Product designers are increasingly starting to prioritize sustainability in their product designs. Choosing to make their product design processes sustainable and Eco-friendly has numerous advantages such as energy-saving, waste reduction, and reducing overall manufacturing costs. Utilizing aluminum in your design is an ideal choice for sustainability. The main reason is that you can recycle aluminum infinitely without losing any of its unique properties and quality levels.
Its attribute of unlimited recyclability potential implies that around 75% of the nearly 1 billion tons of aluminum produced since the 1880s are still in use for production. Each ton of reused aluminum instead of a new one accounts for 24 barrels of saved crude oil and around 15 tons of saved water.
Generally, more and more individuals have become conscious of the importance of living in a more sustainable world, producing less waste, and considering how their daily behavior impacts the environment. For that reason, currently, recycled aluminum represents around 35% of the global aluminum production, and the process utilizes 95% less energy than producing it from scratch.
Besides, product designers and aluminum extruding companies have a more ethical obligation to offer sustainable products and inform consumers how their products are being made. As clients started asking the right questions and became more careful about sourcing their products and materials, extrusion shops began to embrace the sustainable way of manufacturing and care about the environment we live in.
In this article, we guide you through some of the reasons why working with aluminum in your product design offers sustainability. Continue reading to understand the grounds on which this great metal is utilized so widely across industries besides its quality—maximum product sustainability.
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Environmentally Friendly Production Process
Even if the aluminum used is not from reused materials, the ecological impact of aluminum production is lower than any other metal known to the world. This is because aluminum is made from bauxite ore, which is found between four and six-meter thick sediments just under the surface soil.
The common practice in the industry is to remove and store all the surface soil, dig the ore, and then rebuild the site and put back the surface soil. All of the bauxite mining sites are returned to their original condition that minimizes the long-term effect of the mining.
Besides, approximately 55% of world aluminum production is powered by renewable energy. So, aluminum, either newly produced or recycled, is a perfect choice to minimize the environmental footprint of the product design.
Lighter Weight Means Lower Fuel Consumption
Aluminum is roughly one-third the weight of steel, iron, copper, and brass. Because of that, aluminum extrusions are easier to handle and cheaper to ship. Using this lower-weight material in an end product, such as construction materials, automotive products, or sports equipment, converts to lower fuel consumption throughout the product delivery process.
Because of those benefits, many designers are recreating former steel parts with aluminum extrusions. For example, if a certain producer had a product initially produced from steel, they can replicate it in aluminum and achieve equal strength.
It is vital to work closely with the product design team to ensure they will take the maximum benefit of all aluminum extrusion part functions. The finished design resulted in an evenly strong aluminum part that could be produced for a lower price and manufacturing time than the initial steel part.
Its Modularity Stimulates Companies To Keep Using Aluminum Instead of More Toxic Metals
The aluminum design has a high level of modularity. It unlocks the power to develop your product on a single axis and build several products with the same extrusion profile. By being careful about your end product’s required tooling and features to make it sustainable, the economies of scale can stretch with subsequent products that would remain using the initial tooling.
With the right vision, you can add a plethora of additional features to an extrusion that may be redundant to the preliminary product requirements. However, they might be used at a later stage in a forthcoming product variation. To sustain your product, you may also combine extrusions with parts manufactured through other production methods.
You can create injection molded end-pieces to complete the open end of an extrusion. Aluminum’s modularity also helps for more extensive servicing of parts as required because of faster disassembling and reassembling.
Reduced Assembly Time Translates To Saving Energy
If you fabricate your product only from sheet metal, shortcomings will emerge in the cost of human-caused error and later fixings for assembling parts and creating the product. Aluminum extrusion design eliminates many pain points by lowering the complexity in production and adding it into the extrusion design.
For instance, features like clipping, screw ports, or friction-fit fixings can be incorporated in the part design right from the beginning resulting in a structure you can build like Lego.
When damage happens or the product lifespan is coming to an end, aluminum extrusions can be removed, replaced, and reused. Also, the die tools used in the creation of the extrusions can be melted down and reused to create new tools enabling much less material and energy waste during the product’s lifespan.
Aluminum Facilitates The Post Processing And Prolongs Durability
Aluminum parts are easy for machining, bending, or welding in order to form your designed product. Plus, using a softer metal like aluminum will result in fewer costs on tooling, and it will prolong the lifetime of your machinery. The final machining phases also allow for continuous changes and refinements on your product.
You can reshape your product or add function to it through machined parts while still utilizing the same extrusion without requiring any re-tooling. After extruding and processing, the aluminum profile becomes oxidized, which naturally forms a protective surface layer all over it. That alone provides immense cost savings in the post-processing and finishing stage.
If your design needs further enhancements for much greater sustainability, post-processing techniques offer a broad range of surface finishes. The most common of them are anodization and powder coating, both providing their unique benefits for the product’s sustainability.
As you can see from this article, aluminum product design provides environmental, social, and economic benefits during the whole lifespan of the products, from extracting the raw materials throughout product design and creating the finished product.
So, starting to manufacture with aluminum extrusion will add to the product sustainability of your products which is the core business strategy for the future.