An open channel is a rectangular tube that is missing one of its sides; it closely resembles a boxy U. Metal channels of all shapes, sizes and compositions are used for applications ranging across every industrial and commercial context.
Construction, architecture, furniture design and manufacturing, medical technology design, transportation equipment manufacturing and many more processes and operations incorporate steel channels into products. A channel’s intended application determines what construction material is used to make it. Aluminum channels, for example, can be used for commercial and light industrial uses.
Steel is used to make channels that are used for demanding applications. Aluminum would not be a suitable construction material for many supports and guide rails; steel guarantees continued durability and strength, and it can be engineered to be corrosion-resistant if necessary. U channels are the most basic type of steel channel.
They consist of a base and two legs of equal length. A J channel also has a web and two legs, but one leg is longer, like the letter J. Many other channel configurations exist to accommodate the many uses for channels across industry and commerce.
There are many processes by which steel and other metal channels can be produced. The most basic method of steel channel fabrication is roll forming. Roll forming produces a high volume of uniform metal products without applying heat. Because roll forming is not a heat treatment process, it can be used to process metals that have been cured, finished, polished or otherwise treated without changing or damaging their surface properties.
Depending on the surface properties, treatments may need to be applied to rollers, but otherwise roll forming is the simplest way to change the shape of treated metals without altering surface properties. A roll former works by taking a stock of metal and passing it through a long series of rollers. The first set of rollers is configured to fit tightly around the contours of the incoming metal stock.
After the first set, each subsequent set of rollers changes slightly in configuration until the last set, which is an outline of the final shape the metal is intended to take. When the metal emerges from the last rollers, it has taken its channel shape and is ready to be cut and shipped to customers.