Why choose T-Slotted Aluminum over Welded Steel?

A new project requirement has come up and you need to figure out how to fabricate some framing. However, you don't know whether to choose between T-Slot Aluminum or welded steel, but, what if I told you, that by using extruded aluminum, you can reduce fabrication time and cost without compromising strength or quality? Intrigued? Well here are some of the benefits that T-slotted aluminum has over welded steel.

Cost Effective and Reduced Fabrication Time

Aluminum extrusions costs less than welding steel. While aluminum might cost more in raw materials, there is less overhead overall. Unlike steel which in addition to the costs for the materials, it also has higher labor costs associated with it. A steel frame will need to be welded, then the holes will need to be drilled and tapped (for mounting any panels or fastening additional components), along with cleaning, prepping, priming, and painting the frame. Quite a lot of work for just a simple frame. Aluminum extrusions are modular and with it being T-slotted there is never any need to drill or tap holes for other parts. Plus, you don't have to paint it because it already has a clear anodized protective finish.

Flexibility

Aluminum profiles can save money by giving engineers the flexibility after the initial design of a project has been completed. With steel, you need to make sure you're as close to 100% accurate as you can get before you begin cutting, drilling, and welding. With aluminum, you don't have to go into such minute detail so early in the project. Need to add a control panel or an electrical bracket? All you have to do is install a few additional cross beams to mount it. You can worry about the exact location later. With Framing Tech's modular aluminum profile system, you can attach components any time at any location.

Modular

You've just finished fabricating a steel frame and the customer wants to make a change and add another horizontal cross-member for additional equipment mounting. With a welded frame you would get the hack-saw or cutting/plasma torch out and make a mess of your freshly painted steel frame. Not only does this drive up the cost but now you have to go through the whole tedious process of cutting, re-welding, cleaning, and painting the new piece onto the project. Now, lets substitute that with T-slotted extruded aluminum. All the pieces arrive pre-cut or fully assembled, and all you need to do is add to it. Customer wants to modify the project? No problem! Because of the modular design of T-slotted aluminum, all you have to do is order the additional piece along with the hardware, attach it by tightening a few connectors and you're ready to go. Lower Labor Costs and therefore lower overhead costs equals a better bottom line as well as faster project completion time.

The Aluminum Extrusion Strength Question

Even though aluminum extrusion profiles have grown in popularity in the last few years, engineers who haven't worked with aluminum profiles question its structural integrity. When engineers think of aluminum, they think, lightweight and then, more often than not they'll over-design with these materials because to them it doesn't look quite right. But, contrary to this belief, extruded aluminum is strong enough to handle most manufacturing and automation assembly applications. Of course, both steel and aluminum structures will bend if they're hit hard enough or are subject to over-stressed loading. However, because T-slot aluminum profiles are assembled with hand tools, you can just take out the damaged piece and replace it with a new one. Unlike steel which the damaged piece will need to be cut out, and then you need to re-weld, clean, and re-paint the new piece. Framing Tech can recommend the correct profile series based on load (support) requirements using our many years of application engineering experience along with SolidWorks 2015 load calculations. Just ask & we’d be glad to “run the numbers” for your application.

Just to give an example of how you can save with an extruded aluminum profile, here's a side-by-side cost comparison with T-slotted aluminum vs. welded steel of a 24x24x18 frame:

Aluminum vs. Steel

Steps Materials Cost

Aluminum

  • Design Time
  • Bill of Materials
  • Purchase Materials
  • Assemble Frame
  • Constructed using 30mm square profiles
  • 16x quick connectors
  • 4x End Caps
  • Kit Form: $145.00
  • Pre-Assembled: $195.00

Steel

  • Design Time
  • Bill of Materials
  • Purchase Materials
  • Cut to length
  • Deburr
  • 4x18 inch extrusions
  • 4x21 inch extrusions
  • Welding supplies, sandpaper, cleaning supplies, tape, paint
  • 5 hours labor @ $30/hour
  • $182.00

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