A Guide to Aluminum Extrusions
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Extrusion is a forming process that produces parts and products with fixed cross-sectional profile. It involves pushing softened raw material with a ram through a die made to achieve the required profile. As the material makes its way through the die, it takes on the shape of the die’s openings. Once the billet material pushes through the die, the semi-finished part cools and hardens. The material can then be cut to the required finished length or longer lengths for further processing.
Aluminum is ideal for use in extrusion operations. Its lighter material weight and greater malleability make it suitable for hollow and complex part designs.
At Richardson Metals, we have extensive experience delivering custom aluminum extrusions to customers in a wide range of industries. Below we provide an overview of the aluminum extrusion process, outlining process steps, typical shapes produced, and common industrial applications. Additionally, we touch on the aluminum extrusion capabilities we offer and why we are the ideal partner for all aluminum extrusion needs.
An Overview of the Aluminum Extrusion Process
Aluminum extrusion operations vary from project to project, depending on the part and production specifications. However, in general, they follow the same basic process, which includes the following steps:
- Determining the customers profile. The customer provides Richardson Metals with a drawing of the profile that needs extruded. At this point, it is determined if we can produce the design and meet the customers specifications and tolerances. Any part that Richardson Metals makes for the customer must fit inside a 4.5” diameter circle and weigh no more than 2.5 pounds per foot. Once the design has final customer approval, the die is made.
- Cutting the aluminum into billets. Once the dies are produced, production can then proceed to the extrusion process. The first step is cutting the aluminum into billets (i.e., cylindrical blocks of metal).
- Heating the aluminum billets. The billets are then pre heated to between 850° F and 925° F, which is hot enough to soften the metal but not hot enough to reduce it to a molten liquid state. While the operating temperature can be anywhere within that range, it must be consistent throughout the operation. Otherwise, the end product may have non-uniform cross-sectional areas.
- Transferring the billets to a loader. Once the billets are heated, they are placed on a loader and lubricated to prevent them from sticking to the extrusion equipment.
- Extruding the billets. After placement in the loader, the billets undergo a direct extrusion process. In direct extrusion operations, a ram pushes against one end of the billet to force the other end through the die. This process continues until the whole billet has been pushed through. Once the extrusions are made, they are cooled and sent for further processing. These final steps can include stretching, straightening, work hardening, cutting, heat treating, and surface finishing.
Typical Aluminum Extruded Shapes
Aluminum extrusions take on many different forms. Some of the most common shapes include:
- Solid shapes, such as solid bars and rods with various cross-sections (e.g., circles, rectangles, squares, and more)
- Semi-solid shapes, such as angles, channels, and other partially open forms
- Hollow shapes, such as tubes with various cross-sections (e.g., circles, rectangles, squares, and more)
Applications of Aluminum Extrusions
Aluminum extrusion is a highly versatile manufacturing process that creates many different parts and products. At Richardson Metals, our aluminum extrusions find application in a diverse set of industries, including the following:Aerospace and Military
Aluminum offers a high strength-to-weight ratio, suitability for use in low temperatures, and minimal maintenance requirements, all of which make it ideal for use in aerospace and military operations. Aluminum extrusions are used as components in many different devices, equipment, and systems, such as those found in aircraft, the International Space Station (ISS), and military and hospital field sites.Construction
Aluminum extrusions serve many functions in buildings. In addition to providing structural support in normal and extreme conditions, they can improve both functional and aesthetic qualities. For example, when designed and constructed carefully, they can decrease energy consumption or decorate interior and exterior areas.Electronics
Aluminum is commonly used for components in electronic devices due to its formability, thermal and electrical conductivity, and non-magnetic properties. Some of the electronic products in which aluminum extrusion are commonly found include cell phones, computers and laptops, electronic chassis, racks, and housings, motors, and power distribution systems.Medical
Aluminum is ideal for use in the manufacture of components for medical equipment, such as hospital beds and testing devices. Additionally, aluminum extrusions can be made to tight tolerances, which allows them to meet the industry’s strict standards.Sports and Recreation
Aluminum demonstrates a high strength-to-weight ratio, meaning it is sturdy without adding a significant amount of weight. It is also highly formability, accommodating a variety of complex and intricate part designs. These qualities make it suitable for sports and other recreational equipment, such as bicycle frames, skates and skateboard hardware, boats, and more.Telecommunications
Aluminum and aluminum alloys play an important role in creating the hardware and infrastructure for the telecommunications industry. The metal is light-which reduces transportation and installation costs—and conducts electricity well. Common applications for aluminum extrusions in the telecommunications industry include cables and satellite parts.
Our Aluminum Extrusion Capabilities
At Richardson Metals, we specialize in aluminum extrusion solutions. Our team accommodates project requests with the following specifications:
- Material. We process 6061 and 6063 aluminum. 6061 aluminum is a strong metal used for adding structure and support. 6063 aluminum produces extrusions with high-quality surface finishes, which makes it ideal for visible parts and products such as architectural elements.
- Part shape. We can create an extensive range of shapes, including bars, profiles, rods, and tubes in solid, semi-solid, and hollow forms. For customers with highly specific or unique requirements, we fulfill custom design requests.
- Part size. Our equipment has the capabilities to extrude aluminum profiles that are up to 4 inches in diameter, up to 2.5 pounds per foot in length, and as thin as 0.040 inches in thickness with ±.005 inch tolerances.
- Production volume. We offer aluminum extrusions in prototype and full-scale production quantities.
Contact the Aluminum Extrusion Experts at Richardson Metals Today
If you need aluminum extrusions, Richardson Metals is here to help. By partnering with us, you benefit from our:
- Broad industry experience. We have over 40 years of experience designing, manufacturing, cutting, and finishing aluminum extrusions for customers in a wide range of industries, including aerospace, electronics, medical products, telecommunications systems, recreation, and more.
- State-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Our 14,400 square foot facility is equipped with a 550-ton RAM press and a 4 1/2-inch diameter press.
- Extensive range of value-added services. In addition to our aluminum extrusion capabilities, we offer in-house preparation and processing services such as surface preparation and finishing, CNC machining, cutting, deburring, drilling, punching, and tapping.
To learn more about our aluminum extrusion capabilities or partner with us on your next project, contact us or request a quote today. One of our representatives will get back to you to answer and address any questions or concerns you may have about the process or your specific needs.