Thread: Comparing aluminum extrusion to mild steel

1. Comparing aluminum extrusion to mild steel

I want to compare aluminum extrusion to mild steel for 3" x 3" stuff? How much more heavier is mild steel? How much more deflection prevention is in mild steel? I am not a mechanical engineer. Does anyone have answers for these questions?

80/20 have a nice free deflection calculator on their web site.

For steel and general beam deflections do a google for 'beamboy', a good, free program that I got the link for from another member here.

For material weights, prices and sizes try looking at onlinemetals.com

Deflection is a function of the load, support points, type of support, the materials properties and the beams length and cross section.

Each material has a modulus of elasticity, in English units measured in psi, that is a measure of how 'stiff' the material is. Aluminum is ~10,000,000 psi Steel is ~ 30,000,000.

The cross section makes a difference as material farther from the centre of the beam increases its stiffness. So a Tube with the same material cross section will be stiffer than a rod of the same cross sectional area.

Support makes a difference because if the ends of the beam are rigidly supported allowing no movement (cantilever type) the beam will be stiffer than if the beam is rested on supports (simple) that allow some degree of rotation at the support. It's difficult to get a real cantilever support in our machines so calculate using the simple support and that would be the worst case.

As an example a 3"x3" 80/20 (fractional 3030) 36" long with a centre point load of 250lbs would deflect 0.01". 36" and would weigh 3.93lbs per ft.

A 3"x3" Steel tube section with 0.25 wall thickness, 36" long with same point load 250lbs would deflect 0.002" and would weigh about 9.3lbs per ft.

Andrew

3. I have experience only with Bosch "Heavy" sections. I believe that if you can afford it, the heavies are the way to go. The stiffness and strength of your structure is tied closely to how you engineer it. For example, closing a box structure by sheeting with 3/8" plate makes it vastly stronger. Use THK-type guides for linear motion. The extrusions I've used are pretty straight, but over a couple of feet will have inherent innaccuracies of a few thousands, requiring a skim cut prior to rail mounting. Use T-nut strips rather than individual nuts to distribute the load. I've put a lot of effort into showing the construction of my metal-cutting bench mill at www.5bears.com. The vertical column is one example of taking a 90mm x 90mm heavy extrusion, adding 1" thick side plates to produce a very stiff structure. The base of the mill is boxed and closed at the bottom with aluminum fixture plate. Overall it's remarkably stout, and the aluminum absorbs vibrations better than I thought it would.

It's certainly MUCH easier to work with than mild steel!