Everyone knows the classic scenario. You have a great idea for a project, but, figuring out the material can create design and assembly nightmares to get things right. Thankfully, aluminum extrusion has been re-writing that scary story, making the design, engineering, and assembly of your projects a dream! This step-by-step guide will show you how to get the most out of this versatile material to help you build your perfect project.
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What is Aluminum Extrusion?
Think about a tube of toothpaste. When you apply pressure, toothpaste gets forced out of the opening. Well, the process of creating aluminum extrusion is pretty much the same philosophy, just applied to aluminum instead of toothpaste. The die the aluminum is forced through creates different cross-sectional profiles, much like how the opening of the tube makes toothpaste round. Solid, hollow, or semi-hollow faces can be extruded, and at many different thicknesses and dimensions. When we talk about aluminum extrusion in this article, we'll be focusing on T-slot profiled aluminum extrusion. It is the most common, which makes the pieces interchangeable with strong slotted connections that screw together.
Why Use Aluminum Extrusion?
It's a fair question, but an easily answered one. Aluminum extrusion has three main benefits that make it one of the easiest materials to work with.
- The first benefit is that the material itself is strong, clean, and has a modern aesthetic. The industrial look is in, and aluminum profiles can be made as strong as necessary for each design while staying lightweight. It is also corrosion-resistant, making it viable in different environments and climates, and can even be rated for clean rooms.
- The second is how easy it is to assemble and disassemble. Putting framework together takes minutes, and is as simple as inserting connectors into the T-slot and tightening, all using basic hand tools. The connections are strong but non-permanent, so no welding is needed. Join the materials at any place, any time, and save the giant construction mess for somebody else.
- Lastly, aluminum extrusion is versatile and modifiable. There are many profiles, shapes, and sizes that all work with the t-slot design framework, along with an extensive library of handles, casters, plates, brackets, gussets, and more. These components can fit together in any way you choose, both large architectural projects and small custom projects. Also, because the framing connections are modular, projects can easily be taken apart and customized to fit the next one, all without wasting material. Say you've built a workstation that is a bit too tall. The fix is as simple as loosening some screws, adjusting the height, and re-tightening. Extra holes can also be drilled for further customization.
Ready to Get Started With Aluminum Extrusion? Follow Our Three-Step Process:
Step 1: Design
The first step to any project is nailing down the design using the right software for your project. Some engineers may prefer building in the software of their choosing, especially when the project is larger or more intricate. But if you're looking for software, we recommend Rexroth’s MTpro or MTpro light. This software includes a Rexroth layout designer which allows you to virtually assemble the framing project in a 3D scene, with or without generating a CAD model. Also, MTpro allows you to access product information, exact framing profiles, lengths, finishes, and the accessories needed for your project to make ordering a breeze.
Software is downloadable on Rexroth’s Website:
- MTpro light (free) – Layout designer without CAD
- MTpro – Layout Designer, Product Information, Spare Parts Catalog, Cad generation and upload
I really do mean that you can build virtually anything with aluminum extrusion, but designing everything isn't always easy. Airline Hydraulics team of engineers have been working with this material for years and know how to get the most out of it. Let the experts know your design questions, they'd be happy to help bring your ideas to life.
Step Two: Prepare Materials
So you nailed your design, I knew you had it in you! Now, we need to prepare your materials. Aluminum extrusion can be bought in a few different ways, but how you choose to buy it really comes down to your capabilities to cut and machine your materials.
If you have the proper equipment to cut, drill, and machine aluminum extrusion, you can order unmodified aluminum extrusion in its full length either as a bundle or by the stick in its original length without end finishing. Then you can supply your team with a list of lengths and machine end finishes to fabricate your perfect project solution yourself.
If you don't have a shop where you can cut and fabricate material lengths, holes, and end finishes, you have Airline provide materials that are already finished. Just choose your extrusion, its length cut to the millimeter or inch, and choose machine end finishes. These machine end finishes include custom hole drilling, thread tapping, miter cutting, milling, and more.
You can event request a kit option, where the entire project will come ready to assemble, right out of the box!
You can easily order aluminum extrusion and connector pieces online at airlinehyd.com. And if you need cut-to-length, end machining, kitted materials, or anything else custom to your project, contact us for fast service.
Step 3: Assembly
With materials sourced and prepared, you’re ready for assembly! Aluminum framing is easy and enjoyable to work with because projects can be built with speed and efficiency. In many ways, It’s like an adult lego set, just follow the instructions and enjoy!
The T-slot design allows things to be bolted together instead of being welded, nailed, or permanently fixed, which is great for easy reconfiguration and makes reusing materials simpler and more cost-effective than ever. What's even nicer is if you bought a kit, the worksite is so clean and efficient with everything ready to assemble. Basic hand tools can bolt everything together, so say goodbye to harsh welding and disruptive project sites.
For large orders, Airline can pre-assemble the entire project at our location, make sure everything is perfect and provide a walkthrough for any final tweaks, then break it down and re-assemble it at the final site. This is ideal for ergonomic work cells, pop-up structures, and automated manufacturing lines. Smaller projects like safety enclosures, displays, carts, and architectural applications can be built and shipped as well.
Want to learn more? Watch this video!
This video covers most of the topics in this post for our visually inclined learners.
Aluminum extrusion's strength, modularity, ease of use, and eco-friendliness really do allow you to build anything. It's likely the perfect material for your next project, big or small.
If you need help with any of these steps to build anything, Airline Hydraulics Corporation is able to assist with or fully complete the design, material prep, and installation. Please, don’t hesitate to ask your Airline Rep. or contact us for assistance with ordering or customizing an order.
Airline has the ability to design and ship projects across North America and can offer extra accessories like lighting, sensors, conveyors, and customized shelving. We want to help bring your projects to life.
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Resources and Information:
- Aluminum Structural Framing Guide
- Shop Structural Framing
- MTpro and MTpro light (free) software downloads
- Technically Speaking - Airline Hydraulics Corporation Blog
- Airline Hydraulics YouTube Channel
Ask your Airline Rep. or contact us for assistance with ordering or customizing an order.