Aluminum is an incredibly versatile material that’s widely used in the manufacturing industry. Its desirable properties, such as strong thermal and electrical conductivity, high malleability, and low weight, make it a go-to option in manufacturing products of any size or shape.
One manufacturing process that utilizes aluminum’s properties and allows for creating an extensive range of products is aluminum extrusion. In 2019, 61% of extruded aluminum was consumed by China, the country with the largest manufacturing output.
Extruded aluminum offers many benefits and, due to this, it’s used in several industries. Here’s everything you need to know about aluminum extrusion and how it’s used:
What is Aluminum Extrusion?
The extrusion process refers to shaping various molten plastics and metals by forcing them through specific designs at extremely high temperatures. It’s a highly flexible process that allows extrusion to be performed in multiple ways, including continuous or semi-continuous and hot or cold.
In layman’s terms, aluminum extrusion is a lot like making pasta where molten aluminum is pushed through a steel die at high pressure, leading to a part in the same shape as the die. If the process is continuous, aluminum will be pushed along at once, whereas in a semi-continuous process, the material will be cut off into pieces.
Benefits of Aluminum Extrusion
Compared to other processes and materials, aluminum extrusion profiles offer several benefits. Aluminum extrusions are generally:
Resilient: Combining flexibility with strength, aluminum extrusions can easily spring back from massive impact.
Lightweight: Aluminum is approximately a third of the weight of copper, brass, steel, or iron, making aluminum extrusions relatively cheaper to ship and easy to handle. This makes it an excellent option when weight reduction is a priority.
Corrosion-resistant: Aluminum extrusions are quite resistant to corrosion since aluminum is protected by its own naturally occurring oxide film, which can further be enhanced by finishing processes like anodizing.
Sustainable: You can recycle aluminum endlessly with no impact on its properties. In fact, aluminum extrusions are produced with high recycled content without compromising the material’s functionality or aesthetics.
Strong: Aluminum extrusion accommodates varying internal reinforcement and wall thickness in the profile design, ensuring that you can make the material as strong as you want. Since aluminum becomes stronger with a fall in temperature, it’s suitable for cold weather applications.
Non-sparking: Aluminum isn’t a sparking material, making it suitable for applications in highly flammable environments or those involving explosive materials.
Quick to market: The tooling process for aluminum extrusion is relatively cheap with short lead times, allowing for easy prototyping, development, testing, and product launch.
Everyday Uses for Aluminum Extrusion
Its benefits make aluminum extrusion a popular solution for everyday uses. Here are the most common ways this manufacturing process is used:
Construction & Architecture
Extruded aluminum is often used in the construction industry for railings, doors, aesthetic design elements, windows, and internal structural support. Lightweight extruded aluminum paneling is quite common in shed and trailer construction, with denser structures becoming quite common.
Extruded aluminum extends to both interior and exterior design and function. In fact, stairwells, lighting fixtures, and elevator shafts all employ applications of aluminum extrusion. While aluminum usually can’t be used to design the basic skeleton, it helps with the structure and accent of a building’s interior.
Aluminum plays a significant role in the auto industry, with the metal providing resistance to the long-term environmental effects of road salt corrosiveness, moisture, and temperature. In fact, aluminum extrusion is employed to manufacture cylinder liners, radiator enclosures, and drive shafts.
This process is widely used in the automotive industry due to aluminum’s high strength-to-weight ratio. It allows vehicles to be faster, carry more, and make it all possible at a relatively lower cost.
Since aluminum is an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, it’s often used for busbars and other electrical equipment. Additionally, aluminum is non-magnetic, which allows for an unlimited range of configurations.
Aluminum extrusions can be found in multiple applications, including power units, electronic housings, racks, and chassis, computer cases, laptops, enclosures, cell phones, mini to maxi heat sinks, and motor housings.
Aluminum’s wide range of properties makes it an excellent option for manufacturing consumer goods. For instance, in sporting goods, aluminum extrusions offer durability and strength for compound bows for target shooting.
Other ways aluminum extrusions are used in consumer goods include pleasure boats, fitness equipment, ladders, home appliance trims, seating for the hospitality industry, golf carts and cars, garden and lawn tools, flashlights, partition systems, and office furniture, and refrigerator condensers.
Aerospace & Military
Aluminum’s multiple properties, including the absence of brittleness at low temperatures, minimal maintenance, and ability to be engineered into different components, makes it a suitable choice for various aerospace and military applications.
Due to its properties, aluminum extrusion is often used in military vehicles, combat vessels, rapid deployment landing mats, hospital and command tent structures, and helicopters and aircraft.
Aluminum extrusions are a significant part of numerous industries. Its benefits make it a popular option for various applications, and it’s an excellent option to consider if you’re looking for a versatile process suited to countless uses.
In fact, this manufacturing process allows for the seamless creation of highly complex and custom shapes. It’s used everywhere you go, and you’d be surprised to find out how many everyday products are manufactured using this straightforward process.