How does aluminum get recycled?
Normally aluminum is being reused and recycled (do not mistake this for raw bauxite ore from mining operations) goes through many steps before it gets put back into circulation. One of the first steps would be collection and sortation. This process allows the recyclers to do the work before it gets to the mills and smelting operations and allows for a quicker recycling process.
The aluminum (depending on its form) can go through several different processes before actually being melted:
- Shredded – Like paper or other products like steel that get shredded, some grades of aluminum will go through a shredding process. This will allow the smaller pieces to melt quickly as well as helping to control the flow of raw products into the furnaces.
- Melted – Sometimes, these large blocks or bales of aluminum that come in are welcome to go right into the melting pot (depending on the size). One important thing is that the bales or full boxes of material are properly sorted/cleaned, so there is no contamination in the new aluminum produced.
Now…Further Information on Melting
Once the smaller particles or mixed batches of aluminum are put into the smelting operations, they will melt into a molten pool of aluminum and then start to get filtered and flow into ingot-forming molds. These molds could range from as small as 100 pounds but are more often put into 40,000 – 50,000 pound bars. These ingots are always checked for quality control, and samples are taken and analyzed before the newly formed bars leave the facility shipped to suppliers.
Now It’s Time For Aluminum Extrusion
What is Aluminum Extrusion? It’s A Process, Not A Grade.
Aluminum Extrusion is a process in which aluminum items are created, not the grade of aluminum they are made with. When the raw aluminum is pushed through a mold to take the shape of the item, it is created. The raw aluminum material used is the grade of the material, not the “extruded” piece itself.
We find the most mistakes in the language being formed when it comes to scrapping – the extrusion process. Let’s go back to the days of being a kid (or maybe the current day if you have kids or are a grandparent playing with them), and let’s think about modeling clay. Remember those awesome yellow cylindrical vessels filled with hours of forming fun? You would take all types of tools like putty knives, form presses, and you would make spaghetti and meatballs, or you would make little stars.
It’s Like Forming Modeling Clay…
What you were actually doing was extruding the clay through a mold and creating forms and shapes. Now think about that process that we spoke about earlier, but with molten hot aluminum bauxite or those newly minted bars.
Common Items Made By Extruding Aluminum
Those newly formed ingots or bars go to manufacturers that could use the extruding method to create many items such as:
- Window Frames
- Leftover Aluminum Trays
- Cooking Sheets
- Door Frames
- Car Frames
- Automobile parts
- Electronic Components
All of the above go through some form of extruding process that takes the new aluminum bars, heats them, and pushes them through a mold that then gets pushed through and cut with a machine for clean angles. These products are all considered aluminum extrusion – but that is not considered their aluminum grade…so let’s try to get into grades of aluminum.
The GRADE of Aluminum Can Be Different
Common Grades of Aluminum Alloys Used During Extrusion Process:
- 6063 – The 6063 grade of aluminum is like bare bright copper – the top value Aluminum grade. With the nickname of structural aluminum, we have seen 6063 grades used in frames, pipe fittings, structural tubing, electrical conduits, storage tanks, and trailer frames.
- 6061 – This has a little more magnesium and copper than other alloys – but has proven to be very strong. Most commonly found in strong sheet uses like furniture, boats, or structural pieces. (Almost always the 2nd most popular grade of aluminum).
- 3000 Series – Most commonly used in the food and beverage space, the 3000 series of aluminum contains a very workable product that allows it to be shaped into thinner structures such as foil tins and cans. These items can be recycled and put back on the shelves as new products within a month.
Grades vs. Name Comparison
Learn More About The Grades So You Can Be Aware
We know that the phrase aluminum extrusion sounds as good as saying insulated copper wire (ICW) – but the key similarity is that neither of those could you get an actual price from.
Think about it – if you used the phrase ICW at a scrap yard to describe your copper wire, what does that actually mean? If you do not know that it is 80% ICW #1 (This means that it is 80 percent copper bare bright bearing and 20% contamination such as insulation), how will you intelligently sell the material to your yard?
Knowing Grades of Aluminum Can Pay Off
The same concept goes for aluminum grades – if you do not know what grade you have, you will not be able to get better pricing or make more money with your scrap. However, by watching videos on aluminum grades, by reading about what grades of aluminum are found in different applications, all of these will lead to your making more money with your different types of aluminum extrusions. These are valuable lessons that you can learn by utilizing articles like this or watching our YouTube channel learn more about grades.
By paying attention, you will learn more, sound smarter, and finally, get rid of the phrase aluminum extrusion and replace it with grades of aluminum. That will lead to more money in your pocket, better material separation, and ultimately more cash in your pocket.