Which Industrial Electronic Enclosures? Aluminum Or Plastic?

Choosing between plastic and metal enclosures

Why Your Next Industrial Electronic Enclosure Could Be Plastic

Are you on ‘aluminum autopilot’ when it comes to specifying IP-rated enclosures for your industrial electronics? Don’t worry – it’s perfectly understandable. Diecast aluminum has been the excellent ‘go-to’ material for so long that it’s easy to forget there are some great plastic electronic enclosures for challenging environments.

There’s a big misconception that plastic enclosures aren’t tough enough for factories. But look around any Industry 4.0 smart factory and you’ll see plenty of them. And even before then, there were plenty of robust plastic enclosures for those prepared to look beyond the serried ranks of diecast aluminum housings.

Why Plastic Enclosures Can Be A Smart Choice

Let’s cut to the chase – plastic is significantly more cost-effective than aluminum. It’s also lighter (should weight be an important factor). Plastic can sometimes be just as good at protecting your electronics from water and dust ingress (and occasionally even better in the odd instance). The key question is whether plastic is robust enough for your specific application.

In many cases it is – which is why you should give plastic very serious consideration. After all, these are not just any plastic enclosures. They’re designed specifically for industrial applications, for factories, for the merciless great outdoors – not some cosy office. And in some applications, plastic-based materials outperform metal and should be very much the first choice, such as glass reinforced polyester (GRP) where resistance to chemicals is important.

Aluminum and plastic enclosures share similar traits. Both are light, robust and easy to machine – not that you need to worry about machining: we can do all that for you as part of our customization service. Find out more about that here.

Yes, diecast aluminum is tougher than UV-stable ASA Luran. But you risk over-engineering your product if it’s mounted out of harm’s way. And look at the HMI enclosures we manufacture: these crucial command hubs are at the centre of the action but they’re made from extruded aluminum profile – they’re not diecast.

Fortunately, more designers are wising up to the opportunities offered by today’s advanced thermoplastics. Which is why a number of ROLEC’s diecast aluminum enclosures have a plastic counterpart. Here are some examples…

 

aluPLUS vs technoPLUS enclosures

Diecast aluPLUS vs Plastic technoPLUS – IP-Rated Enclosures With ‘Lid Closed’ Installation

There’s much to love about aluPLUS (IP 66/67) diecast aluminum enclosures. For a start, they’re available in eight industry-standard sizes to make it easier to upgrade from the enclosures you may already be using.

Their advanced technical features include lid-closed installation (to protect the electronics and seal); clip-on plastic trims to hide the fixing and mounting screws; lid retaining straps; a generous lid recess for fitting a membrane keypad or product label. Inside, there are threaded screw bosses for fitting PCBs, mounting plates and terminal rails.

Plastic technoPLUS (IP 66/67/69K) offers similar features: lid-closed installation, recessed lid with retaining straps, threaded screw bosses inside. But the covers for the lid screws and mounting screws are slightly different; they’re hinged, which we believe is an improvement on the original aluPLUS design.

The sharp-eyed among you will also have noticed that technoPLUS offers a wider choice of IP ratings than aluPLUS – making it the choice of the two models if your enclosures need IP69K protection from regular jet washing or steam cleaning. Yes, you read that correctly – in this instance, the ASA Luran enclosure is more resilient than its diecast aluminum counterpart when it comes to safeguarding your electronics from water ingress.

And there’s a reason for that: technoPLUS is designed for mounting on poles or masts in exposed locations in all weathers. It has a special bracket (available as standard) which enables secure mounting – either horizontally or vertically – with either plastic or metal straps.

However, technoPLUS is available in five sizes (three fewer than aluPLUS) and they’re not industry-standard. They’re not the same sizes as those in the aluPLUS range – so size-wise, the two models are not interchangeable.

View the aluPLUS range >>

View the technoPLUS range >>

 

aluDISC vs technoDISC enclosures

Diecast aluDISC vs Plastic technoDISC Enclosures For ‘Round’ Industrial Applications

These two models are identical in all but material. Both feature a large circular central display area to tie in visually with ‘round’ applications such as pipework. The wristwatch-inspired outer shape has two flat edges for mounting connectors.

Again, the main technical features are similar to aluPLUS and technoPLUS: lid-closed installation, recessed lid, retaining straps, snap-on covers to conceal the screws, internal threaded screw bosses. But unlike aluPLUS and technoPLUS, aluDISC offer the option of an IP 65 hinged transparent cover (technoDISC does not). Overall, it’s aluminum aluDISC that offers the greater choice of ingress protection ratings (IP 66/67/69K) – compared with ASA Luran technoDISC’s IP 66/67.

Both enclosures are available in four sizes – the same four for each model so they’re interchangeable from a sizing point of view. But aluDISC also offers the option of a protection cover for the third-largest size (AR 120).

View the aluDISC range >>

View the technoDISC range >>

 

aluCASE vs starCASE enclosures

Diecast aluCASE vs Plastic starCASE

The big difference between our premium aluCASE diecast enclosures and our ASA starCASE enclosures is ingress protection: aluCASE is IP 66/67/69K whereas starCASE is IP 66. That factor alone may be the one that determines your choice.

But it would be a shame if ingress protection were your only consideration (important though it is) – because starCASE has a great deal to offer. Not least in its aesthetics, which are slightly curvier than those of aluCASE.

Both models offer lid closed installation plus the usual lid recess and concealed fixings – but where aluCASE has clip-on plastic or aluminum trims, starCASE’s trims are connected to the lid with integrated hinges. You might accidentally drop aluCASE’s trims during installation or removal but not starCASE’s. Color-coded trims are available for both models – red, blue or anthracite (in addition to the standard window gray for aluCASE or light gray for starCASE).

However, there’s no contest when it comes to the range of sizes: aluCASE wins hands down with 29 sizes, compared with just eight for starCASE. Both models offer RFI/EMI shielding, integrated lid supports and a lock – but aluCASE’s options list also includes a corrosion-proof coating, hinges and a transparent lid.

View the aluCASE range >>

View the starCASE range >>

Further Reading

Get Expert Technical Advice

Similar-looking enclosures – either metal or plastic – can offer very different technical benefits so it pays to get expert advice when specifying the ideal housing for your industrial electronics.

It is important to partner with a specialist enclosures manufacturer that can offer you the full range of customization services so your enclosures can go straight to your production line, ready for the installation of your electronics.

Contact ROLEC for expert technical advice on specifying the right enclosure for your electronics and the best ways to customize it.

 

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