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Aluminum extrusion is a general metal forming process in which the machine guides aluminum through a molded opening in a die. The result of this process is a long narrow piece of aluminum presenting the shape of the mold. The extrusion process allows the creation of a wide range of complex and customized metal shapes. Especially concerning aluminum, extrusions give a blend of strength, low weight, and geometric features that are both functional and attractive to the eye. Aluminum extrusions are commonly used in assemblies where portions are exposed on the outside of a product for aesthetics. Naturally corrosion resistant and with some versatile surface treatment options available, aluminum extrusions are used in a wide range of areas.
Aluminum extrusion processes
Aluminum Extrusion Alloys
The aluminum extrusion process is greatly heat dependent. Monitoring temperatures from beginning to end is critical to ensuring aluminum alloy properties such as tensile and yield strengths, as well as affecting the final finish of the part.
The aluminum extrusion process begins by heating the billets or logs to 400-480°C (750-900°F). The aluminum alloy is still solid but malleable. It does not glow when heated; aluminum looks the same whether hot or cold. The heated aluminum billet is transferred to the press container. Pressure is applied to the billet by a hydraulic ram forcing the aluminum to fill the container. The pressure inside the container increases, forcing the aluminum alloy through the opening(s) in the aluminum extrusion die. The result is a long length of consistently shaped aluminum, the aluminum extrusion, emerging from the other side of the die. With the aid of the puller the extrusion extends along the run-out table. As the aluminum extrusion emerges from the die, the temperature is in the range of 510-550°C. Cooling the aluminum extrusion is assisted by the use of fans and/or water spray or a full water quench. The final heating step is to artificially age the aluminum extrusions to bring them to the required hardness. Aged material is ready to move on for additional processing such as fabrication and/or finishing.
The aforementioned processes can be summarized as the following five steps:
Billet preheating: the billet is cut to the desired length based on the product specifications. The billet is then moved to a tunnel heater.
Extrusion: after heating, the billet is coated with a lubricant to prevent sticking. It is then placed into a cradle.
Cooling: the extruded pieces are then cooled for the stretching process.
Stretching and cutting: a gripper stretches the piece to ensure it is straight and then the stretched pieces are cut to custom lengths.
Aging: the pieces are then aged by heating in order to harden the aluminum.
High-performance aluminum alloys made from powder have long been used in lightweight components for specialized aerospace applications or automotive industry.
A typical extrusion process for aluminum alloy powders is energy- and process-intensive, requiring multiple steps to mass produce the material. First, the loose powder must be loaded into a can and gases removed using a vacuum, which is called “degassing.” The can is then sealed, hot pressed, pre-heated, and placed into the extrusion press. After extrusion, the can is removed to reveal the extruded part made from consolidated powder.
Extruded aluminum products can be found in transportation, electronics, automotive, renewable energy, construction, and telecommunications fields, among many others.
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