Did you know that aluminum is the third-most abundant element in the Earth’s crust? It is also one of the cheapest metals available. Everything from soda cans to spaceships relies on this light and durable material.
Extruded aluminum is just one of the many uses of aluminum. We’ll explore the process that allows an aluminum extruder to create extruded aluminum shapes.
What Is Extruded Aluminum?
Are you wondering, “What is extruded aluminum?” Aluminum extrusion refers to the process of forcing aluminum alloy through a die. The resulting shape has a unique cross-sectional profile.
You can think of the process as being similar to pushing toothpaste through a tube. Squeezing the tube forces the toothpaste out in a cylindrical form. The process requires advanced mechanics and technology, but the concept behind aluminum extrusion is fairly straightforward.
What Is Extruded Aluminum Used For?
Engineers use aluminum extruded shapes for a wide range of industrial and construction purposes. Industries that rely on extruded aluminum include:
Extruded aluminum is commonly used to build door and window systems. Guide rails are often made from extruded aluminum. Extruded aluminum and T Slot Aluminum is commonly used to make or construct:
- Lighting fixtures
- Elevator shafts
- Internal building structures
- Car parts
- Stage assemblies
- LED fixtures
- Solar panel support structures
- Extruded aluminum channel
Extruded shapes are versatile because they can be solid, hollow (rectangular or square tubes), or semi-hollow (with a partially enclosed void). Extruded aluminum is also commonly used because the aluminum alloy is lightweight, affordable, malleable, and able to conduct electricity.
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An Overview of the Extrusion Process
Each aluminum extrusion process begins with the fabrication of a steel die. This is the point through which heated aluminum is pushed. The shape of the die determines the cross-sectional shape of the resulting extrusion.
Cutting the Billet
A professional cuts the cylindrical block of aluminum alloy (billet) from a longer piece of aluminum. The metal is then preheated to 400-500 degrees celsius. The heating process makes the aluminum malleable but not molten for the extrusion process.
Rolling Metal onto the Press
Once the technician has heated the aluminum, a machine rolls it to an extrusion press. An extrusion professional then lubricates the metal to ensure that the billet and ram do not stick together. Once the machine loads the heated billet, a powerful ram pushes the metal into a container that has the die on one end.
Pushing the Billet through the Die
Pressure then pushes the metal through the die. The metal emerges from the die with a pre-determined profile. The hot metal is then uniformly cooled through a process called “quenching.”
Once the metal cools, a device called a stretcher corrects any bending or distortions that may have occurred. During the final step, the metal is cut to length and stored or shipped.
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