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Author Archives: Chuck Fitzsimmons

  1. Guide to Aluminum Channels

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    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:

    • Angle
    • T-Channel
    • I-Beam
    • C-Channel
    • Zee Bar
    • Tubes
    • Bars

    aluminum channel characteristicsCharacteristics of Aluminum Channels

    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.

    Contact us for more information on the range of solutions we provide or request a quote for your next project.

  2. Selecting Between Extruded Aluminum Alloys

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    Tri-State Aluminum has more than 40 years of experience as a full-service supplier of custom finished aluminum extrusions and fabrications. Our production capabilities run the gamut from engineering design guidance to extrusion, cutting, fabricating, finishing, and packaging.

    When other elements, such as copper, magnesium, iron, silicon, manganese, and zinc, are added to pure aluminum, it creates an aluminum alloy. The process requires up to 15% of the other element to be thoroughly incorporated into hot, liquid aluminum. The purpose of introducing other elements allows the aluminum to take on additional qualities, primarily for added strength.

    Types of Extruded Aluminum Alloys

    Types of Extruded Aluminum AlloysAt Tri-State Aluminum, we work primarily with four of the many grades of aluminum alloys: 6063, 6463, 6005, and 6061.

    Aluminum Alloy 6063

    The most economical and widely used, 6063 has superior extrudability. With very good corrosion resistance and finishing response, it also is readily welded, machined, and formed. Examples of the many applications that utilize 6063 aluminum alloy include:

    • Heat sinks
    • Window and door frames
    • Electrical tubing
    • Irrigation system pipe and tube
    • Handrails and furniture
    • Architecture and construction products

    Aluminum Alloy 6463

    Aluminum alloy 6463 can only be formed using aluminum extrusion. Since 6463 is roughly 98% raw aluminum, heat-treating increases the strength of the aluminum while lowering the ductility. It can be polished to a mirror-like finish and is primarily used for decorative trim in architectural applications in the form of bars, tubes, rods, wire, and other custom shapes.

    Aluminum Alloy 6005

    When high corrosion resistance and moderate strength is required, 6005 aluminum alloy is indicated. It has excellent extrudability and is very bendable, excluding it from applications where heavy loads are possible. It can be easily formed, machined, and welded. A few of the applications for 6005 aluminum alloy are:

    • Ladders
    • Automotive applications
    • Seamless and structural tubing
    • Handrails

    Aluminum Alloy 6061

    This alloy is the second most popular extrusion behind 6063. It has superb strength, corrosion resistance, and machinability. It has good formability and weldability, but does not respond well to finishing. For that reason, it is typically used in transportation and structural applications.

    Key Considerations

    Understanding how your product will be used is the most useful guide for ranking the characteristics of aluminum alloys to find the one that most closely fits your needs. When choosing the aluminum extrusion for your application, several key factors are considered:

    • Corrosion resistance: Will the finished product be subject to the elements?
    • Heat treatment: Will your application require significant strength for high loads?
    • Density: Does the final product need to be lightweight and easy to shape?
    • Strength: Does your product have a complex shape but also need to be designed to withstand stress?
    • Aesthetics: Will the product be used for decorative purposes?

    Quality Fabricated Aluminum Products in New Jersey

    When you need a full-service supplier of extruded aluminum alloys, Tri-State Aluminum has the capabilities to save you time and money. Our services include design, extrusion, cutting, fabrication, finishing, packing, labeling, and shipping. For custom extruded aluminum, your concept is realized with our capable engineering and manufacturing team, but it remains yours.

    We look forward to partnering with you on your next project. Whether you need standard aluminum extrusions or custom ones, we can provide it. Contact us today for more information. Alternatively, you can submit an online request for quote.

  3. What is the Anodizing Process?

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    At Tri-State Aluminum, we produce aluminum products and custom extrusions for a variety of industries in New Jersey and throughout the East Coast. Many of our most popular aluminum manufacturing services include anodizing, which changes the surface of metal parts using an electrochemical finishing process. It converts the exterior layer of aluminum into a durable, corrosion-resistant surface that can also be aesthetically pleasing.

    The Anodizing Process

    The anodizing finishing process involves multiple steps that electrochemically change the composition of the metal surface:

    1. Cleaning

    Before the anodizing process starts, dirt, grease, and other contaminants must be removed from the surface. Most manufacturers completely submerge the workpiece in water and/or a mild alkaline or acidic solution to clean the parts.

    2. Pretreatment

    If the finished product will have a decorative function, the next step is for the manufacturer to pretreat it.

    Two popular pretreatment options are:

    • Bright Dipping: This gives the piece a shiny appearance.
    • Etching: This process creates a matte, satin-smooth finish.

    3. Anodizing

    Once the metal has been cleaned and pretreated, the manufacturer will position the piece in an electrolytic bath. Next, the solution is charged with a negative direct current (DC) via electronic plates inside the tub. When the metal is charged, positive ions are drawn out and negative chromic, phosphoric, or sulfuric ions from the solution are transferred to the metal to “fill in” the resulting ionic gaps.

    There are four basic anodized types:

    • Type I: Chromic acid creates a thin layer of protection around the metal part.
    • Type II: Sulfuric acid is used to create a thicker layer around the part than Type I anodization. Type II metals also take on colorants better.
    • Type III: This type is like Type II, but it produces an even thicker anodized layer. Sometimes this process is also called “hard anodizing.”
    • Type IV: This finishing process doesn’t follow the same procedures as the other three types and technically doesn’t require anodization. However, the service offers many of the same attributes as an anodized finish, which is why we’ve included it in this list. During Type IV processing, manufacturers coat a metal part with Alodine® to create a protective chemical film.

    4. Coloring

    There are two different ways to color anodized metal:

    • Electrolytic Coloring: During electrolytic coloring, the metal part is coated with colorants while the surface is still absorbent. After the dye is absorbed, the manufacturer puts the piece into a bath with metal salt deposits to seal the color. The results vary based on the dye and metal substrate that are used.
    • Integral Color: This method takes place simultaneously during anodization when colorants are added to the electrolytic bath. The process is more expensive than electrolytic coloring, but it imparts additional abrasion-resistance and can be used to create brass, bronze, or black hues.

    Aluminum Anodizing

    Anodizing is commonly used to protect aluminum parts against corrosion, surface-level damage, and abrasions. The resulting aluminum oxide layer is more durable than untreated aluminum, which is why the process is often used to finish exterior parts. The coating is permanent and creates an attractive surface without obscuring the luster or texture of the metal.

    At Tri-State Aluminum, we take the following factors into consideration when helping our clients choose the right anodizing type and coloring options:

    • If the product is intended for indoor or outdoor use
    • What type of color the client wants to create
    • How much UV radiation exposure is expected
    • Additional property requirements, like the desired material hardness and durability

    Anodized aluminum parts can resist wear, won’t corrode over time, and can be used for architectural finishes such as doors, window profiles, light fixtures, and appliance parts. In general, the industries that most commonly benefit from aluminum anodizing include:

    • Sporting goods and recreation
    • Aviation
    • Automotive
    • Appliance manufacturing
    • Commercial and residential building
    • Infrastructure construction
    • Industrial sector
    • Consumer goods manufacturing

    Choose Tri-State Aluminum for Expert Aluminum Anodizing

    Aluminum anodizing is a multi-step finishing process that creates a durable, tough, and corrosion-resistant surface layer on aluminum parts. It can also be used to change the color and texture of metal parts to create a more attractive design. If you need aluminum anodizing, parts finishing, or other extrusion services, contact Tri-State Aluminum today or request a quote online. We’re proud to serve clients throughout New Jersey and in every state east of the Mississippi River.

  4. The Aluminum Extrusion Process

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    Metal extrusion forces raw metal material through a shaped die to create an elongated final shape. The shape of this die defines the profile of the extruded piece, which can be altered to suit many desired geometries. Due to their physical characteristics, aluminum alloys hold up particularly well to extrusion, and aluminum extrusion as a distinct process is popular for creating diverse components and products across industries.

    Compared to alternatives such as die casting, extrusion promises a cost-effective, versatile method of manufacturing high-quality aluminum components.

    The Aluminum Extrusion Process

    aluminum extrusion processThe aluminum extrusion process occurs in multiple steps:

    • The first step in the aluminum extrusion process is to determine and craft the proper die shape. This step ensures that the final extrusion is formed properly for its function.
    • Next, the aluminum billet must be prepared for the extrusion process. The cylindrical metal form is heated to 800-925° F to allow it to progress through the die, then transferred into the machine.
    • The machine applies sufficient pressure to force either the ram or the die itself to move, pushing the billet through the die. Adding liquid or gaseous nitrogen is often useful at this stage to prevent oxidation of either the die or the component itself, extending their working lifespans.
    • Once the part has passed fully through the die, it is removed from the machinery and allowed to cool. Finishing work may include straightening, stretching, and sawing to improve specific physical properties or achieve the required geometries.
    • Finally, heating the finished extrusions in an aging oven hardens the aluminum, making it more durable. Finishes conferring other benefits may be applied after the aging process is complete.

    Direct vs. Indirect Extrusion

    The exact method used to create an aluminum extrusion varies depending on a number of factors. Direct and indirect extrusion methods broadly represent the subcategories of the technique, and each poses a unique set of advantages suitable for certain manufacturing environments.

    Direct Extrusion

    In direct extrusion—or forward extrusion—a motorized ram forces the billet through the die to achieve the final shape. While more common than other methods, direct extrusion is more energy-intensive due to the force required to release the billet from the machinery.

    Indirect Extrusion

    The main difference between direct and indirect extrusion lies in which component of the machinery moves. With indirect extrusion, the ram remains stationary and the die itself is what moves to direct the billet. This mechanism reduces friction, making indirect extrusion quicker and more energy-efficient than the alternative.

    Factors That Affect Extrusion

    In the extrusion process, care must be taken to control a range of factors that can affect the finished product. Changing the materials or procedures used alters the final component’s physical characteristics, which is part of why extrusion can be beneficial for such diverse applications.

    Some controllable factors that alter the results may include:

    • Speed of ram
    • Shape of die
    • Shape of billet
    • Type of alloy
    • Extrusion, tongue, and scrap ratios
    • Tolerance
    • Finish
    • Temperature

    Aluminum Extrusion Experts at Tri-State Aluminum

    Aluminum extrusion is a highly desirable manufacturing technique for industries ranging from construction to energy and telecommunications. The experts at Tri-State Aluminum will work with you to determine the appropriate extrusion process for your individual specifications, ensuring that your finished pieces are precise, consistent, and of the highest quality.

    For more information about how we can become your full-service aluminum component providers, please request a quote today.

  5. A Guide to Aluminum Angles: Characteristics, Types, and Applications

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    Aluminum angles consist of two legs—of equal or unequal lengths—arranged to form a 90 degree angle. Due to their material strength and lightweight construction, these components are suitable for use in structural and general engineering and manufacturing applications across a wide range of industries, including building, construction, and transportation.

    Aluminum Angle Material Characteristics and Types

    Aluminum is used to fabricate angles due to its strength. In addition to this quality, it demonstrates the following characteristics:

    • Excellent weldability
    • Moderate machining and grinding capabilities
    • Poor bending and forming capabilities
    • Moderate wear resistance
    • Moderate corrosion resistance

    Additionally, the material exhibits the following mechanical properties:

    • Tensile strength – 45 ksi
    • Yield point – 45 ksi
    • Shear strength – 30 ksi
    • Elasticity – 10 ksi
    • Elongation in 2 inches – 17%
    • Fatigue Limit – 14 ksi
    • Brinell Hardness – 95
    • Melting Point – 1220F

    There are several types of aluminum used to manufacture angles, including:

    • 6061-T6 aluminum is versatile, strong, and extremely resistant to corrosion. This type of aluminum, containing both magnesium and silicon, expresses high weldability and formability. It is the most commonly used material for structural components, especially in applications where strength and stability are the highest priority. 6061 aluminum angles typically feature rounded corners.
    • 6063 aluminum is similarly allowed with magnesium and silicone and moderately strong, but it tends to be used more commonly in fabrication projects where corrosion resistance or finishing treatments are crucial. In angles made of 6063, the interior radius corners are sharp rather than round as in 6061 aluminum angles.

    Aluminum Angle Applications

    Aluminum Angle Material Characteristics and TypesAluminum angles are used in a wide range of general structural applications, including:

    • Trailers
    • Safety cages
    • Walkways
    • Farming equipment
    • Scaffolding
    • Ship & building equipment
    • Transmission towers

    More specifically, typical applications for 6061 aluminum include braces, supports, and truck beds, while 6063 aluminum angles are used in construction appliances, architectural trim, racks, automotive appliances, and machine parts.

    In addition to structural applications, aluminum angles are also widely employed in the engineering industries, including for railcars, cooling towers, and ground transportation systems. Since 6063 aluminum is often anodized, angles made from the material are more suitable for these engineering applications than structural designs.

    Tri-State Aluminum’s Standard Extrusions

    Depending on the requirements of the application, the extrusions employed for it can be standard or custom made. At Tri-State Aluminum, we can supply both standard and custom aluminum extrusions, including angles, in 6061, 6005, 6063, 6105, and 6463 aluminum material. Some of our standard extrusions include:

    • Rectangular Bar
    • Square-Hexagonal Bar
    • Round Rod
    • Angles (Sharp Corners)
    • Angles (Rounded Corners)
    • Channels Sharp Corners
    • Tees Sharp and Rounded Corners
    • Zee Bar
    • Round Tube
    • IPS Pipe Round
    • Serrated Tube
    • Rectangular Tube
    • Rectangular Tube Angles
    • I Beams Rounded Angle
    • Sharp Corners
    • I Beams Rounded Angle
    • Rounded Corners
    • I Beams Tapered Walls

    Contact Tri-State Aluminum Today

    Aluminum angles are crucial components in structural, engineering, and manufacturing applications. While, in general, the properties of material facilitate their employment in these applications, specific materials are more suited to use cases over others.

    At Tri-State Aluminum, we offer both standard aluminum angles, and the services to create custom aluminum extruded angles, to suit the needs of your specific application. In addition to extrusions, we also offer design, fabrication, and finishing services to create virtually any extruded part or components.

    Request a quote today to find out how we can help you in your next structural, engineering, or manufacturing project.