Aluminum that Looks Like Wood? Powder Coating and Sublimation Create This Effect

Aluminum Extrusions Instead of Wood?

This aluminum stair rail has the appearance of wood.

Aluminum can serve as a replacement for wood in a variety of different projects. Doors, windows, cabinets, and building exteriors can all be given the appearance of wood.

So how do extrusion manufacturers create this pleasant wood effect on their aluminum profiles?

There are two processes, used consecutively, to create the look.

  1. Powder Coating – One of the most common types of aluminum finishes.
  2. Sublimation – Used to imprint patterns after powder coating.

After completing these processes you now have a replacement for wood that gives you all the benefits of aluminum extrusions.

Below we discuss these processes in more detail.

The 2 Processes Used to Create the Wood Effect

As mentioned above, manufacturers put extrusions through two consecutive processes to create the wood texture – powder coating and sublimation.

The First Process: Powder Coating

Aluminum receiving a base coat before curing.

Aluminum receiving a base coat before curing.

The powder coating process can be divided into three steps:

  1. Base Coat – Manufacturers apply a base coat of powder to the aluminum extrusions. The powder is electrostatically charged to enhance adhesion.
  2. Curing – The profiles are placed in a curing oven. Typically they’re kept in the oven for about 10 minutes, at temperatures of around 200 degrees celsius.
  3. Cool Down – The profiles are removed from the curing oven and allowed to cool down. Once they’re fully cooled, it’s time for the sublimation process.

The Second Process: Sublimation

The sublimation process has four primary steps:

  1. Film Wrapping – A film with the decorative pattern (In this case, wood grain) is wrapped around the aluminum profile.
  2. Air Removal – All air is removed from the space between the film and the profile. This way the film stays firm against the coated aluminum.
  3. Curing – Wrapped extrusions are placed into a curing oven. As they heat up, the wood grain pattern gets transferred from the film to the aluminum.
  4. Cool Down – Extrusions are pulled out of the oven and the film is removed. At this point, the pattern has been fully transferred onto the aluminum profiles. They are allowed to cool down.

After powder coating and sublimation, the extrusions can now be shipped.

Incorporating Aluminum Extrusions into Your Project

Aluminum extrusions can be designed as complex interlocking shapes. The wood effect gives them a nice, natural look. Now you can design products that have a nice, natural look and all the benefits of aluminum.

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