Behind the Build: Hard Anodized Aluminum

Join DSE as we take you ‘Behind the Build’ to learn more about the processes that go into designing and building rugged electronics. 

Hard anodized aluminum is a durable metal finish that can be found in applications ranging from race cars to consumer goods and even DSE’s rugged electronics. Many of DSE’s rugged displays, including the FHDRM, DLX and PTAC2, feature an enclosure made of milled aluminum with a hard anodized finish, which provides the strength and longevity needed in extreme environments. 

 Continue reading to learn more about hard anodized aluminum, and why it’s a clear choice for rugged applications in the defense, aerospace and mining worlds. 

How Hard Anodization Works

This post-processing finish refers to the process of converting a deoxidized aluminum component into an oxide film. There are three primary types of anodization that refer to the thickness and application process. Types I and II are conventional methods that range in thickness from 0.0001” to  0.0006”. Type III, or Hard Coat Anodize, requires more stringent processing conditions which results in a harder and denser component. Hardcoat also ranges in thickness from 0.0005” to 0.0030”. All DSE products use the Type III Hard Coat Anodization process to achieve the maximum durability and strength required in rugged environments. 

To begin the anodization process aluminum components first undergo a cleaning and rinsing process and are then placed in an electrolytic solution, such as sulfuric acid. A strong electrical charge is then applied, forcing negative ions to be attracted to the aluminum component which acts as an anode. As positive ions leave the surface of the aluminum part, oxygen ions combine with the aluminum atoms to complete the anodization process. 

Why Choose Hard Anodized Aluminum?

Unlike plating or paint, the anodization process alters the aluminum substrate itself, resulting in a durable material that can then be sealed or painted. Through the anodization process the component becomes more resistant to corrosion, abrasion and general wear. 

Anodized components also provide performance under extreme environmental conditions, withstanding shock and vibration better than their composite counterparts. Additionally, the combination of a milled aluminum enclosure with a hard anodized finish maintains the Faraday cage needed to meet the stringent requirements of EMI-461. 

Not convinced yet? Besides resulting in a more durable component, choosing milled aluminum with a hard anodized finish can also result in a unit that is more scalable over time. When compared to a cast molded part, milled aluminum is a more cost-effective solution for low-volume needs. Its relatively low upfront development cost also allows for flexibility in design when approaching customized needs. 

Hard anodized aluminum is a top-choice among the defense, aerospace and mining industries where components must deliver sustained performance under unforgiving environmental conditions. Through the anodization process, standard aluminum parts are transformed into durable components ready for field-use. 

Thank you for going ‘Behind the Build’ with DSE in this first blog installation. Want to learn more about our hard anodized enclosures, rugged electronics or any other in our build-design process? Contact our team at to learn more.