Designing for Simplicity with Aluminum Extrusions

For product designers, KISS— “keep it simple, stupid”—is a well-known rule of thumb. As a design principal, it’s about making products simple and easy to understand to appeal to users. When it comes to designing for manufacturability, the simplicity principal still applies, particularly when designing aluminum extrusion profiles.

Complicated product designs and configurations produce complex development requirements. In turn, complex requirements often mean more steps and hands are involved in manufacturing a product. This often increases its overall cost and the chance for quality issues. Here are five ways designing with aluminum extrusions can simplify your product design:

  1. Eliminate or Reduce Machining

Elegantly simple designs—those with the fewest parts, interfaces, and process steps— result in fundamentally high-quality products that cost less to make. For example, an aluminum extrusion part originally designed to require machining could, with a minor design modification, be produced using a punch die to get the same end result. The part now uses a less expensive fabrication method resulting in lower cost and faster production time.

  1. Reduce Part Count

Designers can also create complex shapes with extruded aluminum to reduce part count and combine functions saving on production and overall product life cycle costs. For example, a single extruded profile can replace rolled shapes riveted together, resulting in higher strength while eliminating joining costs.

  1. Eliminate Secondary Operations

Aluminum profiles produced in near net shape can incorporate holes, slots, or screw bosses into the shape, eliminating much of secondary operations (see image below). Although the individual cost of the extrusion could be higher than a simple formed sheet steel part, the overall system parts are often significantly lower. A designed extrusion can also eliminate welded assemblies, reducing cost while increasing strength and accuracy.

  1. Tailor Metal Placement

Using aluminum extrusions is also an economical way for designers to create parts with individually engineered shapes. This versatility allows designers to place metal only where it is structurally needed and hollow out parts for greater functionality and economy. Keeping the extrusion simple in this way allows extrusion to be tailored to concentrate or add strength precisely where it is needed.

  1. Use Less Expensive Alloy

Additionally, with new advances in aluminum alloys and extrusion cooling technology, designers can use standard grades of aluminum for many applications, rather than go to a higher cost alloy. At Vitex, we can tweak the way we cool or age an extrusion to make it just as strong as a more expensive alloy. This offers manufacturers a lot of flexibility and cost savings.

Tap Your Extrusion Manufacturer for Design Guidance

Looking for ways to simplify a part or component? Your greatest resource is your extrusion manufacturer. Best-in-class manufacturers, like Vitex, will work closely with you to review the profile and tolerances to ensure your product is designed to take full advantage of all aluminum extrusion manufacturing functions. Our manufacturing team will also identify any issues and alert you if additional machining or fabrication will be needed to meet your desired requirements, and in some cases, identify opportunities to avoid additional machining.

If you are not familiar with the various alloys available, your aluminum extrusion manufacturer can offer guidance as to how the different alloys offer different capabilities that may be useful to your design. Additionally, your aluminum extrusion expert can educate you on material and tooling costs.

To learn more about how Vitex can assist you in simplifying your aluminum profile design and manufacturing process, contact us directly or request a free design review.