To those who aren’t familiar with aluminum production and manufacturing, aluminum extrusion may seem like a specialized industrial process. Something that isn’t very relatable to the average person. But we are surrounded by aluminum extrusions every day, at home, at work, and nearly everywhere in between.
The global aluminum extrusion market had a projected value of over USD 90 billion in 2022, with strong growth projections over the next decade. So what is it that makes aluminum extrusions such an important and valuable product? Read on to find out what aluminum extrusions have to offer and how common they are in our daily lives.
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The Benefits of Aluminum Extrusions
Aluminum is a cost-effective and versatile metal used for an enormous number of environments and industries. Everything from household consumer products to advanced aerospace assemblies are made of aluminum. Aluminum also offers very high formability, making it easy and relatively inexpensive to shape, even into complex geometries.
When the benefits of aluminum as a material are combined with forming through the extrusion process, the result is an unmatched combination of advantages:
- Strong, tough, and lightweight – Aluminum parts might not be quite as strong as ones made of steel, but they weigh much less. This excellent strength-to-weight ratio makes it easier to handle or support aluminum products without a significant decrease in performance for many applications.
- Corrosion resistant – In the outdoors, marine environments, humid or frequently wet surfaces, and any other application that could involve water, good corrosion resistance is essential. Aluminum’s naturally-forming passivation layer and options for high-performance finishes make it highly resistant to corrosion.
- High thermal conductivity – Rapidly conducting heat is a useful property that makes aluminum useful for cookware, extruded heat sinks, and even emergency fire management when there are large enough structures. Sufficiently long extrusions can conduct heat away from the fire to help manage temperatures.
- High electrical conductivity – Aluminum is an excellent choice for extruded wires and cables that range from small electronics to high-voltage transmission wires.
- Cost and formability – Extrusion is a fast, efficient process for creating long profiles of both simple and complex shapes. Aluminum can be a cost-effective alternative to more expensive materials like copper or titanium, and the low fabrication cost of extrusions makes them an easy choice for product designers everywhere.
- Accepts surface finishes – Extrusions lend themselves to various aluminum surface finishes that can enhance their cosmetic appearance, corrosion resistance, or other characteristics. For example, they can be anodized in different colors for decorative use or powder coated for a thicker finish.
Common Uses for Aluminum Extrusions
Aluminum extrusions come with an impressive combination of properties that make them ideal for a wide range of applications. We’ve created a list of popular examples from four of the biggest industry sectors to give you an idea of all the places you can already find aluminum extrusions.
Construction and architecture
The building and construction industry currently utilizes the largest share of extruded aluminum products, and for good reason. Architectural elements like large engineered skylights and canopies need strong, but lightweight structural members.
Roofing, fencing, and pretty much anything exposed to the outdoors needs to have excellent corrosion resistance, and may need additional finishing options like anodizing. And the assembly of prefabricated components on a work site needs to be fast, visually appealing, and sometimes even adjustable.
All of these needs in a variety of shapes can be met with well-designed aluminum extrusions at a reasonable cost. This is why aluminum extrusions are a great choice for creating stunning and durable structures in the construction and architecture sector.
Automotive and transportation
One of the biggest factors driving automotive makers towards aluminum products is reducing vehicle weights to help improve efficiency. Vehicle cross members, subframes, trim, and accessories can all be made efficiently from extruded aluminum to lower weight while maintaining strength. This is the same reason for choosing aluminum extrusions for a growing number of components on buses, utility trailers, off road vehicles, and even aircraft.
The corrosion resistance of aluminum is useful for improving the durability of any transport exposed to the outdoors but is especially useful in marine environments, including boats and docks. Aluminum extrusions can even be used to make lightweight battery boxes for electric vehicles (EVs) that help regulate battery temperature.
Electrical and electronics
Aside from beautiful finishes on consumer electronics and appliances, extruded aluminum can be easily formed to make electrical enclosures and cases. Its main value to the electrical and electronics sector though comes from its high thermal and electrical conductivity at a much lower cost and weight than copper. Aluminum extrusion is a popular method for making heat sinks that keep electronics from overheating, and aluminum wires are common for both high-voltage transmission lines and smaller-scale wiring.
While consumer products make up a smaller market than the other listed areas, aluminum extrusions are still a popular choice in this sector. Consumer products can cover a wide range of applications, so aluminum extrusions are typically chosen for their unique combination of properties while maintaining a low cost to produce. Camping chairs, baseball bats, golf clubs, bicycles, cookware, furniture pieces, beverage cans, and much more are commonly made from extruded aluminum.
Is Extruded Aluminum Right for Your Project?
Aluminum extrusions offer designers a wide range of benefits. They make durable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing products at a reasonable cost. If you want to learn more about how these products are made, continue reading about the aluminum extrusion process on our blog and find out if this process is right for you.