Designing Better Aluminum Extrusions with PTC Creo




Aluminum extrusions find their way into structures all around us. That’s because aluminum is lightweight, strong, and non-corrosive. Plus, it feels good when you run your hand over it. Best of all, extrusions are cheaper and easier to fabricate than, say, molds.

Engineers use aluminum extrusions for street sign and light posts, and lately they’ve also been using them for parking shelters and pedestrian bridges. Indoors, you find them framing buildings, machines, and storage areas. Visit the Aluminum Extrusion Council’s (AEC) website, and you can even see the lightweight metal structures serving as striking contemporary architectural elements.

Low-profile beginnings

Every aluminum extrusion starts as a profile—the two-dimensional heart of the product. By definition, an extrusion is simply material pushed through a die, which is created based on a 2D shape.

So, unlike other 3D models, almost by definition, anything you want an extrusion design to accomplish must be factored into that profile. While that might seem like a limitation, designers have produced some amazingly innovative ideas for extrusions.

For example, a well-placed groove can hold a rubber molding or a boss can accommodate a screw-on leg. Joining systems and connectors start with the profile too.

“There is an almost limitless variety of forms an aluminum extrusion can take,” writes the AEC. “Extrusion’s design flexibility allows a great deal of functionality to be designed into extruded components, improving performance, saving secondary operations and speeding subsequent assembly.”

aluminum-extrusion-profile

Alváris rises above the profile

The Austrian company, Alváris started out specializing in engineering these profiles—as well as the fasteners used to attach the structures to each other.



Over time and with increased expertise, Alváris began to standardize. The company realized that industries didn’t just want lightweight structural products: they wanted them fast. By creating a library of well-thought-out profiles, the company could quickly respond to just about any customer request: machine frames, safety guards, testing stations, conveyor systems—almost anything.

Better yet, Alváris could modularize its products for easy assembly. And they could build so that customers could modify their structures later. That means that conveyor belt frames, for example, could be reassembled when production processes change; storage structures could be expanded inexpensively; and so on.

The company grew, and then kept growing. Alváris now is pushing into control and drive technology, hydraulics, and pneumatics. And it’s opened production sites and branches in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Spain.

The transition from profile specialist to systems provider has paid off, and orders just keep increasing. Revenues are up to nearly ten million Euro/year, and the company expects to triple that in no time.

“We couldn’t afford to wait”

However, growth hasn’t all been easy for the company. Along the way, Alváris hit a roadblock: In short, the CAD system couldn’t keep up.

“Because of our rapid growth, we had some specific needs,” says Michael Domes, manager, technology and ADP at Alváris Profile Systems GmbH. “We couldn’t afford to wait for months as new design engineers got up to speed. We didn’t have time as we were trying to integrate profile data into new products.”

Alváris needed a tool that optimally supported the special requirements of the profile construction industry, including performance for future expansions. That tool turned out to be PTC Creo and PTC Creo Advanced Framework Extension (AFX).

Alváris engineers can now sketch out a frame in their CAD system, PTC Creo. Using PTC Creo AFX, engineers then choose a profile from an intelligent component library, and drop it onto the frame. The system also includes convenient special functions for connective components and accessories, like end caps. So, design is fast and the parts are accurate.

aluminum-transportwagon

Client projects have included industrial transport wagons


PTC Creo AFX then creates comprehensive documentation automatically, including bills of materials and beam/assembly drawings.

For any design with a constant section profile, PTC Creo AFX can speed up design. And that was just what Alváris needed.

“The PTC solution for profile construction was one of the main reasons we switched to PTC Creo,” says Stefan Ruef, construction manager. “The profiles important for our work are stored in an extensive library, handling is super easy. New employees are trained quickly, because the operating interface is very user-friendly. Our development phases have become significantly faster with PTC Creo.”

Alváris worked with INNEO, an authorized PTC Platinum reseller, to find just the right CAD solution for its growing business. INNEO also provided on-site training to make sure Alváris’ rollout of the new software was successful.

Images courtesy of Alváris.