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Why Use Aluminum?

T-slotted aluminum extrusion is often used as a replacement for steel, welded steel, or welded aluminum in framing and structural applications. There are many benefits to using t-slotted aluminum extrusion as opposed to these other materials, several of which are discussed below.

Assembling with Aluminum Extrusions

Users of t-slotted aluminum extrusion love how easy it is to assemble. When using t-slotted aluminum extrusion in your application, you can complete your entire project with 1 simple tool – a ball-end T handle Allen wrench. Other materials often require many tools, and in many cases welding equipment, just to do simple assemblies.

 

  • Unlike steel, assembling your aluminum extrusion frame requires absolutely no welding. It can all be done using bolts and t-nuts, and the only tool you’ll need is a T-handle Allen wrench
  • Also unlike welded steel, pieces can be added or adjusted with ease. By loosening the bolts and sliding pieces back and forth within the t-slot, your assembly can be adjusted in seconds.
  • Almost anything can be mounting to your t-slotted aluminum extrusion frame. Using t-nuts that fit in the slot, you can bolt panels, tools, accessories, or other fixtures to your assembly.
  • When building with t-slotted extrusion, any features you can think of can be incorporated into your project. If you have ideas for doors, drawers, casters, feet, or any other features, talk to one of our engineers and they will help you add it to your assembly.

Cost Concerns when building with Aluminum Extrusions

A misconception about t-slotted aluminum extrusion is that it is more expensive than steel tubing. Although it is a more expensive material to extrude compared to steel tubing, it is much less expensive to complete a project with t-slotted aluminum extrusion because of all the time and steps you save while working with aluminum extrusion.

 

  • While it is true that t-slotted aluminum extrusion is typically a more expensive material than steel tubing, the cost you save in labor and assembly makes it a much more affordable option for your project.
  • Steel tubing or framing often requires welding, which is expensive, messy, and labor intensive way to assemble. Aluminum framing only requires bolts, t-nuts, and a simple tool you can find at your local hardware store.
  • Cutting steel and making it presentable can also be expensive. Not only are you cutting to length, but all cuts and machining then need to be deburred and smoothed over, and then your steel needs to be painted. Aluminum extrusion cuts and machines much more easily. Because TSlots aluminum extrusion is sold in clear and black anodized, painting is not required.

The Strength of Aluminum Extrusion

Not only is t-slotted aluminum extrusion strong enough to handle almost any application, but the range and variety of profiles sold as t-slotted aluminum extrusion allow you to choose the best profile for your application. Maybe you are dealing with an application that does not require excessive amounts of strength. You can save money by choosing a smaller profile of t-slotted aluminum extrusion. If you do have a high strength, heavy-duty application, larger profiles are available to provide equivalent strength to any other material you would consider.

 

  • Aluminum is typically thought of to be weaker than steel, but the truth is t-slotted aluminum extrusion has been using in manufacturing for decades in both lightweight and heavy-duty applications.
  • AluFab’s t-slotted extrusion has profiles for every application you can think of. Small profiles to keep your cost low on a lightweight project, standard extrusion that can handle most jobs while offering maximum modularity, and thick, heavy duty extrusion for applications where high-strength material is needed. All these profiles offer the same modularity and ease of assembly that has customers loving t-slotted extrusion.
  • A lot of users think because they’re using aluminum they need to add strength everywhere they can by overdesigning their structure. Many use thicker profiles than necessary, add supports and brackets in places where they are not needed, and spend much more than necessary to accomplish their application. Luckily, the engineers at AluFab have experience using extrusion in all sorts of applications and can use their software to determine how to design your structure to allow for plenty of strength while keeping your cost low.
  • Any structure, whether its steel or aluminum, has the possibility of seeing damage. The beauty of using t-slotted aluminum extrusion is that when damage does occur, the pieces that need replacing can be swapped out and new ones can be swapped out with a few simple turns of an Allen wrench. With steel, the pieces would need to be cut out, new ones would be welded in, and the whole structure repainted.

 Aluminum Extrusion Construction versus Steel Construction comparison table

The following table compares the cost of building a 24 by 24 by 18 inch machine frame with aluminum extrusions vs. steel tubes.

Aluminum Steel
Weight: 20 lbs 33 lbs
Steps:  Design time Design time Set up fixture
Bill of materials Bill of materials Weld
Purchase materials Purchase materials Grind welds, clean spatter
Assemble frame  Cut to length Drill & tap holes
Deburr  Degrease, mask, prime & paint
Materials: 4 – 18 inch extrusions 30.24 4 – 18 inch extrusions 7.96
4 – 21 inch extrusions 35.28 4 – 21 inch extrusions  9.28
8 – saw cuts 14.8 Welding supplies, sandpaper, cleaning supplies, tape, paint 15
8 – inside corner brackets 32.4 5 – hours of labor @ $25/hour
32 – nuts & bolts 18.24
30 – minutes of labor @ $25/hour 12.5 125
Total Cost: $143.46 $ 157.24

 

Tips for building with T-Slotted Aluminum Extrusions

Often the biggest factor holding customers back from making the switch to t-slotted aluminum extrusion is they are unfamiliar with the product.  Once you work with t-slotted aluminum extrusion though, you will not want to use anything else again.  Below are some tips to design and assemble your project when using t-slotted aluminum extrusion.

  • Where possible, the horizontal aluminum extrusion profiles should extend across the entire length of the project. This simplifies connection of the bottom elements and improves the overall appearance.
  • Aluminum Extrusion Structures should be designed to withstand the loads likely to be placed on them. Torsional stress at connection points should be avoided. For all connections, preference should be given to positive locking over friction resistance in the direction of applied force.
  • Where possible, aluminum extrusion profiles should be installed at right angles to the anticipated load to achieve the maximum flexural strength.
  • Avoid breaks in the supporting profile when installing additional attachments. This will mean greater stability, fewer cuts, fewer connections, and reduced assembly time.
  • Extend the aluminum extrusion profiles with the aid of the corresponding fastening elements. Where possible, support them at the joint.
  • If anodized surfaces are mounted in contact with each other, these surfaces should be lubricated to prevent noise generated by friction.
  • If profile-based structures are likely to be exposed to extreme stresses, such as impact loads that might displace the points of attachment, a pin element should be installed to provide additional support.