Extrusion is a widely used aluminum forming process that delivers almost unlimited possibilities in product design. The extrusion process is similar to the childhood pastime of creating long strands of play-dough by forcing the product through a plastic-shaped die. Fortunately, aluminum’s weight, strength and high thermal conductivity vastly outweigh that of play-dough, leading to its presence in a wide range of consumer and industrial goods. The aluminum extrusion process has the added benefit of enabling fast product development cycles due to its low-cost and flexible tooling. Manufacturers can accelerate prototype and testing phases by rapidly creating and evaluating different designs.
Extrusion is a plastic deformation process in which a solid cylinder of aluminum (billet) is forced by compression through a smaller die opening. The billet is typically preheated to facilitate the deformation process.
There are many factors in an extrusion process that influence the properties of the final product, including:
These adjustable factors, coupled with inexpensive tooling, create near limitless possibilities for design. The strength, weight and sustainability of aluminum add to its appeal for manufacturing and construction applications.
The aluminum extrusions formed right from the press are rarely seen in commercial applications. Extrusions typically undergo a number of fabrication and/or finishing processes to transform them into usable components, such as an auto part or construction material. The fabrication process generally starts with cutting the extruded length, followed by punching, machining, bending or welding.
Extruded aluminum tubing is playing an integral part in the most complex international scientific venture in history. Boeing Company engineers designed an intricate aluminum truss structure to house the International Space Station (ISS) currently weighing in at over 400,000 pounds, measuring 146 feet long, 240 feet wide and 90 feet high. Aluminum extrusions provide the mechanical properties and surface finish needed for this mission-critical application.