Post Extrusion Operations: Treatments for Aluminum Products

surface-treatmentsWhile aluminum is the most abundant metal in the world, it is still second in usage only to iron. Iron has been used much longer than aluminum in industry, but the natural properties of aluminum and it’s ability to be strengthened and used in so many ways are making it more attractive to new industries than ever before.

The basic properties, such as lightweight, high strength, extreme malleability, natural corrosion resistance, electrical and thermal conductivity, as well as easy machining, are just some of the reasons why it has become so popular. The sustainability of aluminum is also very attractive, particularly for the construction industries where sustainable architecture and LEED certification have become the mark of a good modern designer.

Reasons for Adding Surface Treatment

Before any treatments are added to any of the custom or standard extrusions that are made, both the appearance and the anti-corrosive properties of the surface for extruded aluminum is already much greater than other metals. Surface treatment is rarely required solely as a means of providing protection against corrosion, so many manufacturers choose to use finishing for more aesthetic reasons.

Some of those reasons include adding color, texture, to increase the natural corrosion resistance and hardness, to improve resistance to normal wear and tear, to mask or increase reflectivity and to increase electrical insulation. Some extrusions, such as load-bearing structures and machine parts. In these instances, the surface quality is usually just fine as-is without adding any extra treatments or finishing based post extrusion operations.

Starting at the Beginning: Profile Design

The profile, or die as it is also called, can be of a standard design to create standard extrusions that are used by many clients, such as bars, angles and solid or hollow aluminum tubes. Custom designs can also be created and are used by many different industries to create things that we use each every day, such as traditional aluminum frames for doors and windows. The profile design that is chosen will also have an impact on the type of finishing that is done or that is required in order to yield the desired results.

For example, any lines or stripes created during the extrusion process would be noticeable on visible surfaces, but they can be easily hidden, if desired. However, some clients create these lines with a purpose in mind to be a part of the decoration for the finished product or as an integral part of the solution that is added or created at the design phase of the project. The flexibility of aluminum as a material and the additional options that are made possible through the extrusion process and various post extrusion operations allow just about any design, shape, size and texture to be created in our one stop shop facility.

Different Types of Surface Treatments

When it comes to adding post extrusion operations and finishing to custom or standard extrusions, there are a lot of choices available. Whether you are creating basic hollow aluminum tubes or extremely unique shapes with your profiles, there are still a lot of options available for how you want the finished product to look. Even with traditional aluminum frames, doors and window manufacturers have made some pretty major advances in how these designs are created, making their products even more efficient for residential and commercial use by end-users.

  • Mechanical – Grinding, polishing and tumbling or barrel polishing are the most common mechanically based surface treatments used with custom and standard extrusions based upon the client’s specific needs. Grinding helps to improve surface quality and is also used frequently before painting. Polishing helps to smooth the surface, allowing for a wide range of quality and gloss. It is sometimes followed by anodizing. Tumbling, which is also known as barrel polishing, is mainly used for deburring to remove tiny bits of metal that may have been left behind after post extrusion operations. However, surfaces can be improved through this process, providing a finished product that ranges between a matte or floss finish.
  • Anodizing – One of the more popular treatments chosen by clients for many different purposes, anodizing provides many benefits to custom and standard extrusions. Some of those benefits include enhancing the natural corrosion resistance, creating a dirt-repellent surface to improve hygiene, creating a decorative surface, keep the product looking brand-new, improve the quality of the “touch” of the surface, creating slip surfaces and much more. It can also be used to enhance electrical insulation and provides a clean base for the application of printing inks or adhesives.
  • Painting – Clients who choose to paint their custom or standard extrusions after any other post extrusion operations can choose from an unlimited variety of colors. A pre-treatment process is used to ensure that the paint sticks evenly and effectively to the product. The paint helps to protect the product from corrosion and other typical wear and tear throughout its life.
  • Powder Coating – One of the most popular types of surface treatments used today, powder coating provides an unlimited choice of colors and the method used to apply it has a very low environmental impact, making it a great option for low impact projects. Powder coating is approved for outdoor use and has a good resistance to corrosion and UV exposure.

Choose the Best Surface Treatment for Your Products

If you aren’t sure which surface treatment or methods are best for your custom or standard extrusions, Silver City Aluminum can help. Whether you are creating basic hollow aluminum tubes or complex traditional aluminum frames, our wide selection of post extrusion operations and attention to detail can help you create incredible results. Give us a call at 508-824-8631 to start designing your custom parts and products today or use our online contact form to submit your order.