When choosing between steel and aluminum framing, you'll want to consider such factors as vibration, permanency of the structure, and the future modifications of the structure.
Are you on the fence about choosing between steel or aluminum framing for your machine? Despite the many presentations, articles, and forums that provide helpful pieces of information for engineers approaching this fork in the design road, sometimes it's a good idea to take advice from a trusted partner.
I wrote about this subject on the Parker IPS blog. Some of the fundamental decisions involve selecting the type of material needed to build the actual machine; how to enclose or guard the machine; or possibly determining how modular you want to make the machine. Typically, the material selection comes down to two choices: aluminum (t-slot framing) or steel structural framing.
Something important to consider when choosing between steel or aluminum framing is the total machine cost. Let’s take a few moments to focus on some of the aspects of the total machine cost for aluminum and steel structural framing.
Total machine cost
If you are examining material cost per pound data, then steel structural framing will look very appealing. Aluminum structural framing, per pound, will cost more due to the raw material costs, but let’s consider a few more factors. Although steel structural framing is about 2.5 times denser and is certainly suited for high vibration or heavy load applications, aluminum structural framing can be considered a cost-saving material for several reasons.
Aluminum maintenance savings
- It's easy to replace a component in an aluminum structural framing system, specifically a t-slot aluminum framed system
- Inexpensive assembly tools (Allen wrench, screwdriver and, possibly, a mallet)
- Time is money - you'll complete a t-slot aluminum structural framing design faster than a welded steel design
Aluminum weighs roughly 33% less than steel
- Reduced processing
- Lower assembly cost
- Cost-effective tooling
- Easier modifications
Aluminum sustainability and longer life
- Lighter loads require smaller motors and mechanics
- Longer life and sustainability - More than 75% of the aluminum produced since 1888 is still in productive use today (Source: http://recycling.world-aluminium.org)
These are just some of the value drivers to consider when making a decision on the type of material to use in your structural framing, viewed through the lens of total machine cost. Use this knowledge to your advantage and, before you begin your next project, download our structural framing design checklist.
Mario Mitchell is product manager for IPS T-Slot Aluminum Framing, Electromechanical & Drives Division, Parker Hannifin Corporation