When designing a machine frame for today’s automation equipment, should you use welded steel or structural aluminum extrusion?
Aluminum extrusion vs. welded steel. There are several advantages to using aluminum extrusion when designing a machine frame:
- Aluminum extrusion is a lightweight and high-strength material. It’s easy to cut and machine.
- It does not require welding and does not require painting.
- Aluminum extrusion is easy to assemble and disassemble which means that design changes are simplified and not as expensive.
Welded steel machine frames are made from less expensive steel, but the advantages tend to end there. Welded steel machine frames are a permanent assembly which requires much more effort to change or disassemble. They require special equipment (and specialized labor) to assemble, including a welder. Welded steel frames require paint and associated cleaning supplies. Steele is susceptible to rust anywhere that the paint is not covering. Over the long term life of the machine, welded steel frames require regular maintenance to prevent degradation.
On the plus side, welded steel survives (no fasteners to come loose) in applications where vibration is severe.
Aluminum Extrusion is Low Maintenance
All of those challenges go away when used structural aluminum. And designing your machine frame is as simple or as complicated as your imagination wants it to be. This is because assembly is so flexible and adaptive to change.
To assemble aluminum extrusion, insert a T-Nut and fastener into a T-Slot of the extrusion and tighten. It’s that simple. No welding or grinding is required. A few simple hand tools is all your need to tighten your design. When done, you have a durable, strong, lightweight structure that’s functional and attractive. The high-strength aluminum profiles have a clear anodize surface that is scratch and corrosion resistant. Your structure never needs painting and is maintenance free.
Most structural extrusions have a 2 degree taper that spring locks fasteners as they are tightened. Therefore, fasteners will not loosen, even under heavy vibration.
Aluminum extrusion machine frames need no welding, no painting (unless you want to), and don’t rust. They don’t require any special tools (or a welder) to assemble. Modifications are easy and attachments can be added and removed easily. Multiple automation manufacturer’s attachments can be utilized because of the standard sizes of T-slots.
Structural aluminum extrusion works well where changes might be needed, like the length of a table, desk or machine base. Accessories include handles, casters, feet and others.
Steel may cost less at the beginning of the project. But in the end, structural aluminum extrusion usually makes for lower overall cost per project. Consider structural aluminum as an alternative for shelving, work stations, carts and other projects where lightweight and design flexibility are needed. – Adam Ring