At Richardson Metals, Inc., we’ve provided aluminum extrusions to customers in a wide range of industries for over 40 years. This extensive experience allows us to create extrusions from a variety of grades in different shapes, sizes, and volumes. If you’re wondering how we bring your ideas to reality, read on. Below, we outline the aluminum extrusion process to illustrate how we turn raw aluminum material into finished parts and products.
What Is Aluminum Extrusion?
Aluminum extrusion is a manufacturing process that creates aluminum components with fixed cross-sections. The aluminum billet is first softened and then pushed through a steel die with the desired cross-sectional profile. After the material exits the die, it is cut and cooled into individual long lengths, each of which has the same shape and size depending on the component design.
The next section outlines the full list of process steps in further detail.
Aluminum Extrusion Process Steps
The aluminum extrusion process consists of numerous steps:
- Die design. Before an aluminum extrusion operation can begin, the part or product designer must create the design for the desired component. This design determines the design of the die and if it can be extruded.
- Die creation. Once the component design and die design are approved, the die can be manufactured and
- Die preheating. Once the order is ready to run and the die is ready, it is preheated to support the flow of the metal through the die and placed in the extrusion press.
- Aluminum cutting. Once the die is prepared and positioned properly, solid and cylindrical pieces (i.e., billets) are cut from a larger piece of raw material.
- Billet preheating. The billets are preheated to approximately 900 degrees to improve their malleability.
- Billet loading. The preheated billets are transferred and loaded to the extrusion press.
- The extrusion ram applies pressure to the billet, forcing it into the container of the extrusion press and through the extrusion die. The amount of pressure applied depends on the extrusion design.
- Gas introduction. Aluminum extrusions are susceptible to oxidation. Introducing nitrogen into the die during operations creates an inert environment that reduces the risk of oxide formation. In its liquid form, nitrogen also helps cool the die, extending its service life.
- Emerging onto the run-out table. As the extrusion emerges from the die opening, it is guided onto the run-out table.
- Initial cooling. As the extrusion moves across the run-out table, a water bath or overhead fans help cool it.
- Initial extrusion cutting. After the extrusion partially cools and reaches the full table length, a hot saw separates it from the rest of the material.
- Final cooling. The individual extrusion is moved from the run-out table to a cooling table where it can cool to room temperature.
- Stretching. Throughout the process, the extrusion naturally experiences some twisting. This issue can be corrected by stretching it until it is fully straight and up to spec.
- Final extrusion cutting. Once the extrusion meets the shape specifications, the material can ship in long lengths or can be transferred to a precision saw to cut shorter mult lengths or finished part length.
- Aging. If needed, the individual extruded pieces then move to an aging oven where they are aged to the proper temper.
- Additional improvements. If needed, the extrusions can be subjected to further fabrication, machining, finishing, and treatment operations to improve or enhance their properties and/or achieve the desired dimensions.
Contact the Aluminum Extrusion Experts at Richardson Metals Today
The aluminum extrusion process is used to create various parts and products with fixed cross-sections for a wide range of industries. However, the company performing it must have the process knowledge and skills to execute it correctly to successfully produce the desired extruded components.
At Richardson Metals, our experts have what it takes to deliver high-quality aluminum extrusions for a diverse set of customer applications, from aerospace to telecommunication. For more information about our aluminum extrusion capabilities, contact us today. To discuss your project needs with one of our representatives, request a quote.
Richardson Metals, Inc. has been a nationwide supplier of aluminum, aluminum extrusions, and a myriad of other material components since 1980. With a team focused on product quality and customer satisfaction, Richardson Metals offers custom aluminum extrusions, extruded metal shapes, aluminum machining, and related value-added services like finishing, prototyping, and specialty production. Two of the primary grades of aluminum we use are alloys 6061 and 6063.
Developed in 1935, “Alloy 61,” now recognized as 6061 aluminum, is a common precipitation-hardened structural alloy composed of 97.9% aluminum, 0.6% silicon, 1.0% magnesium, 0.2% chromium, and 0.28% copper. The highly versatile alloy is used for various applications, from aircraft and truck frames to chemical equipment and electronic parts, owing to the key characteristics below.
- Strength: The tempering and aging of 6061 aluminum create a stronger alloy, with average ultimate tensile strength ranging from approximately 241 MPa to 310 MPa, and yield strength from 145 MPa to greater than 276 MPa.
- Corrosion resistance: Exposure to air triggers 6061 aluminum to form a layer of oxide that protects lower layers of metal and minimizes its reaction to corrosive elements.
- Weldability and brazeability: 6061 aluminum is weldable by all methods with the use of appropriate complementary filler alloys to prevent cracking, and is also furnace brazeable.
- Workability: Classified as a wrought alloy containing <4% of alloying elements, annealed 6061 aluminum offers good workability.
- Machinability: 6061 is the most commonly machined aluminum alloy due to its litany of desirable mechanical properties for the process; it carries a machinability rating of 90% when compared to 2011 aluminum, an alloy known for excellent machinability.
6063 aluminum is composed of approximately 98.9% aluminum, 0.4% silicon, and .70% magnesium, and is a popular option for extrusion. This architectural alloy is used for a range of applications like window, door, sign, and vehicle frames, tubing and piping, electrical and marine components, and more. Its diverse uses are made possible by the key characteristics of the alloy, including:
- Thermal conductivity: The alloy has a coefficient of thermal expansion from 21.8 μm/m-° C and displays thermal conductivity from 200 W/m-K to 209 W/m-K.
- Strength: Like other 6XXX series alloys, 6063 aluminum undergoes tempering and aging to improve strength, offering average ultimate tensile strength ranging from approximately 186 MPa to 290 MPa, yield strength from 145 MPa to 269 MPa.
- Corrosion resistance: The lack of copper in the chemical composition of 6063 aluminum improves corrosion resistance over other 6XXX series alloys.
- Weldability and brazeability: Used alongside the correct filler alloys, 6063 aluminum can be welded and brazed using all conventional methods.
- Workability: Aluminum 6063 offers greater workability than other 6XXX alloys and is easier to form into complex shapes with high-quality surface finishes.
- Machinability: The 6063 aluminum alloy has a machinability rating of 80% compared to 2011 aluminum, an alloy offering excellent machinability.
6061 vs. 6063 Aluminum
Though the chemical composition and material properties of 6061 and 6063 aluminum are similar and both offer good formability, workability, and are receptive to heat treatments, each alloy provides advantages over its counterpart in specific areas.
For example, the 6061 aluminum alloy offers greater strength and durability and is more machinable than 6063. However, 6063 offers greater corrosion resistance and workability and can be used to produce higher-quality finishes.
When selecting the appropriate alloy for production, the primary factors for consideration will depend on the final product’s integrity and longevity requirements.
Aluminum Guidance From Richardson Metals
Aluminum grades 6061 and 6063 come with a variety of advantages over other aluminum alloys. While similar, the materials have some distinct differences that make them more suitable for specific applications—like structural work for 6061 and architectural finishes for 6063.