Understanding Aluminum Bus Pipe Uses and Finishes

Understanding aluminum bus pipe uses and finishes

This blog was updated in 2022.

Aluminum is a lightweight, highly conductive material. In its pure form, aluminum has an electrical conductivity of 65 percent of the International Annealed Copper Standard. This conductivity changes when its composition is altered, such as when it is combined with other types of metal to create alloys. 

The high conductivity of aluminum, as well as its relative strength, is why it’s used to create aluminum bus pipe and other types of aluminum products for the electrical generation and utilities industries.

Aluminum bus pipe is an extruded tubular product widely used in the construction of electrical components and equipment within switches, panel boards and enclosures within electric substations. These products are also used to connect high voltage and low voltage equipment.

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Alloys and Applications

At Three D Metals, we offer aluminum bus pipe for use in the substation and switch manufacturing industries, as well as utilities organizations. We stock the most common alloys used to create aluminum bus pipe:

  • 6063
  • 6061
  • 6101

Aluminum bus pipe is manufactured to a “nominal,” as opposed to an “actual,” inside diameter (I.D.). The wall thickness is described by a “schedule,” which is determined by the American Standards Association. This is in contrast to bus tubes, which are manufactured to an outside diameter (O.D.) of wall thickness.  

Seamless bus pipe is generally made of 6063-T6 alloy in ANSI Schedule 40 pipe because of its excellent mechanical and electrical properties. 6061-T6 alloy tubular bus is used where high strength and lower conductivity are required. 

Many factors influence the type of alloy and design chosen. These include:

  • Whether the electrical current is AC or DC
  • Operating voltage
  • Maximum short circuit current
  • Environmental factors (winds and icy conditions can adversely affect performance)

Surface Finishes for Aluminum Bus Pipe

Aluminum bus pipe can be requested with a number of different surface finishes, which may then require the use of special packaging to protect it.

The standard finish is the extruded mill finish. However, extreme high voltage applications often require specialized exterior finishes to further smooth and protect the product. This enables it to function optimally under these extreme conditions.

Packaging Options for Aluminum Bus Pipe

Another variable to consider is how the aluminum bus pipe will be packaged for transportation to the final destination. Packaging options for aluminum bus pipe include:

  • Bare batten bundle
  • Bus pack
  • Wood separators

The difference between these packaging options is the amount of friction that occurs between the pipes as they’re transported, which can result in dings, marks and scuffs on the pipe’s surface. According to Donna Wise, product manager of aluminum bus pipe and electrical shapes at Three D Metals, aesthetic imperfections won’t affect the aluminum’s performance in most applications; therefore, it’s typically a matter of personal preference.

Aluminum Bus Pipe Solutions at Three D Metals

Three D Metals is the no. 1 distributor of aluminum bus pipe in the United States, and when you choose us, you benefit from decades of experience in the metals industry and a team that places high importance on relationship-building.

“We have great relationships with our manufacturers, and we’ve worked really hard to solidify those relationships so that they can support us and we can be the best support to our customers,” said Wise.

We offer a wide selection of aluminum products, including aluminum bus bar, seamless bus pipe and extruded shapes. Learn more about our aluminum products, try our metal calculator or contact us for a custom quote.