Extruded aluminum has been around for decades and is used in many industries for its strong yet lightweight capabilities. In the 80s, t-slotted aluminum took off, replacing steel structures and guarding in manufacturing environments.
As robotics and automation began to evolve in assembly plants, the capabilities of t-slot really became known. From guides to enclosures, workstations, and guarding, t-slot proved to be a worthy opponent on the factory floor when put up against steel.
What Exactly is T-Slot?
T-slotted aluminum extrusion is a component used in a framing system for numerous products. It has a “T” channeled into it and it is constructed with fasteners and connectors. This “t-slot” creates a space to hold fasteners and connectors as well as panels and accessories to create infinite possibilities.
In recent years t-slot has been being used outside the industrial landscape more and more. You may have seen it used on or in vehicles, in-home garages, offices, and living rooms. T-slot comes in both fractional and metric sizes and offers the following advantages over other materials like steel and wood.
- It doesn’t require welding
- Strong and durable
- Easy to assemble
- Brand compatibility
- Has a wide range of accessories
Sizing and Strength
One of the biggest misconceptions about t-slot is that it’s not as strong as steel. The right t-slot profile with the proper joint configuration can effectively create a strong framing solution. Understanding deflection (point of bending) will help you to know the strength of a specific load. The key is knowing your application and how the t-slot will be used.
Aluminum alloy series are used for specific things across various industries. T-slot, in particular, is generally a type of 6000 series (6063) aluminum alloy. This type of aluminum is often called architectural aluminum and offers good strength, corrosion resistance, workability, and weldability if needed.
Series of T-Slot
Continuing along with the series designation, you will notice t-slot comes in the following typical double-digit series:
- 10 Series
- 15 Series
- 30 Series
- 40 Series
- 45 Series
Other series are available but are generally used for very high strength, demanding applications. The numbers above are used to signify their measurement. For example, 10 series denotes that a profile is 1″ x 1″, 15 series is 1.5″ x 1.5″, and so on.
Fasteners, Connectors, and Accessories
Without its fasteners, connectors, and accessories, t-slot would be just a pile of metal sticks. T-slot has its own hardware that helps it become a functional and versatile structure with solid joints.
Fasteners are used to connect panels, other profiles, and accessories to a profile. The most common fastener is the T-nut, which comes in various types such as roll-in, drop-in, slide-in. Along with t-nuts, there are t-bolts that work the t-nuts to fasten profiles, panels, accessories.
Connectors are used to build strong joints in t-slot aluminum framing. Different types of connectors include:
- Screw connectors
T-slot has numerous accessories which allow it to be turned into almost anything. Panels, casters, lift systems, handles, locks, and more can be utilized to create anything from workbenches in the garage to outdoor furniture, cabinetry, and racks.
Whether it’s a DIY or a company project, you will see a variety of things made with t-slot. The biggest suggestion we can make to help you create a functional solution is to always use the designated hardware. Yes, it may cost a little more, but it will save you time, money, and the headache you will definitely get when the cheaper choice does not work.
What’s in a Name?
As you shop around, you will notice that t-slot is often called 80/20. The name 80/20 is one of the many companies that make t-slot. T-slot and 80/20 do not mean the same thing. The company 80/20 has been making t-slot for over 30 years and the name just stuck.
It is important to know that there are other companies that make t-slot. Each company offers its own t-slot, services, and accessories and oftentimes can offer their customers more than larger t-slot companies. Some things to look for in a company when purchasing t-slot are:
- Products are made in the US
- No minimum order policy
- Free Engineering and design advice
- Competitive pricing
Many companies may also offer pre-engineered solutions that can work for your particular application. As mentioned above some companies offer free engineering and design advice. With their CAD software download, you can enter your design and receive a 3D model, tag drawing, and BOM so that you can purchase what you need and have it delivered ready for you to assemble.
There are a lot of great companies out there to serve your t-slot needs. If you have any questions about your next t-slot project or if you’re wondering how to get started, visit our forum for helpful answers and tips.