What do I need to know about Firm Metal Contracts?
Firm Metals Contracts for Extrusions: A firm metal contract is an agreement between the mill, the distributor, and the end customer. In order to get firm pricing, stability, and protection from price escalations, many large users of Aluminum extrusions enter into these agreements. Once placed these contracts are non-cancellable. The producing mill actually goes out and secures the metal units to support the needs/lbs. of the contract, therefore like any financial transaction, once executed there is no turning back, regardless of which way the market moves.

Typical industry terminology to describe a Firm Metal Contract is “Take or Pay”, either you take metal or pay a non-performance penalty…

The minimum requirement for a Firm Metal Contract is 50,000 lbs. with a maximum time frame for the minimum quantity of 6 months. Example you could request 100,000 lbs for 6 months, 50,000 lbs for 3 months, or 100,000 lbs for 1 year, but you could not request 25,000lbs for 3 months or 50,000 lbs for 1 year.

One last point to highlight is the accountability of taking metal in a timely basis. If a contract is placed for 120,000# over one year, stating that the metal will be consumed at a rate of 10,000#/month, it is expected to do just that. In establishing the price for a 12 month contract, the price will be a blend of the 4 different metal values for each of the 4 quarters pricing averaged into one price. Since these 4 different quarters have 4 different prices associated with them, the mills expectation is that the metal will flow out as originally defined in the contract.

To get pricing for a firm metal contract we must have two pieces of information; the time frame, and the pounds the customer is willing to commit. The mill will take that information, get a Metal price for the specified time frame from the LME, and add the Fab. to that. The formal quotation that we present to the customer is not firmed until we actually lock up the units with the producing mill. In fact, we could quote a price in the morning, the customer could agree to the price 2 hours later, but we cannot confirm the price until the mill does their “live lock-up” and confirms a price back to us. There have been days where metal has moved .07-08 cents in one day. With such volatility, the mills are no longer willing to hold the price until the end of the day. The other option for placing a Firm Metal contract is to follow all of the above steps, but the customer calls out a Metal target price he/she is willing exercise the contract at. This is called a “resting order” or “standing order”. The customer actually still signs a contract that states “IF” metal price falls to X, the mill should lock-up the pre-determined quantity, for the pre-determined time frame. One must be aware that metal may never fall to the number set. A resting order will expire if the pre-determined time frame passes without the price meeting the goal.

Please understand that the rules described above have been evolving rapidly over the last few years. The producing mills require much more structure in their contracts now, and are enforcing them with strict consequences. Howard Precision Metals, Inc. recognizes the benefits that long-term price stability provides to our customers.

What is a “Resting order”?
Sometimes referred to as a standing order, a resting order is an agreement to engage a contract for firm metal pricing at an agreed upon price when and if the LME falls to that level. The agreement is essentially a contract between the mill producer, the service center, and the end customer for a specific quantity of aluminum to be taken over a specified period of time, at a certain price. All details of the desired contract are understood and committed to automatically if the “Call” price is reached. Resting orders expire if the “Call” price is not hit by the 15th day of the month prior to the start date of the contract.

What is H-Property in extrude bar 6061 T6511?
The H-temper is a variation of 6061 T6511 except it guarantees the tensile to be 42K Tensile and 38K yield. H property never carried a price premium but it did require lead time to guarantee those properties. However, as time has passed, the larger extruders like Sapa and Kaiser produce most of their larger rectangles and squares to the specification of H property for all their distributor inventory.  The reference or call out of H-property is actually become outdated now that manifold quality is stocked in depot.

What is Manifold Quality Bar?
There are many names for this product because it seems that all the producing mills have trade named it somehow. Sapa calls it Acc-u-bar®, Service Center Metals calls it Thunder Bar®, and Kaiser calls it Manifold Bar®. The material is produced with a tweaked chemistry that remains inside the spec of 6061 T6511, but it guarantees the Tensile to be 42K and the Yield to be 38K. Along with that, the material is guaranteed to be ½ AA tolerances on the plus side for the thickness and width of the bar. It also offers 1/2 commercial straightness and twist tolerances published by the Aluminum Association.

How do I measure the flatness of 6061 T651 Aluminum Plate?
The method that is use in most cases is 2 foot short span. I will make the assumption that the 6061T651 Aluminum plate has been purchased to “Type 200® wrought tooling plate or Precision Plate®” specification. If not, standard Aluminum Association tolerance of .100” for thickness of 0.250”–0.624” and .075” for thickness of 0.625”-8.000” would apply (Table 7.18*). A certified 24” straight edge is used in conjunction with certified taper gage or feeler gages and a relatively flat inspection surface. The material to be measured should be oriented with the concave surface facing up. The straight edge is now positioned to span any 2 foot segment of the plate in any horizontal direction. The straight edge must contact the surface of the material at 2 opposite points. If you cannot fit a .060” thick taper gage under the straight edge (between the 2 opposite high points) the material is within Aluminum Association Flatness tolerances.

What is Type 200 Tooling Plate?

Type 200 tooling plate is a very old trade name for Alcoa’s improved tolerance 6061 T651 rolled plate.  Years ago, Kaiser’s Precision Plate™ and Alcoa’s Type 200 tooling plate™ raised the bar over other mills in their tolerance of 6061 T651 rolled or wrought plate.  The published standards for Aluminum specification are found in the Aluminum Association Standards and Data Book.  These are the standards that all mills have to meet.  Unfortunately the tolerances are extremely liberal, allowing sub-standard producers to qualify with their products.  In order to separate from the crowd, Alcoa created Type 200 Tooling Plate® and Kaiser created Precision Plate®.  The improvements are to the thickness and flatness tolerances.  All our 6061 T651 plate up through 3.0″ thick are stocked to the Type 200 tooling plate or Kaiser Precision plate tolerances at Howard Precision Metals.  A new name that is also producing to the Precision Plate tolerances is Hulamin’s M-61®, however they only produce up to 2.50″ thick.

Don’t confuse Tooling Plate for Cast Tool and Jig Plate.

As explained above, an old trade name for rolled 6061 T651 is Type 200® Tooling plate.  This has been the cause for purchasing errors over the years because some people think of Cast Tooling plate when they hear the phrase tooling plate.  Cast Tooling Plate, Cast Tool & Jig Plate, C T & J are all references for a cast aluminum product.  Be sure you read your print carefully.  There is a world of difference between 6061 T651 rolled plate and Mic-6® cast tool and jig plate.

How do I measure the straightness of 6061 T6511 Extruded Bar?
Longitudinal straightness is often confused with transverse flatness. Longitudinal straightness applies along the length of either the top/ bottom as well as the side surfaces of the extruded section.

Transverse flatness is measured across the width of the section and that tolerance is derived from table 11.8* of the Longitudinal straightness is measured in 1 foot (12”) segments using a 1 foot certified straight edge and certified feeler gage.

Standard Aluminum Association tolerance for 6061T6511 is .0125” x measured length, ft. (Table 11.6*)

1 foot is the smallest unit of length measurement allowed and is increased in 1 foot increments.

Note .001”-12.000” = 1 foot; 12.001”-24.000” = 2 foot; ect. Any section of material measuring 12.000” in length is allowed to have .0125” allowable deviation from straight while a section 12.001” in length is allowed to have .025” allowable deviation from straight.

How do I measure the twist of 6061 T6511 Extruded Bar?
Twist is measured utilizing at relatively flat inspection surface and a certified taper gage.

Twist is normally measured by placing the product on a flat surface and at any point along its length measuring the maximum distance between the bottom surface of the section and the flat surface. From this measurement, the actual deviation from longitudinal straightness of the section at this point is subtracted. The remainder is twist.

Although table 11.7* lists the tolerance of specific thickness in degrees with a maximum degrees per length, a mathematical calculation is required to convert degrees into decimal inches.

(A) Maximum degrees per length = Y degrees (listed in “Maximum or total length” column) x .0175 x W (the actual width of the section). (B) Maximum degrees per foot = Y degrees (listed in the “In total length or in any measured segment of one foot or more of total length” column) x .0175 x W (actual width of the section) x L (length in next whole 1 foot increment).

If calculation (A) is less than calculation (B), use calculation (A) for the step below.

One now compares the actual measurement to the calculated maximum limit to determine if the section is within tolerance.

What does LME stand for and why is it important to me?
LME is an acronym for London Metals Exchange. By definition it is a major London trading facility formed in 1877 that currently trades futures and option contracts for six major metals: aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, tin, and zinc. The LME also trades futures and option contracts on a base metals index.

It is important to large Aluminum users for watching trends in market pricing and potentially locking up futures contracts to secure firm pricing.

In the distribution market, extruded bar pricing is based on prior month’s LME average. To see these trends, go to our LME Chart here.

What is the difference between 6061 T651 rolled plate and Cast Tool & Jig Plate?
This is probably the most commonly asked question. The quick answers is 6061 T651 is a rolled and heat treated plate that gets it’s physical properties from the chemistry, the rolling and elongating of grain structure, and the heat treatment process. A Cast Tool & Jig plate is produced by casting metal. There is a homogenization process that helps with grain uniformity, but there is no secondary rolling or quenching process. The 6061 T651  Aluminum plate will have residual stress as a result of the rolling and heat treating process, but also has higher strength. The Cast Tool & Jig plate products are much lower in strength, but also much lower in residual stress. Most Cast Tool and Jig plate manufacturers guarantee their specified flatness even after machining the part.

If there is a need for strength in your part design, then you should not consider Cast Tool & Jig, plate. However, if strength is not a concern, Cast Tool & Jig plate will offer much better dimensional stability and flatness to your finished part.

Can I get Aluminum in Metric Sizes?
Howard Precision stocks Mic 6® Cast Tool & Jig Plate in metric thicknesses.  We carry 6mm, 10,mm, 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, and 30mm.  Although we don’t carry the metric thicknesses in any of the wrought alloys, we can always provide a quote for your parts ground to the metric thickness.  Anything can be produced to a metric size given it meets the mill minimum production size, and lead time for mill production is acceptable, unfortunately the mill minimum recovery from billet on a rolled alloy is very large and there does not seem to be the usage to justify stocking it.   We would be happy to put a stocking progam together on any special metric requirement that we don’t currently carry.

What are the benefits of considering a custom extrusion for your next design application?
There are many reasons to consider a custom extruded shape for your next Aluminum project, but the most obvious being is the reduction of weight. If you can take weight out of the starting shape, you reduce the amount of aluminum you are purchasing as well as the amount of machining time you have to invest to get it to that final shape. Always think “near net shape”.

Even if you are just clipping a corner away or tightening up the rectangular dimensions. You would be surprised how quickly you can pull 10-15% savings out of the part weight. You will also be surprised how inexpensive Aluminum extrusion dies are; the savings will pay for the die investment very quickly.

I have questions about anodizing Aluminum, where can I find answers?
Anodizing is not just a science, but an art; therefore we will leave those questions up to the experts. Here is a link to a Midwest company that specializes in anodizing. We hope this will answer your anodizing questions. http://www.howardprecision.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/1295915409faq.pdf

Nominal Density of commonly used Aluminum alloys:

Alloy Density
1100 .098
2011 .102
2024 .100
3003 .099
5052 .097
5083 .096
6061 .098
6063 .097
6262 .098
7050 .102
7075 .101

What is the difference between Mic-6® and Alca-5® Cast Tool & Jig Plate?
Howard Precision Metals is proud to have two quality Cast Tool & Jig Plate products in our offering. They both have the benefit of being very stable products and useful in applications that require good machinability and dimensional stability, however they are both different in their own way.

Mic-6®, is the trade name we all know and love. I am sure you have seen it spec’ed on blue prints for decades. It is made by a process known as the “Hunter System”. Mic-6® plates are manufactured in a continual cast method, to an oversized dimension that then gets milled top and bottom to achieve its thickness and flatness tolerances. The base alloy of Mic-6® is a 7000 series with a density of .101. Mic-6® is known for being the flattest, most dimensionally stable product offered in CT&J. Mic-6 is produced up to 4” thick x 60.5 x 144.5.

Alca-5® is the new kid on the block. Made in Canada by PCP, this product is produced from cast 5083 certified billet. The billets are then saw cut sliced like bread into the oversized plates that get milled top and bottom to the specified tolerance. Alca-5® offers a few significant advantages over Mic-6 in that its base alloy is 5083 Aluminum. Being made from 5083, it responds much better to anodizing than a 7000 series product, and with a density of .096, Alca-5® presents a 5% weight savings. Alca-5® is produced up to 4” thick x 98” x 288.  Yes, that is an extra wide Aluminum plate and PCP is the only producer that can manufacture a plate this large.  It is quite amazing to see a milling head that can machine that thickness in one pass, but at PCP they have the equipment and people to do that.

Other Cast Tooling Plate:  There are other manufactures of Cast Jig Plate, but none of them are Mic-6®, and although some people like to imply that they are all equal, if your dwg. calls out Mic-6®, you really need to get approval to change it.  The Mic6 product has been around for many years for a reason, and it is specified on many blueprints for a reason.  It is made from a 7000 series base alloy, when all the others are 5083 or a modification of 5083.   We would never substitute Alca-5® for Mic 6® without your permission and your other suppliers should not take those liberties either.  Some of the other products are ATP-5®, K100S®, & ACP5080®.  If you know anything about Bob Howard our President, you know that when it came time to choose a complimentary Cast Plate product for our inventory, he investigate each of them throughly and chose the Alca5® product produced by the professional team at PCP, and we have been very happy with our choice .  As far as physical properties of cast plate, none are recommended for any structural application.

What is the difference between a direct and an indirect extrusion press?  This one is easy for me to answer because there was a wonderful article written on it several years back that could not explain it any better.  Go to:  http://www.productionmachining.com/articles/consistency-with-indirect-extrusion.

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