Whitehouse Station, New Jersey – The days of “Bigger is Better” as an oft repeated business buzz phrase are coming to an end. 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. The size of microchips has grown smaller, and as a result everything related to it in the supply chain has adjusted to accommodate the new, compact size.
Many companies are realizing benefits such as efficiency, logistics, and material reductions, so the expectation is that miniaturization will continue to be a major paradigm shift in advanced manufacturing.
Minalex Corp., family-owned and founded more than 50 years ago, has been at the forefront by manufacturing high-tolerance, small-profile custom aluminum extrusions. Product miniaturization demands innovative manufacturing technologies and techniques. The inherent properties of aluminum as a light, durable, rust proof material, and one that can be extruded to extremely tight tolerances, make it an ideal solution as parts and products get smaller across many industries. And, as products get smaller, using plastic is not always viable as plastic components can’t be constructed to extremely tight tolerances at small sizes.
Computers are a perfect example of the endless progress and possibilities of miniaturization – while parts have grown smaller, advantages have increased: they’re lighter, occupy less space, consume less energy, require less material to manufacture, yet offer more data storage and process at higher speeds.
Michael Casey, head of extrusion applications and design at Minalex says, “Just because something gets smaller does not change the expectation of performance. If anything, there’s a presumption of improved performance. Precision in manufacturing then becomes of greater importance.”
Minalex seamlessly manages every phase of the design, extrusion, fabrication, and finish of custom aluminum parts for multiple industries. Across the company’s history, they have participated in the miniaturization movement first hand, and in virtually every industry sector:
Medical – There has 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.
Aerospace – Satellites are shrinking in size, and that means the parts being developed are more intricate and still have to maintain core functionality. As satellites’ electronics get smaller, the cooling systems also have to shrink in size, yet provide optimum performance in harsh confines of outer space. Minalex manufactures the custom aluminum extrusions to help enable satellites cooling systems operate.
Electronics – The dimensions of handheld scanners have 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, similar to many other electronic devices, every indication of outstanding performance.
Lighting – The lighting industry recognizes the advantages of miniaturization; 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 is at the forefront of production of the aluminum tracks that house these LED strips.
“The miniaturization trend will continue into the foreseeable future,” Casey says. “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.”