Many of you may remember Tinker Toys as a kid. I made many a gizmo and a gadget with those colorful blocks, that is all we had back then…they actually hadn’t invented toys yet.
There is a new Tinker Toy in town but it isn’t for the kiddos, it’s for the big boys. It is aluminum t-slot extrusion . There are quite a few folks that manufacture them and a good many are available through Amazon and EBay.
I started using t-slot extrusion about 12 years ago. My first invention, the Gallery Stretcher, a fully pneumatic canvas stretching machine, was created with it. You can create pivoting joints to create dynamic motion, “L” brackets for support, “T” brackets for bracing, t-nuts for fastening and they can all be joined with a hex head wrench.
Pictured below was one of my first portable solar trackers, made entirely with t-slot extrusion.
Cutting the extrusion is done with a non-ferrous blade using a chop saw, it cuts easily but it can melt if you force the blade through it. I will caution you, it will make a mess. Small shards of aluminum will fly everywhere and they are sharp.
The t-slot is extruded with a continuous hole through which makes tapping very easy. The 20 series extrusion I use is tapped to 1/4-20 and I do it with an impact wrench and keyless chuck adapter.
Aluminum extrusion is not cheap, it is sold by the inch. This is not something I would recommend using for the first prototype iteration, but once you nail down the design…build away.