How does the price of aluminum extrusions differ for vehicles (compared) to standard extrusion?
In general, custom extrusions will be more costly than profiles from an extruders "standards" catalog, due to tooling costs, production quantities, etc. However, extrusion tooling is relatively inexpensive, so the difference is often not that great; and when the ability to design-in specific desired features is considered, a custom part may be less than a machined standard.
What are some inspection methods and quality standards in extruded aluminum designs?
Inspection is similar to that with other metal forming. CMM, video measuring, hand tools. Also a variety of metallurgical tests are employed - tensile, fracture/toughness, etc. Standards are defined by the Aluminum Standards and Data manual published by the Aluminum Association, though often extruders perform to higher levels.
Is the longitudinal welding for hollow profile a limitation for the application in auto parts?
Often the longitudinal (die) weld is NOT a limitation at all - extruded hollow parts are used successfully in severe structural applications regularly. Depending on the application, special attention may be required to ensure that the billet-to-billet weld (which also extends along the initial length of the extrusion) is minimized or removed. This can be done through die design and through proper process planning.
Can extrusions be clad? What difficulties are introduced with clad extrusions?
Yes. Dependent on the requirements and specification.
Is there a location for inventoried shapes that are searchable based on size, shape, material?
Many extruders have a "standards" shape list, but frankly, for many applications the low cost of tooling an extrusion die suggests that a part customized to the exact use, putting material exactly where needed, is a better choice. The exception to this may be for "one-off" applications.
How is the supply base both in NA and overseas; are there global suppliers available?
There are over 125 extruders in North America, operating about 500 presses in nearly 200 locations. Of course, not all of them are active in the automotive market, though an increasing number are. You will find similar robust supply networks in Europe and Asia, with smaller - but still highly competent - supply bases in South America and MENA. A small number of extruders are global in scope.
When using an extruded aluminum profile to channel thermal oil, what are the upper temperature ranges? i.e. 240 C 300 C or higher? The profile would have a wall thickness of 1/2"?
At temps approaching 300 C the tensile strength may drop as much as 90%.
We have known these qualities of Aluminum alloys for quite some time. Why has the auto industries not thought about using Aluminum sooner? What are the problems/concerns?
Engineers and designers are simply NOT often exposed to aluminum extrusion in their formal educations. I graduated as an engineer from Penn State in 1980, and since my family business was the largest manufacturer of ladders in the world (Werner Co.), I desperately wanted to obtain an education in aluminum metallurgy, extrusion and fabrication. I had to rely on my uncles to provide me with technical information that I could use to craft self-study courses with my technical professors, as there simply were NO courses offered! In addition, on a per-pound basis, aluminum is more expensive than steel; thus unless weight reduction has value (as in significantly improving fuel economy) aluminum has been limited to niche applications due to its economics.
In one of the slides, light weighting from Al extrusions was shown to contribute only 15% towards meeting the 54.4 mpg, while transmission (I think) contributed 50%. Are there any applications of Al extrusions for the 50% share of the pie?
The 15% estimate was developed by Ducker Worldwide based on OEM's platform development programs. The 50% share of mileage improvement is expected to come from improvements to engines, transmissions (and we are already seeing 8-speed automatics), aerodynamics, friction reduction, etc. Extrusions may have a role in some of these areas - as components of supercharger or turbocharger systems for example, but those applications are typically not weight driven. The 15% contribution is primarily weight driven. FYI, the remaining 35% improvement is projected to be related to alternative power trains - hybrids, electrics, etc.
As a heat exchanger component, how many extruders can provide "twisting" of the tubes when coming off the die?
This is proprietary to individual extruders.
Do Extruder suppliers also assemble (Weld) assemblies like the Mercedes Floor used in case study?
Many can. The "Find an Extruder" function on aec.org provides information about specific extruder capabilities, including fabrication
Does aluminum have a higher market price in Europe or North America and why?
I cannot comment on the pricing for sheet or cast products, but European extrusion pricing has typically has been somewhat higher. Historically this has reflected market structure and energy and labor costs. Recently this gap has decreased.