Category Archive: Aluminum Enclosures

Aluminum vs. Steel: An Infographic

Steel and aluminum are the two most common materials used in metal fabrication. In fact, aluminum is the second most abundant metallic element on Earth and steel is the world’s most popular alloy.

Each has their own defined and distinct characteristics that make it the right, or wrong, choice for each job. When selecting the right material, it’s important to consider: strength and malleability, corrosion resistance, weight and cost. And most important of all, each of these attributes need to be matched with the end application.

aluminum vs. steel comparison chart

Common Use Cases for Aluminum Racks

Aluminum racks can be used in a variety of industries with several use cases outlined below.

Sports & Entertainment
  • scoreboards
  • sound & light equipment
  • audio/visual
Food Processing
  • thermoelectric cooling systems
  • food-grade warehousing
  • retail cases at grocery, restaurant, bar, specialty stores
Security & Surveillance
  • RFID readers
  • transmit/receive modules
  • power supplies
  • assembly line control panels
  • electric vehicle charging stations
  • after-market modifications for emergency vehicles
  • traffic-control enclosures
  • mass transit & rail components (ex: rail switching components)
  • power plants (including renewables)
  • waste-water treatment (ex: sludge treatment)
Aerospace & Defense
  • aircraft
  • satellite

Ready to start your own project that includes COTS/MCOTS or custom manufactured electronic enclosures? Browse our catalog or chat with one of our engineers today!

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Your Guide to Designing Electronic Enclosures & Racks

Electronics are great: they whirr, they blink, maybe it speaks in tones, it’s voice-controlled and “cloud connected”. But, since you likely want to protect this powerful heap of wires and circuit boards for many years to come, a robust electronic enclosure or rack is required. Creating optimal enclosure designs that reflect your requirements and intent can be a challenge, especially if its uncharted territory.

But where to start? This post will help guide you through the various options to hopefully save you time and unnecessary redesigns.

Let’s define enclosure first. Enclosures are four-post racks, often with front and rear doors as well as side panels. Using an enclosure provides enhanced security, controlled thermal management and a broader range of mounting options for accessories.

Step 1: Start with your product requirements

Racks and enclosures can be found everywhere. They’re on Navy ships, in airports, healthcare facilities, schools and enterprise data centers. They’re available in different heights, widths and depths. You should be asking yourself: what does my enclosure need to do and what are its most basic functions? Consider space and environment, equipment and cabling and ideal temperatures or airflow management.

The features highlighted above are necessary for a successful design, but don’t actually go into specific details. At this phase, its best to keep things as minimal and as streamlined as possible to give you flexibility.

PRO tip: enclosing electronics tends to increase the temperature of the system, so you may need to add a fan or some sort of heat rejection method if your components are getting too hot.



Size: The most important attribute is how much rack space is required. 

Height (in.)
Width (in.)
Depth (in.)

Payload: An estimate of the anticipated weight loading is key and vary widely depending on application. Our light-duty racks can accomodate 500 lbs whereas a heavy duty rack has an isolated payload of 1600 lbs.

Payload or weight loading (lbs.)

Isolators: Are isolators required or will the enclosure need to withstand high shock and vibration?

Isolators: Yes / No
Stabilizers: Yes / No

End-of-row or bayed: Is the cabinet standalone (requires covered sides), end of row (side covered on one end) or bayed with adjacent cabinets (no side covers)? In a typical installation, you may have some of each of these configurations.

End of row: Yes / No, Qty
Bayed: Yes / No, Qty
Standalone: Yes / No, Qty

Front doors/back doors & locks: Do you need solid or vented front/back doors? 

Solid or vented?
Lock type (key / combo / HFID)


Shelves, power panels, drawers

Step 2: Get the right fit & the right materials

Use 3D modeling to create a rack that combines safety, functionality and cost-effectiveness. Dimensions are of course an important part of your final product, as is payload and weight. We’ve listed standard rack specifications, but custom configurations are also possible.

Light Duty Racks

  • Isolated Payload – 500 lbs.
  • Standard Height – 72 inches
  • Standard Weight – 100 lbs.

Medium Duty Racks

  • Isolated Payload – 1200lbs.
  • Standard Height – 72 inches
  • Standard Weight – 130 lbs.

Heavy Duty Racks

  • Isolated Payload – 1600 lbs.
  • Standard Height – 72 inches
  • Standard Weight – 267 lbs.

raw aluminum materialsAt A&J, we build aluminum racks. It’s a lightweight, corrosion-resistant metal that can be chem-filmed or left unfinished with an ability to withstand high temperatures. And due to this extreme versatility, the process of extrusion can lend itself to even more complex designs. Pure aluminum for commercial use has a tensile strength of 90MPa. It can be used in several applications including food & beverage, marine, pharmaceuticals, telecommunication, and aerospace/defense.

We stock Aluminum 6061-T6 and alloy 6063-T5 for the extrusion material and 5052-H32 and 6061-T6 for sheet metal.

Step 3: Let’s Accessorize

Rack accessories such as shelves, panels and drawers provide a finished appearance, add security and improve your work efficiency. Interior accessories such as power panels, brackets or fans can help reduce clutter and improve general system operation.

Accessories (by product category)


Fans, fan trays and blowers

Power strips and distribution, cable support

Internal Slide Hardware

Mounting brackets, slide brackets

External Panels & Hardware

Blank panels
Screws, nuts, washers

Fixed and sliding shelves, sliding drawers


Due to our unique, bolted-together design, side panels can easily be removed from outside which will greatly enhance accessibility to interior components and cabling. You can easily swap in/out various kits as electronic equipment changes or move them around. You can even move the entire enclosure with relative ease.

Usable cabinet depth

The usable depth in a cabinet rack is the maximum usable space and typically varies from approximately 17″ to 42″. The addition of connectors and cabling from the rear panels of equipment or instruments can add several inches to cabinet depth requirements. You also need to factor in all accessories such as power strips, cooling devices and mounting brackets.

Step 4: Finishing

Powdercoating – a type of dry thermoplastic powder, its available in a variety of colors, gloss levels and textures and widely recognized as the industry standard for painting metal. It provides a cost-effective, high quality and durable finish.

PRO tip: powdercoating adds an extra layer to your enclosure and its recommended that you add an additional .003″ to .005″ per side.

Chemical Conversion Coating – often referred to as chem-film or chromate coating, it creates a corrosion-resistant and durable surface that exhibits stable electrical conductivity.

Anodizing – an electrochemical process that converts a medal surface into a decorative, durable anodic oxide finish.

Bare Metal Finishes – offered in three basic types:

  • No finish – parts are de-burred with no additional finishing, and may exhibit small scratches or swirl marks
  • Grained finish – part is de-burred, and then given a specific linear grain direction via brushing
  • Tumbled finish – smoothens and imparts non-directional finish via tumbling in abrasive medium

Hopefully this guide gives you helpful guidance for designing your own product enclosure. Contact us for more detail on a particular enclosure design feature or schedule a chat with one of our engineers.

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The Advantages of Using Aluminum for your Electronic Enclosures

Aluminum is an extremely versatile metal with a number of advantages. It is recognized specifically for being both lightweight and flexible. And due to this extreme versatility, the process of extrusion can lend itself to even more complex designs. Pure aluminum for commercial use has a tensile strength of 90MPa.

Aluminum can be used as perfect enclosures for a wide range of electrical and electronic applications such as CATV amplifier housings and other telecom storage, ODS metering control systems, and automotive ECU boxes.


aluminum electronic enclosure from A&J Manufacturing

Benefits of Aluminum Enclosures Include:

  • Ability to withstand high temperature
  • Overall ruggedness: high impact, high tensile strength, rigid
  • Resistant to rusting corrosion
  • Lightweight, as compared to steel
  • Blocks passage of radio waves (naturally RFI shielded) and reflects externally generated interference, such as electromagnetic wavelengths
  • Built-in flame protection
  • UV resistant without additives
  • Easy to paint and/or coat
  • Does not swell or deform and is especially advantageous at keeping away water, dust and moisture
  • Scrap is infinitely recyclable and valuable which can lower energy costs and carbon emissions

Aluminum has a weight of approximately 2.71 g/cm3, or about a third of the weight of steel, making it easier and cheaper to transport than most other metals. It’s also a corrosion resistant metal due to a naturally generating protective coating. This coating can be be further improved via painting or anodising, too.

It has excellent heat dissipating properties due to high thermal conductivity. Even with 0.007 mm thickness of aluminum foil, its still impermeable. It’s ideal for transferring heat from the components of a circuit board within the enclosure to the outside, thereby reducing the interior temperature and protecting the components from damage due to excessive heat. It’s basically insensitive to temperature extremes and remains constant over a wide range from -80 C to +150 C. Aluminum has high reflectance to radiated heat too such as sunlight with over 80% light reflectivity.

Contrary to what most people think, aluminum is 100% recyclable and retains all of its original properties during the recycling process. Enclosures can be easily customized and is often easier to modify than cases of other materials. It’s non-toxic, odorless, tasteless, non-absorbing, non-sparking, non-magnetic, and non-flammable.

Ready to start your own project that includes COTS/MCOTS or custom manufactured electronic enclosures? Browse our catalog or chat with one of our engineers today!

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