WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J.—Across many industries, the trend in recent years has been all about miniaturization: the manufacturing of ever-smaller mechanical, optical, medical, and electronic products and devices. In the electronics industry, for example, the size of microchips has grown smaller, and, as a result, the supply chain has adjusted to accommodate the new, compact size. Many companies are realizing benefits in efficiency, logistics, and material reductions, and many expect that miniaturization will continue to be a major driver in advanced manufacturing.
Product miniaturization demands innovative manufacturing technologies and techniques. One company prepared to meet this demand is Minalex Corporation, a family-owned company that manufactures high-tolerance, small-profile custom aluminum extrusions. According to Minalex, the inherent properties of aluminum as a light, durable, rust proof material that that can be extruded to extremely tight tolerances make it an ideal solution as parts and products get smaller across many industries.
Computers are a perfect example of the endless progress and possibilities of miniaturization. While parts have grown smaller, the advantages of miniature parts have increased: they’re lighter, occupy less space, consume less energy, and require less material to manufacture, yet offer more data storage and process at higher speeds.
“Just because something gets smaller does not change the expectation of performance,” said Michael Casey, head of extrusion applications and design at Minalex, in a company release. “If anything, there’s a presumption of improved performance. Precision in manufacturing then becomes of greater importance.”
Minalex (www.minalex.com) manages every phase of the design, extrusion, fabrication, and finish of custom aluminum parts for multiple industries. Across its history, the company has participated in the miniaturization movement first hand, and in virtually every industry sector, from lighting to aerospace, medical, and electronics.
In the lighting industry, LEDs for display and under-counter lighting are now miniscule in size, versus much larger channels fitted with traditional bulbs. With technological evolution, multiple channels fitted with LED strips offer greater, more even illumination and last longer. Minalex reports that it is at the forefront of production of the aluminum tracks that house these LED strips.
In aerospace, satellites are shrinking in size, and that means the parts being developed are more intricate and still have to maintain core functionality. As the electronics in satellites get smaller, the cooling systems also have to shrink in size, yet provide optimum performance in the harsh confines of outer space. Minalex manufactures the custom aluminum extrusions to help enable satellite cooling systems to operate.
There has also been a measured shift in size reduction within surgical and medical applications to support minimal or non-invasive surgeries. Minalex produces an aluminum extruded rod for use within a bone saw that is as thin as a piece of spaghetti, yet precisely crafted for durability and optimum performance throughout the lifecycle of the device.
The dimensions of handheld scanners have also dramatically diminished in recent years. What started out as a rather large and bulky device is today produced at less than half the size. Minalex creates the interior extrusions that secure a scanner’s electronic components. When the company initially started producing them, scanners were more than double the size they are now. However, even at roughly half the previous size, there is every indication of outstanding performance.
“The miniaturization trend will continue into the foreseeable future,” Casey added. “And as the growing legions of end users continue to have a higher expectation of product and technology performance, supply chain manufacturers must continue to meet the challenges of delivering high quality at small scales. At Minalex, we have the advantage of more than 50 years of experience producing custom extrusions at extremely small sizes and tight tolerances. Our entire team is experienced and well prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities that miniaturization represents.”