Modular framing systems have been around for several decades. Before their invention, steel tubing was the material of choice, and it was used on factory floors from the beginning. Steel tubing was strong, durable, and long-lasting. As technology and manufacturing process knowledge progressed, it became evident that steel was not an optimal material for the everchanging assembly line.
Now when you step foot in most industrial environments, you will find a variety of modular framing systems that have surpassed the capabilities of traditional steel tubing. Some of those systems are:
- T-Slot Aluminum Extrusion
- Square Aluminum Tubing (Ready Tube and Quick Frame)
- Pipes and Joints
- Slotted aluminum quick framing with nylon connectors
Each system has its benefits and uses in many applications. If you have never worked with any of the above, it can be confusing to know which one to use and for what application. Below, we will go over their specifications and capabilities.
Ready Tube and Quick Frame
Both of these modular systems are made from aluminum and are utilized for light-duty applications. Ready Tube is essentially tubular framing that either comes with a smooth profile or pre-drilled holes. This tubing will have a standard insert that adds structural integrity.
With bolts, hex nuts, and a wrench, tubular aluminum framing is easy to assemble. This type of framing comes in three different profiles: square, P-tube, and A-tube. This type of system is not as modular as t-slot, but it will get the job done. In commercial settings, this framing is used for light-duty shelving, tables, and racks.
Like Ready Tube, Quick Frame has a smooth aluminum profile. To connect Quick Frame, you hammer (soft mallet) black L-shaped nylon connectors into the ends of the profiles. This framing system is not intended for medium to heavy-duty applications. Although strong, it does not have the load capabilities that t-slot has. Also, it lacks the channeling for modularity and strong joint configuration.
Steel Pipe and Joint System
Pipe and joint systems are made of steel that has been plastic coated. The pipes are cut to a particular length and then joined with metal connectors. Pipes are usually 2mm thick and 28 mm in diameter (without the plastic coating).
Because it is made from steel piping, its advantage over t-slot and other systems is its affordability. However, this system’s longevity and modularity are nowhere near as capable as t-slot aluminum extrusions. Pipe and joint systems also do not have the aesthetics that aluminum tubing and t-slot offer.
T-Slot Aluminum Extrusion
T-slot, as the name indicates, has a T-shaped slot in the aluminum profile. It is made in different sizes and series, and it can be slotted on four sides, bi-slot or mono-slotted. This modular framing system comes with a wide range of fasteners, hardware, and accessories. Some advantages of t-slot are:
- Compatible with other t-slot aluminum products
- Meets OSHA and ANSI safety regulations
- Has the longevity needed for medium to heavy-duty applications
- Easy to assemble
- Little to no machining needed
All of the above systems are customizable in their own way. However, t-slot aluminum is considered a more superior product for its wide range of applications, whether industrial, commercial, or personal. Before purchasing a modular framing system, there are a few considerations to think about, such as:
- Know the load capacity
- Think about the aesthetic and how you want the end result to look.
- Your budget and the long-term use of the application.
- Consider the assembly and installation and your capabilities and timeframe.
When purchasing T-slot, there are many companies to get it from. The t-slot marketplace can be hectic to navigate if you are unsure what to look for. A t-slot company should offer compatibility, have a no minimum order policy, and offer good delivery times. Another thing to look for is those that have free design software download. This can help you create your solution and provide you with a model and bill of materials.
T-slot has gained momentum in all settings, both work and recreation. It is garnering a reputation as a solid building solution, especially for those seeking to think outside the steel or wood box. To learn more about t-slot and its capabilities, feel free to check out more articles or visit the forum and join a discussion.