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A village trustee called Access Fixtures looking for a decorative streetlight pole and LED luminaire to be used by the entrance to a public pool. The trustee was comparing an Access Fixtures product to a competitor’s product and had a concern about the construction and durability of the poles being offered. An Access Fixtures competitor was offering an extruded aluminum pole, while the Access Fixtures pole was die-cast aluminum. The customer observed the extruded pole had a thicker wall than the cast aluminum pole. Did that mean the extruded aluminum pole was stronger than the cast aluminum pole? An Access Fixtures Lighting Specialist needed to provide accurate information regarding the difference between extruded aluminum construction and die-cast aluminum construction. The lighting specialist began by supplying a graphic of a  Play-Doh extruder.

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Extrusion is a mass production technique used to lower production price through quick and easy fabrication. Extrusion is the process of having cold or semi hot metal forced through an opening, which creates the desired shape. This shape must be uniform and cannot have complexity. This can be compared to the process of forcing Play-Doh through a Play-Doh pasta maker. The process places stress on the material and actually reduces the quality. Extrusion by nature must be thicker in order withstand the extrusion process.

Cast aluminum products are formed out of molten aluminum poured into a mold. The pieces can be complex in shape and design. The metal is never stressed and is allowed to heat and cool down to temperatures which do not weaken the integrity of the metal. Casting, in most cases is thinner, but that is because the technique does not need thicker aluminum to make-up for lost strength and integrity from the extrusion process.

The thickness of the sidewall of a pole is not indicative of the quality. Rather, the production technique is indicative of the quality of the product. It is important to understand the terms used to describe the fabrication process, or you may end up with a product that may not have the quality required by your application. The customer decided to move forward with the die-cast aluminum pole that would provide him a stronger pole with a higher ability to withstand children climbing on it, kicking it, and possibly even cars hitting it.