The process begins by heating the stock material (for hot or warm extrusion). It is then loaded into the container in the press. A dummy block is placed behind it where the ram then presses on the material to push it out of the die. Afterward the extrusion is stretched in order to straighten it. If better properties are required then it may be heat treated or cold worked.
The extrusion ratio is defined as the starting cross-sectional area divided by the cross-sectional area of the final extrusion. One of the main advantages of the extrusion process is that this ratio can be very large while still producing quality parts.
Movement of the extrusion with relation to the ram. If the die is held stationary and the ram moves towards it then it is called “direct extrusion”. If the ram is held stationary and the die moves towards the ram it is called “indirect extrusion”.There are many different variations of extrusion equipment. They vary by four major characteristics:
A single or twin screw auger, powered by an electric motor, or a ram, driven by hydraulic pressure (often used for steel and titanium alloys), oil pressure (for aluminium), or in other specialized processes such as rollers inside a perforated drum for the production of many simultaneous streams of material.
Typical extrusion presses cost more than $100,000, whereas dies can cost up to $2000.
Direct extrusion, also known as forward extrusion, is the most common extrusion process. It works by placing the billet in a heavy walled container. The billet is pushed through the die by a ram or screw. There is a reusable dummy block between the ram and the billet to keep them separated. The major disadvantage of this process is that the force required to extrude the billet is greater than that needed in the indirect extrusion process because of the frictional forces introduced by the need for the billet to travel the entire length of the container. Because of this the greatest force required is at the beginning of process and slowly decreases as the billet is used up. At the end of the billet the force greatly increases because the billet is thin and the material must flow radially to exit the die. The end of the billet (called the butt end) is not used for this reason.
In indirect extrusion, also known as backwards extrusion, the billet and container move together while the die is stationary. The die is held in place by a “stem” which has to be longer than the container length. The maximum length of the extrusion is ultimately dictated by the column strength of the stem. Because the billet moves with the container the frictional forces are eliminated. This leads to the following advantages:
The disadvantages are:
In the hydrostatic extrusion process the billet is completely surrounded by a pressurized liquid, except where the billet contacts the die. This process can be done hot, warm, or cold, however the temperature is limited by the stability of the fluid used. The process must be carried out in a sealed cylinder to contain the hydrostatic medium. The fluid can be pressurized two ways:
The advantages of this process include:
The disadvantages are:
Most modern direct or indirect extrusion presses are hydraulically driven, but there are some small mechanical presses still used. Of the hydraulic presses there are two types: direct-drive oil presses and accumulator water drives.
Direct-drive oil presses are the most common because they are reliable and robust. They can deliver over 35 MPa (5000 psi). They supply a constant pressure throughout the whole billet. The disadvantage is that they are slow, between 50 and 200 mm/s (2–8 ips).
Accumulator water drives are more expensive and larger than direct-drive oil presses, and they lose about 10% of their pressure over the stroke, but they are much faster, up to 380 mm/s (15 ips). Because of this they are used when extruding steel. They are also used on materials that must be heated to very hot temperatures for safety reasons.
Hydrostatic extrusion presses usually use castor oil at pressure up to 1400 MPa (200 ksi). Castor oil is used because it has good lubricity and high pressure properties.
The design of an extrusion profile has a large impact on how readily it can be extruded. The maximum size for an extrusion is determined by finding the smallest circle that will fit around the cross-section, this is called the circumscribing circle. This diameter, in turn, controls the size of the die required, which ultimately determines if the part will fit in a given press. For example, a larger press can handle 60 cm (24 in) diameter circumscribing circles for aluminium and 55 cm (22 in) diameter circles for steel and titanium.
The complexity of an extruded profile can be roughly quantified by calculating the shape factor, which is the amount of surface area generated per unit mass of extrusion. This affects the cost of tooling as well as the rate of production.