Custom Aluminium-
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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007

    Custom Aluminium

    I'm after some feedback from those who have actually built aluminium frames (full custom or small production runs) but also the reasons for those that haven't.

    What material are people using?
    If 7000 series, how are you again? i.e. leave it alone for three weeks or heating?
    If heat treating, how sturdy do your fixtures need to be to prevent movement?
    Pros/Cons compared to building with steel?
    Is there enough tubing and part choice? and who are you getting it from?

    I realise some of these have been covered in other threads, but usually from a theoretical point of view from those who've dismissed aluminium and prefer steel.

    I'm specifically thinking about full sus, but any hardtail experience is still valid


  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    I'm resurrecting my frame line, including the full suspension design that was borrowed by a major bike brand. I'll be using 7005 exclusively.

    The real trick (and limiting factor) is designing your frame around what is available from Fairing, Nova, etc. I was careful to design all of the weld on brackets to be machined from available bar stock profiles. All of the bolt on linkages can of course be made form 6061 or 7075.

    Main tubes are not that big of a deal, but again you have to be creative because you are limited to what's available.

    Having said all of that, I have been building military hardware for years now and have a line on a US supplier of 7000 series/scandium tubing and barstock. I don't have enough internal demand yet to satisfy a minimum order quantity. So, I will be contacting builders soon with a proposal for a group buy.

    To address your heat treat issue for 7005. I contract with a local powdercoater to do my ageing. No fixturing necessary.

    Heat treating 6061 is a real ordeal, unless you have a great relationship with your heat treat guy. I build 6061 helicopter seats that get full solution heat treat, then we transport them to our shop on dry ice for a comprehensive alignment procedure. Then, they are returned for final aging. All of this is done in a giant custom fixture we built.

    Please feel free to contact me offline if you want more specific details.


  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Thanks for the advice, just to clarify though, when using 7005 do you mean that the bake for the powder is prolonged to age the frame too or it is aged, then powdercoated as normal?

    I am looking into building swingarms so it looks like 7005 and simple ageing may be the best option.


  4. #4
    would rather be ruined
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Heres what I learned over 10 years .Things haven't changed on the aluminium building front at all in this country .

    In the Uk you wont get 7000 series off the shelf in either tube, bar, billet,sheet or forging stock beware anyone of the suppliers who says they can are middlemen and will charge you purely for the privelige of going to the european mill on your behalf.Its cheaper to import it yourself and you have access to better sourcing.I did a lot of work for BAE sytstems and the materials which most of us build bikes from weren't on the classifed list and as such even though the supplier may have been amari or smiths they still had to tell us which mill they were coming from a lot of the materials on the classifed list came from a mill in europe and one in the US

    You will get 7020 from a european german supplier, for an outfit such as yourselves there is one that will supply in the stock tubes mainly various diameters and shapes 1.5 wall in smaller quantities failing that they have a size you want you will need to take a mill run of it ,or alternately go to someone in the USA

    I have racks of it in the new frame shop and some easton 7000 series tubes but in all honesty You can build in 6061 or 6082 however and go to holt bros in halifax where a fruity UK manufacturer used to get their stuff treated and I get a lot of proto stuff treated, their metallurgy is second to none and the cost of imported 7000 and natural ageing compared to 6082 (he30) in this country and heat treating it is as cost effective .
    Im wondering if theres a specific strength reason behind using 7000 series or if its just eliminating the heat treatment step as even though it may seem like a good route now, there are things 7000 series material suffer from that arent wll known but do end up in research the material before commiting fully as 7000 can still need full heat treatment.

    Fixturing is something you will have to assess for yourself and is done on a job by job basis but isnt rocket science if you have a clue you can use steel or even carbon for fixtures some things require heavy jigging others hardly any at all if you design joints properly and dont have massive sectional changes.

    weld sequence sometimes can have a dramatic effect on the heat treatment

    one other thing i forgot to add working in he30 or 6082 will allow you to order O spec material rather than t6

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