One of the commonly misunderstood assumption in the outdoor lighting industry and in many other fields is that steel and aluminum are interchangeable and that both materials can be used in any situation and for any purpose.
The truth of the matter is that each material has advantages and disadvantages for specific applications and should be used under the right conditions. Two of the most widely used high-strength aluminum alloys in the lighting industry are 6061 and 6063 temper to T6. These two materials have great strength-to-weight ratio and are used in the fabrication of decorative poles and utility brackets. A good example of this is the SoleCity Collection: the curved poles (ATRC1 and ATRC2) series as well as our 4, 6 and 8 ft brackets. In these examples we took advantage of the ease of machining and ease of manufacturing of aluminum to create new structured shapes and to make sure we stay within the limits of the material to guaranty safety and structural integrity. Another advantage of aluminum is its excellent corrosion resistance and its high percentage of recyclability, important for the use of this material in harsh environments and a key factor for sustainable projects.
Steel on the other hand is a higher-strength materiel and is used when we are looking for strength and stiffness on a project or product. A good example is when the projects are located in high windy areas and need to withstand to large and heavy loads. Steel is typically used when a lighting pole is loaded with many flags, large banners, countless light fixtures… or when a client is looking to the manufacturer for the fabrication of very long or very narrow brackets with important loads at its end like a long traffic arm with a large street sign. An important factor to keep in mind when choosing steel is to properly choose the surface finish: paint, galvanization, interior paint or primer. You can choose one of these options or a combination of them and by doing so you will increase the life and maximize the appearance of your product significantly.
So next time you are looking for the right material for your poles and brackets make sure you know what your needs are and in which environment the products will be used.