Aluminum extrusion has been applied in many innovative ways since its earliest beginnings more than 100 years ago. From its early use in creating pipes and wires to futuristic applications in space station construction, aluminum extrusion has a rich history.
The extrusion process was first patented in 1797 for making lead pipes, which was done with manual labor until the introduction of the hydraulic powered press in 1820. By the end of nineteenth century, extrusion methods were also in use for copper and brass alloys, but the application of aluminum extrusion followed a unique path.
Origins of Aluminum
Compared to other metals like copper, bronze, iron and steel, which have been in use for thousands of years, aluminum is relatively young, having been identified as an elemental metal in 1807. Aluminum was first refined in 1825, and at that time it was considered a luxurious metal which was more expensive than gold. It was not until the late 1880s, with the invention of the smelting process by Hall and Héroult and the development of commercial production, that the silvery metal became affordable for everyday purposes. The initial working processes consisted of rolling, casting, and forging.
Development of Aluminum Extrusion
Alexander Dick invented the modern hot extrusion process in 1894, which was applicable to most non-ferrous alloys. Today, aluminum is the most commonly extruded metal, and it can be used with both hot and cold extrusion processes. North America had its first aluminum extrusion press in 1904 in Pennsylvania, USA. The introduction of extrusion created a sharp rise in leading-edge applications for aluminum, particularly in the manufacturing of automotive parts.
The burgeoning demand for aluminum extrusion reached new heights during the two world wars for use in aircraft manufacturing and other military requirements. The rapid development of extrusion continued after World War II, and began to expand into various industries including the residential housing sector, which experienced substantial growth in the postwar period.
In subsequent decades, the transportation and construction sectors have always been the principal benefactors of aluminum extrusion products. Even in present times, the bulk of extrusion usage is in manufacturing doors and windows, followed by passenger vehicles. Other major extrusion products and applications are consumer staples and the construction of bridges and highways.
The short history of aluminum extrusion, in comparison to other metals, has seen extensive development and growth, revolutionizing the way we live. As new purposes are discovered in space exploration and here at home, aluminum extrusion will continue to be an important part of the future.