Makerslide is in the house!
I wanted a little more control over the first delivery so I went to pick it up myself. I don't have a fork lift or raised dock, so I knew the unload would be slow and manual. My friend Edward Ford (of ShapeOko fame) went with me. I rented a really big 22 foot moving truck and drove to the extruder.
We got an amazing tour of the facility. It was huge, loud and quite industrial looking. The extruders are the size of small locomotives.
The aluminum starts as billets about 8 inch in diameter and about 3 feet long. They are preheated in an oven to close to 1000 degrees. They are loaded into the extrusion press and pushed through the dies. The business end of a die like mine consists of two parts. The aluminum first flows over the mandril. This has some flow forming channels and then a protruding portion that sticks into the other part of the die. This protruding portion forms the voids in the extrusion. My part has a several voids. The second part of the die forms the exterior shape of the extrusion.
The extrusion comes out of the die onto a long cooling rack. Much of the cooling rack is made of graphite to deal with the heat. The graphite rubs off and gets everywhere so the place is quite dirty with this dust. The parts flow out about 130 feet and are cut off. There is a complicated set of cams that "walk" the long extrusion to another table to make room for the next piece. There is a lot of loss involved in the process so they need to estimate how much to run to get the finished amount. They try to hit the goal +/-10%. In my case they were on the low end which puts me short 195 feet. I hope that does not affect the rewards.
The extrusions are cut down to a working length then heat treated in an oven. They are then cut to the finished length and sent to the anodizer. The anodizer attaches electrodes to the ends of each piece and dips them in a tank with a voltage applied to the parts. There is usually a "rack mark" towards the ends of the pieces that causes a small blemish in the finish. It does not affect the performance of the part. There are also a bunch of parts that were precut to 200mm and anodized black for the laser engraving.
Went we got home Edward and I hand stacked them onto some industrial racking I had installed in the garage. It took well over an hour.
Sorry if I did not respond to any email yesterday, but the whole odyssey took about 14 hours.
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