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Cardinal Aluminum Company

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Aluminum Extrusions

While most American extruders have skeptically sat on the sidelines and cautiously watched the direction automated press lines are going, one aluminum extrusion company has implemented these advanced technologies into their plants to take a commanding lead in terms of increased productivity, quality and capabilities.

Cardinal Aluminum Company, Louisville, KY, is one of the most high-tech aluminum extrusion, fabricating and finishing companies in the industry. The company operates with perhaps the most sophisticated extrusion capabilities in North America. Their fully-automated, multi-functional equipment offers customers cost- and time-saving advantages in extruding, fabricating, machining, anodizing, powder coating and finishing processes.

The company serves markets where overall product quality and finish standards are high in comparison to the average extruder. In addition to their standard line extrusions for picture frames and decorative moldings, they excel in their competitive niche for producing custom extrusions for such applications as appliance trim, automotive components, electronics parts, etc. The finish quality required is so demanding that few are able to compete with the quality, price, increased production rates and reduced labor handling.

Founded in 1946, Cardinal Aluminum now operates two facilities in Louisville, KY to meet today's increased product demand. From design and engineering assistance to extruding, fabricating and finishing, their single source capabilities enable them to handle the entire production cycle in house.

Extruding: Complex profiles and tight tolerances that challenge other extruders are routine work at here. Their 1800-ton and two 1250-ton automatic extrusion presses are all capable of running the same tooling to greatly enhance product quality. They also allow Cardinal to shift production schedules to meet delivery demands or even run multiple jobs at once. Since all loading and transporting is done by automatic overhead conveyors, no handling is required, which virtually eliminates cosmetic defects and reduces scrap.

The standard 1800-ton press is equipped with roto-station die changer, fixed dummy block and butt shear with pneumatic butt knocker. Their rectangular billet loader automatically transports billets overhead from the hot log shear directly to the press loading position which eliminates the need for a hot storage box. The press feed line receives either logs or billets for heating in a high-efficiency gas-fired oven. The quality construction, better temperature uniformity and lower electrical energy usage have proven to be extremely cost-efficient. The automatic shear and rectangular loader complete the system and operate with special billet optimization software, which adjusts each billet's length according to actual profile weight. It even adjusts for a plugged hole in a multi-hole die.

One of the unique features of their fully automated extrusion system is the stretcher, which operates directly in line with the saw conveyor and table. Batched profiles are fed to the saw table and then stretched in a unique stretcher which grips the conveyor. Then the headstretcher jaws open, and the profiles move lengthwise through the open jaws to the saw.

Fabricating: Cardinal's three multi-axis CNC machining systems offer customers a variety of design options (mitered, cut, drilled, routed, slotted, notched) at tremendous savings in tooling costs and set-ups.

Their two 4-axis CNC machines are the heavy duty workhorses for machining large parts with thicker walls and heavier profiles. Each machine is equipped with a large machining area and 4-axis capability ("X" axis programmable travel is 144", "Y" axis is 20" and "Z" axis is 22"), which can accommodate long parts, or up to four different parts to be run at the same time, using four different programs. Its rapid traverse is 600 ipm in all three directions. In addition, its 30-tool changer can quickly pre-load tools in just 4 seconds! These machines also have the ability to tap drilled holes, while holding the workpiece in the exact same position it was in for drilling, to provide mechanically consistent accuracy with fewer set-up costs.

For smaller parts that only require a few simple machining options, Cardinal's Multi-Work Center Cell is a big cost-saver. This state-of-the-art machine incorporates several common operations into one work cell for faster and more cost-effective fabricating. In just one set-up and operation, parts which require punching, drilling, tapping or cutting can be completely fabricated. A computer controlled, menu driven microprocessor with pre-defined operations eliminates the need for programming. With six tool locations, this machine reduces tooling, set-up and programming costs while performing highly precise fabricating operations. For punch operations, it can be equipped with up to five cylinders, each capable of delivering an impressive 13.6 tons of force for clean punching and no profile deformation.

These high-tech CNC machines complement their Speedline system, which also offers fully automated fabricating capabilities. The Speedline CNC system is designed for simple one-step processing. It features automated loading tables and computer controlled position rams that reduce handling and generate faster throughput, while enhancing product design consistency and part-to-part repeatability. Four 60,000 rpm CNC milling heads and a CNC saw for square or miter cuts permit late design changes, even in the middle of a run. Since little or no "hard tooling" is necessary, Speedline's CNC capabilities eliminate additional work center setups and tooling costs. This also makes it a very cost-efficient way to prototype and get your products to market faster.

Finishing: From eighty standard anodizing and powder coating colors, to unlimited customs, to a variety of surface finishes, customers can easily achieve the look and feel they want.

There are a variety of decorative anodizing processes that add strength, beauty and protection to extrusions for almost limitless versatility. In addition to their 22 standard anodizing colors, Cardinal also offers five 2-step Architectural Hard Coats for extreme corrosion control and long-lasting protection against harsh outdoor elements. Their two automated anodizing lines are capable of handling parts as long as 24 feet.

Also available are a variety of surface finishes: brushed, etched, tumbled, polished and brite-dipped, the industry's finest finishing process.

Their automated brush and polish machines offer yet even more ways for products to receive a higher quality finish, done faster and more efficiently. The brush machine allows extrusions to achieve a very fine, brushed finish. This process uses soil wire bristle wheels to create a smooth, brushed appearance that looks very rich, especially when complemented by satin anodize colors. Its 6 in-line brushing wheels can brush the top and bottom of a profile in a single pass for a faster and more consistent finishing process. Two additional rotated wheels can also provide a unique cross brush finish. With its variable speeds to 2000 rpm, this machine offers greater versatility and consistency for a variety of different finishes.

Cardinal's automated buffing machine is designed to do more than double the work of regular polishing machines in a continuous, uninterrupted work flow. While unpolished parts are being set up on one side of the machine, polishing wheels are already at work on other parts. Once polished, the finished parts are automatically shuttled out of the way and next unpolished parts are put into motion. Variable speed motors provide good flexibility to accurately and consistently polish all types of surfaces.

All powder coating is done in a "clean room" environment on materials up to 24 feet long. State-of-the-art robotic controlled automation provides a higher quality finish, done faster, more efficiently and with greater consistency of coat thickness, coloring and coverage. From 39 Artel powder coats that are tougher and more chip resistant than traditional environmentally damaging paints, to 14 GEO coatings which provide a unique stone look to products, to any custom color match imaginable, unlimited colors are offered that are environmentally safe, too.

Cardinal uses a non-chrome, dried-in-place pretreatment process and powder coat finish for both environmental and quality reasons. Chromate and chrome phosphate pretreatment, the typical aluminum conversion coatings, must be rinsed off, which causes hazardous waste and paint sludge to be disposed of, as well as VOCs to contend with. Their non-chrome pretreatment process along with their environmentally safe powder coats eliminate costly waste clean-up and hazardous VOCs.

Powder coating takes place in a ColorSPEEDER booth, which is equipped with four reciprocating electrostatic powder spray guns. A pneumatic motor-operated mechanism advances the polyethylene booth liner to facilitate fast color changeover. A complete color changeover can be made in 20 minutes or less. The system can also be set up to recover powder overspray and either recycle it immediately or save it for future use.

The Image Graphics Technology offers customers the unique capability of making their extrusions look like virtually any material or pattern imaginable! Wood, marble, leather, stone, patina, alabaster: the design options are endless. Despite its rich appearance, Image Graphics is a very cost-effective way to add distinction to products by offering an unlimited variety of cosmetic effects.

From extrusion to fabrication to finishing, Cardinal Aluminum's full range of automated, high-tech equipment is allowing them to increase their leading competitive edge with better productivity, improved lead times and reduced operating costs that translate to bigger cost-saving advantages and design options to customers.

This technical information has been contributed by
Cardinal Aluminum Company

Click on Company Name for a Detailed Profile

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