these and other attributes, extruded aluminum parts appear in a wide variety of industries and applications.
Since our establishment in 1990, Tri-State Aluminum has been a leading supplier of custom extrusions, fabricated aluminum products, and wholesale finished aluminum extrusions. We have the expertise and experience to assist you in the end-to-end extrusion process, including the design, manufacturing, fabricating, finishing, packing, and shipping phases.
With over 2,000 standard dies available, we have the capability to deliver products within short lead times. If your project does not match one of the dies we have in stock, we can create a new one for your purposes.