On the surface, an aluminum extrusion project can seem overwhelming and even intimidating for a first timer. As a manufacturer of custom, small-scale aluminum extrusions, one of our most important responsibilities is walking the customer through the process and making sure they have the information they need to make educated decisions.
If you are a design engineer who is about to embark on your first aluminum extrusion project, answer these questions to avoid common pitfalls, and start your project on the right track.
1) What Will the Product Look Like?
While a CAD drawing or a physical product sample would be ideal, we’ve worked with clients who provided little more than a sketch on a cocktail napkin. We can also use an old product that you want to replicate or improve.
A drawing or sample will help us determine whether the sizing and weight will work for the desired application. A CAD drawing, for example, would allow us to look at a cross-sectional area, calculate the weight per foot, and determine if a product is too heavy.
Shape, number of holes, wall thickness, thick or thin legs, and other characteristics need to be evaluated to determine if a product is viable. We can identify problem areas and, more importantly, recommend improvements that enable the product to function as it should.
2) Can Your Product be Made with Aluminum?
Our clients will often provide a CAD drawing with stainless steel noted at the bottom. Products intended to be manufactured with stainless steel can also be made with aluminum in many cases, but you should confirm that aluminum will run in a particular die.
For example, the medical industry has shifted from stainless steel to aluminum for stethoscopes because aluminum is light, strong, and less expensive.
If you’re not sure about switching from stainless to aluminum, we can provide the answer.
3) Have You Prematurely Dismissed Your Idea?
Many projects never reach the design phase because the client didn’t think the product could be extruded. Perhaps they didn’t fully understand their options. That’s when our expertise comes into play.
A heat sink engineer once contacted us about manufacturing a comb with 50-60 fins at a width of two inches. We immediately recognized that the design wasn’t extrudable. Instead of bailing on the project, we removed every other fin and scalloped the surfaces, and the product still provided accurate heat transfer.
We have a two-inch press, one of the smallest in the country, while some extrusions can have a circle size of up to 24 inches. We’ve worked with clients who needed larger parts, so we broke them down into smaller parts that could be easily assembled into exactly what the clients wanted.
We’ve made over 24,000 different parts, and every die is a fingerprint. Before you assume something can’t be done, let us see if we can make it happen.
4) Have You Found the Right Partner?
Do you want to find out if you can convert your plastic parts into aluminum? Do you need samples before you run production for the die you purchased? Are you unsure if a seemingly perfect drawing will translate to a great real-world product outside the lab?
Rather than having transactional relationships, our goal is to develop a collaborative partnership with each client to help them understand their options and meet their goals.
If you’re ready to start your first aluminum extrusion project but need a partner you can trust, contact Minalex today.