The aluminum extrusion process is an effective manufacturing technique with applications that span many industries. Learn the benefits of aluminum extrusion, the necessary equipment for the process and the ways manufacturers use it in various fields.
Basics of the Aluminum Extrusion Process
Aluminum extrusion makes the most of aluminum’s unique properties — including its malleability, strength and non-magnetic composition — by transforming aluminum alloys into objects with a uniform cross-section.
The aluminum extrusion process includes heating an aluminum billet to between 700-900 degrees Fahrenheit and using a ram to force an aluminum billet through a chamber. The billet flows through the other side of the chamber and out a small opening, which then has a new cross-section. In simpler terms, the process is similar to how toothpaste takes the shape of the tube when you squeeze it out.
Once the alloy passes through the chamber, it sits on a cooling table where fans help bring its temperature down. Then, the extrusion hardens and is cut to the required lengths of the project. Finally, the completed extrusion is heated in an oven and hardened to speed up the aging process. Additional steps can be added to customize the final product, including treatments for enhanced aesthetics.
The aluminum extrusion process can produce up to thousands of feet of extrusion for a wide range of uses.
Benefits of Aluminum Extrusion
There are several benefits of the aluminum extrusion process, including:
- Cost: Extrusion dies are much more affordable when compared to those for molding and casting. They also take less time to produce, and the process is relatively cost-effective to implement.
- Innumerable applications: Aluminum extrusion has applications across different industries, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
- Outdoor applications: You can use the aluminum extrusion outdoors due to the aluminum’s corrosion-resistant properties.
- Customizability: Extrusion often gets heat treated after leaving the die. Once heat treatment is complete, you can add surface finishes to the extrusion to enhance its aesthetic appearance.
- Fabrication: Fabrication allows you to meet the specific needs of customers through punching, drilling, cutting and more.
- Durability: The extrusion process can create complex shapes without needing joints or connectors, making the extrusions less susceptible to falling apart or wearing down.
Why Use Aluminum Extrusion
There are many reasons why you might want to use aluminum extrusion. Here are a few to consider:
1. Take Advantage of the Existing Properties of Aluminum
Aluminum extrusions enhance the already advantageous properties of aluminum, which include:
- Flexibility and malleability
- Ability to be recycled
- Non-magnetic properties
- Strength-to-weight ratio
These properties are especially beneficial when combined with another metal.
2. Create a Limitless Variety of Shapes
One of the greatest benefits of the extrusion process is its versatility. The different shapes you can create using aluminum extrusion can be filtered into three categories:
- Solid: These shapes don’t have any openings, and typical examples include rectangles and square solid objects, beams and rods.
- Semi-solid: Semi-hollow profiles feature gaps that are not fully closed. A good way to visualize a semi-hollow profile is to picture the letter “C”. There’s an opening, but it’s not fully closed the way an “O” is.
- Hollow: Hollow profiles include objects like pipes and tubes.
3. Interlock Various Shapes Together
You can combine or interlock different extrusions to make more complex shapes. These can be created to fit more specific designer specs for applicable industries, such as architecture. You can meet your business’s needs by pairing various shapes together.
4. Be More Environmentally Sustainable
Aluminum can continually be recycled with less energy than what’s required to create it. Another sustainable benefit of aluminum is that it’ll retain its structural integrity no matter how often it’s melted and reshaped.
What Equipment Is Needed for Aluminum Extrusion?
The following six pieces of equipment are used in an aluminum extrusion factory:
- Billet heating furnace: Used to heat the billet before it’s loaded into the press
- Aluminum extrusion press: The main machine and the power unit for forming extrusion profiles
- Mold heating oven: Heats the mold after extrusion
- Puller machine: Allows you to cut the extrusion to size
- Aluminum profile cooling bed: Cools the newly created aluminum extrusion
- Aging furnace: Helps harden the aluminum extrusion
Some of these pieces, including the puller machine, aren’t totally necessary for an aluminum extrusion factory. The most important is the aluminum extrusion press.
What Is Aluminum Extrusion Used For?
Aluminum extrusion is highly versatile for almost any workplace. Consider how extrusions are used in the following five industries:
1. Automotive and Transportation Industries
In the automotive industry, aluminum extrusions can be used in engine blocks, panels and the chassis of boats, cars and other vehicles. They can also help create bodies and components of vehicles. Additionally, due to aluminum’s ability to conduct heat, aluminum extrusions can work well in automobile radiators.
2. Heat Conducting Technology
Aluminum’s ability to conduct heat also means aluminum extrusions can work well in air conditioning units, pharmaceutical thawing units and more. Extrusions can also help make up the cooling devices inside computers and cell phones.
3. Construction Industry
Aluminum extrusions in the construction industry resist the distortions that sometimes result from the weather. Their strength and flexibility also allow aluminum extrusions to “rebound” after the shock of impact.
4. Industrial Applications
In industrial settings, aluminum extrusions are often used to help create workbenches and inspection tables. This process is easily customizable and provides good value for a relatively inexpensive cost. It can also be quickly modified to adapt to different needs.
5. Display Equipment
Extrusion pieces can be interlocked together, making the assembly of trade show stands and other equipment easy. The lightweight nature of aluminum also means the equipment is easy to move around. Other examples of display equipment that can be created using aluminum extrusions include picture frames and display cabinets.
6. Reflective Properties
Aluminum is highly reflective, so it can shield different products from light, infrared radiation and radio waves. This is especially helpful in light fixtures — the more reflective the fixture, the less energy it takes to light an area. Aluminum lighting fixtures are a lot safer than some alternatives.
Pennex Aluminum Company Can Work With You
Pennex Aluminum Company has worked with aluminum products since 1979, and we know the benefits and uses for aluminum extrusion inside and out. We have four extrusion presses between our Wellsville, Pennsylvania, and Leetonia, Ohio, plants to meet your needs. We’re also IATF 16949:2016 certified.
If you’re interested in partnering with the engineers at Pennex Aluminum Company, contact us today. We can walk you through our design and manufacturing process and help you choose the best aluminum alloy for your needs.