Aluminum is a material that offers numerous benefits, making it a popular option for a wide range of applications. This metal features superior strength, lightweight nature, corrosion resistance, durability, and minimal maintenance requirements. Some applications specifically use extruded aluminum parts of various shapes. The aluminum extrusion process entails forcing the metal through a die that features a particular cross-sectional profile, similar to pushing toothpaste through a tube. Aluminum is considered one of the best materials to undergo extrusion because of its unique qualities and benefits.
In this blog, we’ll review how the aluminum extrusion process works, its advantages, the costs associated with it, and the extrusion capabilities at Superior Metal Shapes.
What Goes Into the Aluminum Extrusion Production Process?
During the extrusion process, several steps produce the aluminum part, from setup to surface treatment. Specifically, these steps include:
Preparation & Setup
Prior to extruding aluminum, operators need to load tooling plates into position and heat them to the appropriate temperature.
Following preparation and setup, the pressing process begins. This involves forcing a hydraulic ram into the chamber, which presses the heated and softened billet through the system’s tooling plates, also known as dies. As it travels through, the metal forms a stable profile shape that emerges from the other end until it sits on the runout table.
In some cases, parts may twist or curl if the profiles are poorly balanced, requiring stretching to return them to the desired shape.
Heating Process (Aging)
The next step involves stacking stock segments on carts that are slightly separated and heat treated, which is also known as “aging”. This lends added strength to the final product.
Some designs may require the system to cut ends at particular angles or lengths, mill sections of material away, or drill holes in the material.
Following production, certain surface treatments can be applied to the end product. This may entail painting, texturing, powder coating, or using a chemical finishing process known as anodizing.
Aluminum Extrusion Costs
Extruders who provide aluminum extrusion will vary greatly in their capabilities, equipment, and expertise, making it important to look for the right extruder and determine what is ideal to help minimize costs. Ultimately, the primary aluminum extrusion cost is the extrusion die, which could cost thousands of dollars. However, this cost is low when a large project relies on custom extrusion.
The lead times for aluminum extrusion are shorter, often taking less than a month. Combined with the main cost of the die, this advantage can help make the process even more affordable, allowing for cost-effective prototyping and revisions as required.
Keep in mind that tooling for bending machines and check fixtures contribute additional costs to aluminum extrusion, which is why it’s important to work with an extruder with ample experience to help avoid potential issues and increased costs.
Finally, order minimums could further add to the total cost of extrusion. A majority of extruders produce extrusions of a minimum size, often ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds per extrusion. Some may also offer order charges as opposed to small batches. However, extruders may allow customers to negotiate order minimums if needed.
Other potential factors that could impact the price of aluminum extrusion processes include:
- The alloys used for extrusion
- Profile designs, including tubular, rectangular, or L, C, I, or custom profiles
- Finishes used to protect or strengthen the final product
Affordable Custom Aluminum Extrusion from Superior Metal Shapes
At Superior Metal Shapes, we offer custom aluminum extrusion services to produce high quality parts at prices you can afford. To achieve this, our long list of capabilities includes:
- Two 3.5-inch 850-ton presses and a 5.125-inch 900-ton press
- Minimum order of 25 pounds
- Maximum circle sizes of 4.75 inches
- Tolerances within ± 0.002
- A maximum weight per foot of 1.3 lbs. and a minimum of 0.015 lbs.
- Extrusion for thin or complex custom shapes
- Hollow and multi-void hollow shapes
- Prototyping and product samples
- Traceability marking
- Order fulfillment in as little as 3-5 weeks for many parts
- Varied packaging and shipping options
Get Started on Custom Aluminum Extrusion Today
Aluminum extrusion is a cost-effective and invaluable service for producing many types of aluminum parts. If you would like to get started on your next project with Superior Metal Shapes, request a quote today for our services.