Just look around you,aluminum extrusions are used in almost every facet of your daily life. From cars to office building structures, to the rail of a staircase, extruded aluminum is all around us. But what is the history of aluminum extrusions? How did this extrusion process start? How has it changed over time and how will it shape the future? Read on to find out.
Origins of extrusion process
Joseph Bramah, the father of aluminum extrusions. Image source
In 1797, Joseph Bramah patented the extrusion process which was first created for manufacturing lead pipes. His process involved preheating metal and manually forcing it through a die with a hand-driven plunger. This manually-powered process, known as ‘squirting’ at the time, was the standard until the invention of the first hydraulic press by Thomas Burr. By the late 19th century, the extrusion process was also used with brass and copper alloys; aluminum would come into the picture in the 20th century.
Aluminum and the extrusion process
First found in 1807, aluminum was not refined successfully until 1825. In the beginning, it was considered a precious metal and even more valuable than gold. At the end of the 19th century, the smelting process was invented by Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult which allowed for commercial production to develop.
Not until 1894 would aluminum be used for extrusion when Alexander Dick developed the hot extrusion process. The process allowed non-ferrous alloys to be extruded and the first aluminum extrusion press was in production by 1904. Immediately, the applications for aluminum in automotive and construction arose. Especially during the two world wars, the demand for extruded aluminum was high. After World War II, the process expanded into the growing residential housing market.
Since then, extruded aluminum has continued to grow in applications and is a part of almost every aspect of life. From subway cars to our own personal cars, construction to medical devices, the material has revolutionized the way we live.
How will aluminum shape the future?
Aluminum extrusion has continued to break new ground. The extrusion process has seen improvements in materials, and through the use of modern testing, expanding and implementing means they can shape the future. With the introduction of the computer, aluminum extrusions can be more precise and accurate, making safer and longer lasting products.
The U.S. aluminum industry is the largest in the world, producing 22 billion pounds of metal annually. Aluminum is resistant to corrosion, strong, lightweight, and recyclable which means it is ideal as the planet moves towards a ‘greener’ future. In order to compete with a globally competitive aluminum market, U.S. producers are seeking ways to reduce waste, lower costs, and enhance overall products.