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If you’re a Toolmonger, chances are you had an Erector set when you were a kid. 80/20 — yes, that’s the name of the company — now offers a product that they call the “Industrial Erector Set.” It’s a complete system of extruded aluminum T-slot pieces that attach via standardized components to become all sorts of usefull stuff — like a bike rack.

You can build pretty much anything with these. They’re strong and durable thanks to a drop lock system that acts as a lock washer when you cinch the fastener down. This makes the assemblies vibration proof, too.

The nature of the materials makes them lightweight, and they don’t require finishing, painting, welding, or any expensive equipment to assemble. It’s a great alternative to welding together some angle iron.

Check out 80/20’s comparison of the cost of welding together a simple structure versus bolting it together with their product:


(Though it looks like they’re somehow factoring the tools in. I know I could build a stupid box out of steel for less than $157. Maybe they don’t know where to shop for steel.) 

80/20 also offers the system in both fractional and metric versions, and the complete system includes T-slot tracks, fasteners, joining plates and brackets, panels, mounting plates, clamps, and hinges.

T-Slot Framing [80/20 Inc.]


7 Responses to A Real Erector Set — You Know, For Adults

  1. bryce says:

    I saw that welded steel comparison in the beginning of a 80/20 parts book. They had a price of labor at 5 hours at $20 a hour. (Cutting, Grinding down burrs, prep for welding, welding, etc..) That is how the price got out of wack.

    I’m not dissing the 80/20 though. The stuff looks awesome and I am looking to build a CNC maching in the future with it.

  2. Will says:

    80/20 is used a lot in industrial automation. We make walls of guarding around moving parts using 80/20 and Lexan (which tucks into the slotted versions). In engineering we also use it for prototyping. Long-term we still use welded steel for most structures since they can be machined to tighter tolerances. One problem with the lock washers is that they indent the extruded aluminum, so if you try to adjust a piece very slightly the washers want to slip back into the old indentations as you tighten.

  3. Evan N. says:

    Don’t forget Unistrut!!! Get it from McMaster-Carr. Same concept as this, might be cheaper.

  4. Simon says:

    I use Minitec (German variety) since they have a patented fastener which does not need the extrusion to be drilled for connections. They can also be adjusted anytime which is great for people who design as they build.

    I use this stuff mostly because anything you make is covered in a t-slot which is great for adding accessories which can be removed/added/adjusted easily.


  5. Unistrut is truly awesome, a similar concept but slightly larger, a good bit stronger, and definitely cheaper. But it doesn’t look so slick; you wouldn’t want to use it for a presentation podium like in Simon’s pictures.

    I’ve built some crazy stuff with a B-line unistrut parts catalog, a cooperative warehouse guy, and a little imagination. It’s important that you have a good selection of fittings, since all the magic happens at the corners. Check it out.

    It’d be neat to see experienced users of 80/20 compete with experienced users of Unistrut to build similar stuff, then compare it on cost, time, strength, and number of unique parts required. In my book, they’re two similar tools to attack slightly different problems, both worthy of attention.

  6. SuperJdynamite says:

    80/20 also has an eBay outlet.

  7. kyle says:

    The only way their welded steel comparison is more expensive is because of an outrageously overestimated build time.

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