Aluminum Extrusions: Shaping the Future, One Shape at a Time

What is Aluminum Extrusion?

Imagine squeezing Play-Doh through a cookie cutter – that’s essentially the process of aluminum extrusion! Molten aluminum, heated to a specific temperature, is forced through a specially designed mold (called a die) to create long, solid shapes with specific cross-sections.

These shapes can be simple, like rectangular bars, or complex, incorporating grooves, channels, and even holes. Just like Play-Doh, the final shape is determined by the mold it passes through.

What Are Aluminum Extrusion Used For?

The applications of aluminum extrusions are vast and extend across numerous industries:


Cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes all utilize aluminum extrusions in various components, from lightweight frames and panels to engine blocks and radiator housings.


Building facades, window frames, railings, and even some structural elements often rely on aluminum extrusions for their strength, durability, and weather resistance.


Due to their excellent heat conductivity, aluminum extrusions are used as heat sinks in computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices to dissipate heat and prevent overheating.


Trade show booths, display cabinets, and point-of-sale displays often utilize aluminum extrusions due to their lightweight yet sturdy structure, ease of assembly, and ability to be finished in various colors and styles.

Furniture & Appliances

From chair frames and appliance housings to cabinet doors and light fixtures, the versatility and aesthetics of aluminum extrusions make them a popular choice for furniture and appliance manufacturers.

Medical Equipment

Medical equipment like wheelchairs, crutches, and hospital beds often incorporate aluminum extrusions due to their lightweight strength, corrosion resistance, and ease of cleaning and sterilization.

Sporting Goods

Bicycles, kayaks, and even sports equipment like baseball bats and lacrosse shafts utilize aluminum extrusions for their lightweight construction and ability to withstand impact and stress.

Different Types of Aluminum Extrusion

Aluminum extrusions can be broadly categorized into two main types based on their complexity:

Standard Extrusions

These are readily available in various pre-defined shapes like corners, squares, rounds, T’s, U’s, and Z’s. They come in a wide range of sizes and lengths, making them a cost-effective option for common applications.

Custom Extrusions 

These are intricate shapes designed to meet specific project requirements. They require unique dies to be created, making them more expensive than standard extrusions. However, they offer greater design flexibility for unique applications.

Beyond the two main types, extrusions can be further classified based on their cross-sectional profile.

Solid Extrusions 

These have a solid core throughout their entire cross-section, offering maximum strength and rigidity. Examples include bars, rods, and angles.

Hollow Extrusions 

These have a hollow core, making them lighter while maintaining good structural integrity. Examples include tubes, channels, and beams.

Semi-Hollow Extrusions

These have a partially hollow core, offering a balance between weight and strength. An example is a T-shaped profile.

What Kinds of Shapes Can Be Extruded?

The beauty of aluminum extrusions lies in their remarkable versatility regarding achievable shapes. Here’s an overview of the possibilities:

Simple Shapes: Squares, rectangles, circles, rounds, angles, T’s, U’s, Z’s.

Complex Shapes: Intricate profiles with curves, grooves, channels, slots, and other features.

Combined Shapes: Profiles incorporating multiple elements like T-slots, dovetails, and interlocking features.

Thin-Walled Shapes: Profiles with very thin walls, ideal for applications requiring lightweight design.

Large and Complex Shapes: Extrusions can be quite large depending on the die size and press capacity, making them suitable for various structural applications.

How Does the Aluminum Extrusion Process Work?

The aluminum extrusion process involves several key steps:

1. Billet Preparation: An aluminum billet, a large cylindrical or rectangular piece of aluminum alloy, is preheated to a specific temperature (around 300-500°C) to enhance its malleability.

2. Die Positioning: The heated billet is placed in a container and positioned against a die with the desired cross-sectional shape.

3. Ram Extrusion: A powerful hydraulic ram pushes the softened aluminum billet through the die opening, forcing it to take the shape of the die cavity.

4. Extrudate Formation: The extruded aluminum emerges from the die as a continuous profile, called the extrudate.

5. Quenching and Cooling: The extrudate is rapidly cooled with water or air to solidify the aluminum and quickly lock in its desired properties.

6. Straightening and Cutting: The cooled extrudate may be straightened to ensure a straight profile and then cut into desired lengths.

7. Finishing (Optional): The extrusions may undergo additional finishing processes like anodizing, painting, or powder coating for enhanced aesthetics, corrosion resistance, or other functional properties.

Why Choose Aluminum Extrusion?

Wide Variety of Shapes: 

Unlike traditional metalworking methods like casting or machining, which can be limited in their ability to create complex shapes, aluminum extrusion offers unmatched design flexibility. From simple tubes and channels to intricate profiles with integrated slots and flanges, aluminum extrusions can be customized to meet almost any application’s specific needs.

This allows manufacturers to create unique and functional components that may be difficult or impossible to achieve with other methods. For example, a single extruded profile can replace several individual components, simplifying assembly and reducing production costs.



Aluminum extrusions offer a cost-competitive advantage compared to other metal shaping methods. While custom extrusions require upfront costs for die creation, these costs can be offset by the efficiency and reduced waste associated with the process.

Additionally, pre-made (stock) aluminum extrusions, available in various standard shapes and sizes, offer an even more economical option for projects requiring readily available profiles. This makes them a budget-friendly choice for various applications, from high-volume industrial components to small-scale DIY projects.


Lightweight and Strong:

Aluminum is naturally lightweight compared to other commonly used metals like steel. This lightness, combined with its impressive strength, makes aluminum extrusions ideal for applications where weight reduction is crucial.

For example, aluminum extrusions are extensively used in car frames, airplane wings, and ship hulls in the transportation industry. By replacing heavier materials with aluminum extrusions, manufacturers can significantly reduce vehicle weight, improve fuel efficiency, increase payload capacity, and better overall performance.

Durable and Resistant:

Aluminum naturally forms a thin oxide layer on its surface, providing excellent corrosion resistance without additional coatings. This inherent characteristic makes aluminum extrusions ideal for applications exposed to harsh environments, such as outdoor use, marine environments, and chemical processing facilities.

They can withstand exposure to rain, saltwater, and various chemicals without rusting or deteriorating, ensuring long-lasting performance and minimal maintenance requirements.

Easy to Work With:

Aluminum extrusions are highly versatile and can be easily cut, welded, drilled, and machined using standard metalworking tools and techniques. This allows for further customization and modification of the extrusions to meet specific needs and integrate seamlessly into different assemblies.

Additionally, aluminum extrusions can be painted, anodized, and finished in various ways to achieve desired aesthetics and functionality, making them suitable for structural and decorative applications.

The takeaway?

Aluminum extrusions are a versatile, cost-effective, and highly customizable solution for creating unique shapes for various applications. Their lightweight strength, durability, and ease of use make them a popular choice for businesses and manufacturers across numerous industries, shaping the future of design and functionality in countless ways.