Why tubular steel is better than plastic for handling equipment

Tubular steel is a versatile material that can be used to construct material storage and handling equipment such as tables, trolleys, racks and garment rails. An alternative material is plastic, but there are several reasons why tubular steel is better.

Strength

Metal tubing is stronger than plastic. A table can be made from plastic, but if it is being used in a very busy warehouse with heavy items, it will not last long and could soon crack.

A smaller amount of tubing can withstand more stress than plastic, and a smaller volume of steel can be used to make stronger equipment than plastic too.

Steel will be able to withstand higher temperatures than plastic, which can also be damaged by acidic substances.

Looks

Coated tubular steel look better than plastic. If appearance is important in a project, metal will look better. Plastic can look cheap and unappealing.

The environment effect

There have been plenty of headlines about the harmful effects of plastic. Much of the criticism is about single-use items such as plastic drinking straws, plastic bags, and cotton buds, but plastic tubing is usually not recyclable. Plastic can create harmful chemicals when it degrades, and these can pollute water sources.

Cost

Initial costs of equipment made with tubular steel can be greater than plastic equipment, but tubular steel equipment will last longer, so will not need replacing as often as plastic equipment. In the long run, tubular steel is cost effective.

Like many products, it is worth paying a little extra for quality and reliability.

There are times when plastic is best

There are some industrial applications where plastic tubing is better, such as hoses, fuel lines, gauges, spray systems, and dispensers. For storage and handling equipment, tubular steel is preferred.

Weight

Plastic is lighter than steel, so it is better for weight critical equipment. This is not an issue for packing station tables where strength is more important than weight. A tubular steel trolley is sufficiently lightweight to be practical for use by one person.

Ease of fabrication

Plastic can easily be made into complex curved shapes. Metal can be more difficult to work with, but skilled metal workers can curve and weld products together in a short time. After a production line has been tooled to produce many plastic objects, it is not easy to change the design. Designers can easily make changes to tubular steel products. Non-standard equipment sizes can easily be accommodated.

Metalworkers can quickly construct prototypes of new designs. Small plastic items can be produced in bulk at rapid rates, but tubular steel is ideal for short fabrications runs of specialised material handling equipment.

Reliability

Busy warehouses need reliable equipment. They cannot afford to suspend picking and packing operations if equipment breaks down. Tables must be sturdy, trolleys need to be usable at all times, and shelves and racks have to withstand storing heavy items without strain.

Tubular steel provides the reliability that cheaper plastic equipment cannot offer.

Posted by Katrina
4th July 2018
Metalworking

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