Extruded Aluminum Profiles – Uses and Design Tips
T-slot extruded aluminum profiles are an affordable material for creating almost any frame or structure. The slot holds a nut and prevents it turning while at the same time letting it slide along the length. This enables assembly to brackets, gussets and other lengths of extruded profile.
Using extruded aluminum profiles is faster than having a frame fabricated and far more flexible. Making changes entails nothing more than undoing fasteners and replacing lengths of extrusion. What’s more, as aluminum is naturally corrosion-resistant there’s no need for painting or any other kind of coating.
The biggest challenges with using this type of profile are knowing how to use it, and understanding what it’s capable of. Here’s some advice and suggestions.
Applications for T-slot Extruded Aluminum Profile
This material is used extensively in industrial and commercial environments. The main application categories are:
- Machine guards and enclosures
- Machine and material handling system structures – gantries and other linear motion systems
- Test stations and cells
- Workbenches and tables
- Storage equipment
- Displays and signage
The reality, there’s no limit to what can be made with extruded aluminum profiles. However, to achieve the longest life and highest levels of performance it helps to follow some design principles.
Design Tips for Using T-slot Aluminum
1. Pick the right profile for the load and application
Extruded profile is produced in both inch and metric formats. The difference is in the fasteners and the cross-section of the profile itself. Metric profile is available in a wide range of styles and with more accessories, but you might choose inch if you need compatibility with existing frames and inventory.
A larger cross-section provides more bending strength and resistance to torsion, but also weighs more. Consider rectangular profile if you need higher bending resistance in a single direction only.
IPS sells profile in three weights. These are L8 for heavy-duty applications, L6, the mid-range profile, and L5 for light duty usage. Heavy-duty profile weighs more per linear foot but is stronger and uses larger diameter fasteners.
2. For linear motion systems, go heavy
Gantries and slides are excellent applications for extruded aluminum profiles, but the loads and vibration can take a toll. When designing a structure for any system with motion, go with heavy-duty L8 profile. It has increased resistance to bending and twisting and the larger fasteners can be tightened to a higher torque.
3. Avoid using friction joints
When joining two pieces in a right angle, typically at the top of a frame, arrange them so the load is transmitted down through the upright. This creates a stronger joint than is achieved with friction alone (even with large fasteners tightened to a high torque.)
4. Know what accessories are available
Whether you need feet, wheels, hinges, handles or other accessories, IPS carries an extensive range. Review what’s available before finalizing your design as the options these create may suggest some improvements.
When designing hard guarding, use an extruded aluminum profile variant called “clamp profile”. This is intended specifically for such applications. The clamp mechanism holds solid or clear filler panels and wire mesh securely, helping protect fingers and eyes from mechanisms, pinch points and flying debris.
5. Take advantage of no-cost engineering services
While designing extruded profile structures is straightforward, for those short of time or lacking an engineering background it makes sense to offload the job to an expert. IPS offers a no-cost engineering service to produce a list of the parts needed. Review this at your leisure, and of order a kit of parts when you’re ready. Contact us to learn more.