What are automatic doors made of?

Automatic doors are primarily made of materials like glass, aluminum, steel, wood, and composite materials.

Basic Components of Automatic Doors

Door Leaf or Panel

Automatic doors can be found in a variety of settings from shopping malls to office buildings. The door leaf, also known as the panel, is the main moving part of the door. It’s what opens and closes to allow individuals to pass through.

Materials Used:

  • Glass: This is especially common in commercial settings, allowing visitors to see inside and often imparting a modern appearance. Some are even reinforced for additional strength. Here’s a detailed Wikipedia link on glass.
  • Metal: Often used for security or durability reasons.
  • Wood: Although less common in fully automatic doors, it’s still used for its aesthetic appeal, especially in upscale environments.

Types of Panels:

  • Solid: These offer more privacy and are often used in offices or secured areas.
  • Transparent: Primarily made of glass, they allow visibility between both sides.
  • Semi-transparent: These might use frosted glass or other materials to allow light while maintaining some level of privacy.

What are automatic doors made of

Door Frame

The door frame supports the door leaf and holds the components that allow the door to open and close automatically. It’s a fundamental part of ensuring the door functions smoothly and safely.

Materials Used:

  • Aluminum: Lightweight and resistant to corrosion, it’s a popular choice for many automatic doors. You can learn more about aluminum here.
  • Steel: Heavier than aluminum but offers greater strength.
  • PVC: Often used for its insulating properties, especially in exterior doors where energy efficiency is crucial.

Key Components in the Frame:

  • Track: This is where the door leaf slides or moves along.
  • Rollers: These facilitate the smooth movement of the door leaf.
  • Sensors: Embedded in or near the frame, they detect when someone approaches and signal the door to open.

Drive Mechanisms

Motor Types and Specifications

The heart of an automatic door system is its motor, which powers the movement of the door. Different environments and door types will require varying motor specifications.

AC Motors: Alternating Current (AC) motors are commonly used in many automatic door systems due to their reliability and ease of use. These motors can be easily adjusted for speed and torque, making them versatile for various door sizes and weights. More on AC motors.

DC Motors: Direct Current (DC) motors are known for their high torque and efficiency. They are often found in battery-powered or backup systems and are preferred when precision control over door movement is essential.

Motor Specifications to Consider:

  • Power Rating: This determines how much load the motor can handle. Bigger doors or doors that open more frequently might require a higher power rating.
  • Speed: Defined in RPM (Revolutions Per Minute), it dictates how fast the door will open or close.
  • Torque: Measures the rotational force of the motor, with higher torque being necessary for moving heavier doors.

Belt and Chain Drives

These are the primary methods used to transfer the motor’s power to the actual movement of the door.

Belt Drives: Belt drives use a looped strip, typically made of rubber or a similar material, connecting the motor’s pulley to a pulley on the door mechanism. They are known for their smooth and quiet operation, making them a favorite for environments like offices or hospitals where noise is a concern. Detailed information on belt drives.

Chain Drives: Similar to bicycle chains, chain drives are made of metal and are incredibly durable. They are particularly useful for heavier doors or in places where the door undergoes frequent use, such as industrial environments or busy retail entrances. Chain drives are robust and have a longer lifespan compared to belt drives but might produce more noise during operation.

Sensors and Activation

Infrared Sensors

Infrared sensors work by emitting an infrared light beam, usually from a light-emitting diode (LED). When an object or person interrupts this beam, the sensor triggers the door to open. These sensors are especially useful because they can detect both stationary and moving objects. Learn more about infrared sensors here.


  • Non-contact: Works without needing to touch the sensor physically.
  • Reliable: Rarely affected by environmental conditions like lighting or temperature.


  • Commercial entrances: Especially in stores where hands-free operation is crucial.
  • Hospitals and clinics: Where sanitation and ease of movement are essential.

Motion Detectors

Motion detectors, commonly using ultrasonic or microwave technology, sense movement in an area and activate the door accordingly. They’re especially prevalent in retail and office settings. More on motion detectors.


  • Wide detection range: Can cover larger areas, making them ideal for wide entrances.
  • Adjustability: Sensitivity can often be adjusted to avoid unnecessary activations.


  • Retail stores: Helps in seamless customer entries and exits.
  • Parking garages: Detects vehicles approaching the exit.


Pressure Mats

Placed on the ground in front of the door, pressure mats activate the door when stepped on. They work by sensing the weight of a person or object on them.


  • Simple and straightforward: No need for electronic adjustments.
  • Limited false activations: Only activates when physically stepped on.


  • Industrial settings: Where specific points of entry are designated.
  • Restricted areas: To ensure the door doesn’t open without someone directly intending to enter.

Remote Controls and Key Fobs

Remote controls and key fobs provide a way to open doors from a distance. Pushing a button on the device sends a signal to the door system, prompting it to open or close.


  • Convenience: Allows for activation from a distance.
  • Enhanced security: Can be given only to authorized personnel.


  • Residential garages: Where homeowners can open their garage before arriving.
  • Secure facilities: Where only authorized individuals can access.

Safety Features

Emergency Stop Functions

Emergency stop functions serve as a crucial feature in automatic doors. By pressing a dedicated button or triggering a specific mechanism, doors can be instantly halted, preventing any further motion.


  • Immediate reaction: Stops the door movement in split seconds.
  • Protects both users and the system: Prevents potential injuries and avoids damage to the door mechanism.


  • Industrial settings: Where machinery and workers are in proximity.
  • Busy retail stores: Can be activated in case of malfunctions to ensure customer safety. Find more about safety standards here.

Reversing Mechanisms

Reversing mechanisms detect when the door encounters an obstruction while closing and automatically reverses its motion. This feature is common in garage doors and other large automatic doors to ensure safety.


  • Injury prevention: Avoids trapping objects or individuals.
  • Minimizes door damage: By reversing the motion, it reduces the chance of harming the door.


  • Residential garages: Where kids or pets might accidentally be in the door’s path.
  • Warehouse settings: Where equipment or goods could obstruct the door.

Breakaway Features

Breakaway features allow doors to swing outward manually when exposed to significant force. This is vital in emergencies, ensuring that individuals can exit an area even if the automated system fails or power is lost.


  • Emergency evacuation: Provides an exit route during power outages or system failures.
  • Reduces door damage: By allowing the door to move freely when forced, it minimizes potential structural damage.


Advantages and types of Automatic Doors

Materials Commonly Used

Glass (tempered, laminated, etc.)

Glass is a popular choice for automatic doors, especially in commercial and office settings, providing visibility, aesthetic appeal, and a sense of openness.

Tempered Glass: This type of glass undergoes a process that increases its strength compared to regular glass. When shattered, it breaks into small granular pieces, reducing the risk of injury. More about tempered glass.

Laminated Glass: Comprising multiple layers of glass with interlayers of polymer, laminated glass holds together even when broken. This characteristic makes it an excellent choice for security and soundproofing applications.


Lightweight yet durable, aluminum is frequently used in door frames and panels.


  • Corrosion-resistant: Suitable for various weather conditions and climates.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: Provides a modern and sleek look.


  • Commercial buildings: Due to its stylish appearance and durability.
  • Exterior doors: Its resistance to weathering makes it ideal. Learn more about aluminum.

Steel and Other Metals

Steel, known for its robustness, is often chosen for high-security doors and heavy-duty applications.


  • Strength: Capable of withstanding substantial impact.
  • Security: Difficult to tamper with, making it ideal for restricted areas.


Wood and Composite Materials

While wood offers natural beauty, composite materials combine wood’s aesthetic with increased resilience.


  • Traditional look: Perfect for settings that require a classic or rustic appearance.
  • Customizability: Can be easily shaped, carved, and stained to desired specifications.

Composite Materials:

  • Durability: Resists warping and weathering better than pure wood.
  • Maintenance: Typically requires less upkeep than traditional wood.


What types of glass are commonly used in automatic doors?

The most common types are tempered and laminated glass.

How does aluminum compare to other materials in terms of durability for door frames?

Aluminum is lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and offers a sleek appearance, making it durable and ideal for various weather conditions.

Why is steel often chosen for high-security doors?

Steel is robust and can withstand substantial impact, making it difficult to tamper with and ideal for secure facilities like banks.

What are the advantages of composite materials over traditional wood for doors?

Composite materials resist warping and weathering better than pure wood and typically require less maintenance.

How does tempered glass react when shattered?

When shattered, tempered glass breaks into small granular pieces, reducing injury risks.

What's the lifespan of an aluminum door frame in a commercial setting?

With proper maintenance, an aluminum door frame can last upwards of 15-20 years in a commercial setting.

Are there any drawbacks to using wood in automatic doors?

Wood, while aesthetically pleasing, can be prone to warping, rotting, or termite damage and may require regular maintenance compared to other materials.

How fast do typical automatic doors with standard motors open?

Depending on the motor's power rating and the door's size, most automatic doors open at a speed of 12-20 inches per second.
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