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Thread: Prototype Aluminum extrusions- best in-house production method

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    Prototype Aluminum extrusions- best in-house production method

    Hello.
    We make a lot of products with aluminum extrusions and we're looking at a way to make prototypes in-house without having an extrusion die cut. I'm reaching out to see if anyone has experience or best recommendations. We would like the material to be 6061-T6 aluminum, but the structural properties are more critical. Currently, we are printing with an FDM 3D Printer and they're not strong enough. Thin walls around 0.040'', length of 6'' minimum, but expandable to 8ft would be ideal. Most of our profiles fit within 6'' diameter. Having smooth walls is fairly critical for fit and function. Obviously i'd like to avoid a lot of post processing. I know i'm asking for a golden goose, but your best recommendation would be appreciated.

    Options I've considered:
    • lost wax casting using 3D printed master
    • resin cast using 3D printed master
    • use waterjet to cut profile sections then glue together using a jig and alignment pin
    • CNC milling


    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Just how complex are these extrusions? Can you combine (spot weld, etc.) off-the-shelf extrusion shapes to simulate the geometry?

    Also, why would the extrusion need be unique - (yup, I have to ask)...
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    We make windows and doors, so our extrusions are fairly complex compared to something like 80-20 or basic structural components. The visible parts of our products are extrusions so there's a lot of design changes there as well as engineering changes that happen on the inside. We cut dozens of extrusion dies a year due to design changes and basic needs like prototype extrusions. The extrusions need to be unique because our products contain 100% proprietary extrusion profiles and extrusions are a large part of our business. I've attached an image of similarly complex profiles I found online.

    pl14468313-custom_aluminium_window_extrusion_profiles_aluminum_door_extrusionsfor_sliding_window.jpg

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    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Wire EDM would get you the geometry with the wall thicknesses you need however limited in effective lengths.

    https://www.engineersedge.com/edm.shtml
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    That's a good suggestion. Does anyone have an estimate of what depth of 6061-T6 aluminum can be cut with a 0.010 wire? Thank you. Cost is a concern, but if it saves on labor, there are cumulative benefits there.

  6. #6
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lthompson View Post
    That's a good suggestion. Does anyone have an estimate of what depth of 6061-T6 aluminum can be cut with a 0.010 wire? Thank you. Cost is a concern, but if it saves on labor, there are cumulative benefits there.
    So, there's no contact between the wire and the part I suspect wire diameter is mostly about speed. I've personally seen a 64" wire EDM produced part with internal features. I believe RAM EDM can create very long external features on parts and have heard up to 120" (10').

    Note the surface Ra specified rough gets you a faster-cheaper part though I know Ra of 16 is very possible.

    Shop around - let us know what you find please don't post link to job shopper.
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    I called some EDM manufacturers and distributors and they say a machine that can cut 16'' thick aluminum will cost 175-200k. I was hoping for 1/10 that cost at a full 8 ft long. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

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