While raw aluminum extrusions do have some value on their own, most extrusions only become beneficial through a finishing process. There are three main processes that transform a raw piece of aluminum into a final product:
- Forming: Such as tubular hydroforming, stamping, and bending
- Machining: Such as drilling and tapping, punching, automated deburring and sanding, fully-integrated prototyping, and production CNC machining
- Finishing: Such as superior powder coating and brushing/polishing
Finishing is particularly important, because it improves the look, feel, and even durability of the metal itself. These processes can turn a piece of raw aluminum into a brushed copper handle or hammered nickel trim. Finishing significantly increases the ROI of aluminum extrusions by offering a superior aesthetic appearance, corrosion and temperature resistance, and coatings compliant with alkaline testing requirements, all of which appeal to both manufacturers and their end customers.
Here are eight value-adding enhancements for aluminum extrusions via finishing techniques:
A monochrome product that has the same color and texture isn’t visually appealing to style-savvy consumers. Extrusion finishing transforms dull aluminum to mimic a wide array of metals, from hammered bronze to bright chrome. Indeed, without finishing, aluminum extrusions would all look extremely similar.
Texture & Feel
Texture isn’t just visual; it’s also tactile. This is especially important for certain parts that consumers need to touch on a regular basis, such as a refrigerator door handle. There’s also a safety component to aluminum extrusion finishing, since it can be used to add grip to a usually smooth metal, such as a shower safety grab. Thus, finishing can improve the function of the metal as well as its appearance.
Speaking of functions, finishing can also be used to tweak the shape of the aluminum extrusion through blasting, sanding, grinding, combing, and other mechanical processes. Extrusions can be simple, but it’s possible to achieve almost any shape through these processes to fulfill every client’s needs.
Branding or Logos
Adding your logo or some other type of branding to your product is a great way to subtly remind users of your company as they interact with your products. Finishing is a cost-effective way to incorporate a logo or other chosen branding into aluminum extrusions.
Sometimes you have two aluminum components that you need to combine into one piece. That’s where aluminum extrusion finishing comes in. When combined with metalforming and machining techniques, finishing can take two extrusions and combine them into one piece — adding value and reducing waste by turning them into a single usable component.
One cubic inch of aluminum weighs only 0.1 pounds, essentially as much as plastic. This is far less than many other metals, including stainless steel at 0.29 pounds, brass at 0.3 pounds, and copper at 0.32 pounds. Using aluminum extrusions will save a considerable amount of weight compared to other metals, which will in turn save on shipping and transportation costs.
Aluminum is also less expensive than many other metals, and not just because it saves on shipping costs. While the exact prices of metal vary according to the global market, aluminum is by far one of the cheaper metals, usually hovering between 80 and 90 cents per pound (over the past six months) for the raw material. Using aluminum for extrusions in lieu of other metals will also save manufacturers money up front on materials costs.
Form & Function
Anodization is a technique used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on metal surfaces. In a nutshell, anodization is achieved by placing a piece of aluminum in an electrolytic bath and running a current through it using a cathode. Anodization has several benefits. For one, building up the aluminum’s oxide layer significantly increases its corrosion resistance. Anodization can also be used to add many different colors to aluminum, including other metal tones, and more unusual hues like red, green, and blue.
From better aesthetics to anodization, full-service manufacturers like Mills Products offer many different finishing techniques to improve the look and function of your aluminum extrusions.
You can learn more about how turnkey metalforming and finishing can breathe new life into your raw extrusions in our new whitepaper, Turn Commodity Into Value: The ROI of Transforming Raw Extrusions Into Finished Parts.
If you’re looking for a partner to help you improve extrusion ROI or want to learn more about our finishing capabilities and expertise, please contact us today.