December 30, 2021
500,000 years ago in southern Africa, primitive Homo sapiens first bound stone blades to wooden spears, creating the spearpoint. Spearpoints were revolutionary as weaponry, and as the first “composite tools”—combining components.
— Nicholas R. Longrich
Senior Lecturer in Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Bath
The Conversation, December 29, 2021:
“How a Handful of Prehistoric Geniuses Launched Humanity’s Technological Revolution”
Last November we wrote about the ways fasteners and other Framing Tech accessories can enhance your extruded aluminum creations. For December, we’ll end the year by focusing specifically on one key category of accessory, namely, aluminum connectors. This particular type of component allows you to take full advantage of the inherently modular nature of extruded aluminum profiles, and makes it possible to create a wide range of sturdy, customized fabrications, from workbenches and aquarium stands to book shelves and industrial machine guards—and whatever else your imagination can conceive of.
The Revolutionary Power of Connectors
As with the spearpoint created by our ingenious early human ancestor referred to above, extruded aluminum profiles are little more than lightweight metal tubes of limited utility—until you start attaching things to them. With T-slot aluminum, there’s no need to clamp, weld, grind, or finish the profiles. They just need to be connected together. There are many different kinds of connectors available, depending on the project, and they are sized for both metric and inch profiles. Whatever the project, it can be built fast and strong with our comprehensive collection of extruded aluminum profile connectors. Here are just a few of the most popular and useful.
Quick Connectors are our preferred method of fastening aluminum extrusions together. They offer a superior connection (as opposed to connection screws), and are very easy to use. For 30mm series extrusions, an 11mm hole is drilled into the extrusion to receive the barrel. For 45mm series extrusions, a 17mm hole is drilled into the extrusion to receive the barrel. The hammer is then inserted into the center bore of the extrusion and into the barrel. A set screw is then inserted and tightened slightly to align the hammer. After inserting the exposed head of the hammer into an adjacent piece of extrusion, simply tighten the set screw fully. This pulls the head of the hammer back, creating a strong connection with the adjacent extrusion. The video below illustrates the process of assembling extruded aluminum profiles with quick connectors.
Connection Screws are an inexpensive connection method that facilitates a fast assembly. An access hole is required at the connection point of the joining piece of extrusion in order to tighten the connection screw in place. To fasten, the connection screw is inserted into the tapped end of an extrusion. Next, the head of the screw slides into the T-slot of the joining piece of extrusion until it is visible through the access hole. Then simply tighten the screw with a hex (Allen) wrench or Torx screwdriver through the access hole. The butterfly clip prevents the extrusion from twisting out of place. The video below illustrates how it is done.
Sometimes called “banjo” or “anchor-style” connectors, universal fasteners are the traditional way to connect aluminum extrusion profiles. The base piece of extrusion needs a properly sized hole to receive the body of the universal fastener. Typically, when building with these connectors, it’s necessary to loosely pre-load the head of the fastener into the adjacent extrusion’s slot first, and then attach the body of the universal fastener into the machined counterbore on the base piece of extrusion. Tightening the set screw will create a strong connection that prevents rotation. Learn more about universal fasteners in the video below.
Milling connectors are a great way to attach two pieces of extrusion at a 90° angle, without machining, while keeping the connection “hidden” within the T-slot. These are excellent at providing a fast connection when you need to maximize a nominal pass-through opening and to reduce the number of obstructions. The following video gives the basics of using milling connectors.
On the other hand, if you want to connect two profiles end-to-end without the need for any additional machining, use a connection link. Simply slide the connection link into an available slot and tighten into place.
Another common connector used with Framing Tech aluminum profiles is gussets. They allow the fastening of two pieces of extrusion at a 90° angle without the need for machining. One of their features is an alignment tab (these are easily removable) that helps hold the position in the T-slot, and also prevents the gusset from rotating. The mounting holes for most of our gussets are slotted, which allows for some “wiggle-room” when adjusting your positioning. Common uses for gussets are for:
- mounting table tops from underneath
- fastening a machine frame to its base
- installing a divider wall
- as lift points for counterbalance systems
- and much more!
Learn more about using and installing gussets in this video:
Cube connectors are used to connect between two and three (depending on the style) pieces of extrusion at 90° angles. Simply tap the ends of your extrusion and screw on the cube connector. The access holes on the cube connector are then covered with a cap, hiding the internal hardware and creating a smooth look.
Other Types of Connectors
Framing Tech also carries a wide variety of other specialty connectors for extruded aluminum profiles, including:
- Tilt Connectors
- Bolt Connectors
- Corner Brackets
- Corner Gussets
- Corner Bracket Radius
- Pivot Joints
- Threaded Insert
- Connection Plates
- Suspension Bracket Kits
To learn more, please visit our Framing Tech Aluminum Connectors page.