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Custom Aluminum Extrusion Cost: T-Slot vs. Advanced Framing Systems


In product design, think of cost as a two-part formula: Up-front price and long-term value.

Nowhere is this clearer than the cost of custom aluminum extrusion framing.

On one end you have traditional T-slot structural framing. There are cheaper alternatives to the big-name sellers out there, but generally you’ll get a similar result – low sticker price, high long-term investment.

A T-slot alternative, AngleLock, is gaining momentum in engineering circles because it flips the equation, placing long-term value as the end goal. In many heavy-duty framing system applications, it actually can compete on up-front cost, too.

To help you understand the hidden costs and opportunities of aluminum systems, we’ve calculated estimated costs per life cycle stage for both options.

5 Cost Factors of a Custom Aluminum Extrusion Frame

Aluminum Framing Cost ... In Just 1 Year
Price T-Slots AngleLock
Material Cost $375 $377
Assembly Time $125 $50
Maintenance $600/yr. $0
Modification $150 $50
1-YR. COST $1,250 $477
5-YR. COST $2,650 $477

For structural framing, custom aluminum extrusion costs depend on:

  1. Components
  2. Assembly size
  3. Assembly time
  4. Durability
  5. Modularity

The expenses below are based on a standard project – a cube-shaped industrial stand – four legs and a square top to elevate something off the floor. You could build this project using either T-slots or AngleLock, but that’s about where the similarities end.

1. Component Cost

Comparing the parts themselves requires an understanding of how each system works.

T-slot framing components rely on a frictional force along one plane to keep parts from moving. AngleLock eliminates all pivot points, and the patented connections creates five planes of contact – and a mechanical lock that won’t come loose. 

That’s why the extruded profiles are nearly identical in price between each system, yet the connective components are more expensive.

The profile shape is different between T-slots and AngleLock, but the production methods are similar and use about the same amount of aluminum. AngleLock is the only profile line that uses architectural-grade anodizing, though this comes at no extra cost.

The connections are the big differentiator. Standard T-slot components’ rudimentary design allows for easier and more efficient manufacturing techniques. AngleLock is much more highly engineered, creating joints that add strength to the assembly.

High-end brackets are significantly more expensive. However, as you’ll see, there’s more to the equation.

2. Size of Assembly

  • T-slots: $375
  • AngleLock: $377

Think of a T-slot assembly where you’d need three structural brackets to create the corner plus two for mounting the tabletop. While one 3-way corner bracket from AngleLock is more expensive than a common T-slot bracket, it will be cheaper than five brackets.

This stage is where the comparisons start to diverge. The example AngleLock bracket can connect three profiles and a top plate, reducing your total component count. To build something structural out of T-slots, you’ll need plenty of extra cross-bracing and corner supports. 

On average, you’ll purchase 30-40% fewer brackets for an AngleLock assembly. Your totals will be highly case-by-case. Sometimes there’s no room for reducing the bracket count; other times using AngleLock can cut the number by 50% or more vs. T-slots.

3. Time to Assemble

  • T-slots: $125 ($100/hr. x 1.25 hrs.)
  • AngleLock: $50 ($100/hr. x 0.5 hrs.)

If you know how to assemble T-slot aluminum, you know the struggle. It’s not the most intuitive build – and it looks worse when compared with an advanced system:




Sort, measure, & compare parts?

Yes – 100s

No – parts come with fasteners pre-attached

Align frame?


No – connections self-align

Loosen, realign,
re-tighten, repeat?

Yes – several times



Yes – at least monthly


The $100-per-hour rate is on the conservative side. If you outsource assembly instead of handling it in-house, your labor expenses could soar.  

One notable aspect of self-aligning framing is that you’re actually encouraged to assemble it in-house. While both building systems promote the “one person, one tool” philosophy, only one of them is actually efficient in practice.

Insourcing a T-slot assembly means sorting through 100s of similar-looking parts, putting them together, and undoing and redoing the work until it’s fully aligned. With AngleLock, you simply unbox your preassembled subcomponents, slide them into place, and tighten the fasteners. Instant alignment achieved.

4. Structural Durability

  • T-slots: $600/year (0.5 hr./month of maintenance)
  • AngleLock: $0

If you plotted a cost curve chart of these systems’ life cycles, they’d start at similar points. Within months, T-slot would shoot upward.

The inevitable maintenance, repair, and replacement is to blame. In our cube stand scenario, a maintenance worker would need to retighten and realign T-slot framing at least once per month.

On an AngleLock structure, there’s never a need to realign a fastener. The connections actually tighten with vibration – very handy for a machine application.

If someone gift-wrapped you a free T-slot system, it’d still cost more over its lifetime than a full-priced AngleLock assembly. Just a little maintenance can drive your investment well beyond the initial sticker price.

5. Modularity

  • T-slots: $150 per modification (1.5 hr. x $100/hr.)
  • AngleLock: $50 per modification (0.5 hr. x $100/hr.)

One of aluminum extrusion’s main appeals vs. welded steel framing is its relative ease of use. Still, easy doesn’t always mean efficient.

In our mock scenario, it’s 6 months later and we’ve decided to add a component to our finished frame. The addition is about 25% of the original structure’s size and will allow us to integrate multiple processes into our production line.

Despite being touted as “snap-on” T-slot modifications take at least 3x longer than similar AngleLock mods. Why? Because, at their worst, T-slot structures behave like the world’s most annoying Rubik’s cube.

When using traditional extrusion framing, you’re stuck loosening everything instead of only one section. What’s more, as you add another component and tighten it, the pressure often forces another piece out of alignment. Then you have to go back and resquare the joints, hence the Rubik’s cube analogy.

With AngleLock, you need just a few tweaks and about 5 minutes’ time. The engineering behind the connections gives each piece no choice but to instantly lock back into the same place – every time.

Your Aluminum System May Pay for Itself

Total cost of value looks like this as the years pass:













(*The frame may not even survive to the 10-year mark.)

Now that you’ve unpacked the actual value of both systems, you should know whether 80/20 or cheap alternative materials are truly maximizing your budget.

Custom solutions come at a premium price point. But sometimes, the premium solution is so much better than the standard that it quickly pays for itself – and then some.

If your structural project is quick-and-dirty and won’t be subject to movement, you may be able to get by with T-slotted aluminum components. If your application is dynamic and needs the best product, user experience, and long-term value possible, go with AngleLock every time.

To learn more about how AngleLock lowers maintenance costs, improves uptime, and is endlessly reusable, ask our engineering team:

Consult With An Engineer


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