This page will take an in-depth look at electronic enclosures.
What is an Electronic Enclosure?
Electronic enclosures are box-like structures that are designed to protect, contain, and enclose electronic components such as switches, relays, printed circuit boards (PCB), integrated circuits, power supplies, processors, etc. They can be made from different material types at different sizes depending on the use, purpose, environment, design, cost, etc. The diagram below shows an electronic enclosure protecting the components inside.
Imagine an electronic device where water can easily penetrate, where children can easily touch the components inside, and where the components are exposed to heat or moisture. This device will not last long as it can be easily damaged by the near environment and will be hazardous to the users. Electronic and electrical engineers came up with structures that protect the entire device from the harm it can cause to the environment and other negative effects associated with uncovered components. These structures are known as electronic enclosures.
What is a Metal Enclosure Box?
A metal box is a designed fabrication to give shelter, store, and enclose something. Aluminum enclosures and stainless steel enclosures are all referred to as the types of metal boxes. Metal boxes are commonly used as fuse boxes and outdoor electrical meters. In business companies, these metal boxes are often used for enclosing electrical equipment for the supply of power around the premises.
In industries, these boxes protect and keep sensitive and fragile electronic components from accidental impacts, debris and dirt and keep them from contamination. Accidents from workers and machinery may happen at any time but with these boxes, further damage like an explosion and other electrical faults can be prevented from happening.
The International Electrotechnical Commission is a board that helps professionals choose boxes and ratings that are appropriate to the purpose of the box. Some metal boxes are used for very important purposes like in telecommunication and if inappropriate boxes are chosen, that may lead to the blocking or unintended traffic flow of information.
How are Electronic Enclosures Made?
- arranging all the hardware required to make part functional, like PCB, Sensors, Switches, Meters, etc..
- making CAD models of hardware,
- arranging them in their positions & making basic analyses for interference and motion.
- selecting the desired manufacturing process from the below manufacturing process.
3D Printing or Rapid protiping
The fastest and most advanced way of manufacturing in a fast manner, 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that allows the formation of enclosures using the 3D printer reading CAD files and creating layers of materials that will build into the 3D model. 3D printing can produce complex designs that other methods like the injection mold may fail to create.
Both plastic and metal can be 3D printed however most 3D printers are not fast compared to the other production methods. 3D printers can be used for small production volumes and are suitable for custom enclosures where the designs are not commonly used or for prototyping models before passing them for mass production.
There are many advantages to making 3D printed enclosures, fast prototyping, no tooling cost, many iterations can be made very easily, and each model can be customized.
Sheet Metal Fabrication
Sheet metal fabrication is the process of converting flat metal sheets of aluminum or steel into metallic structures by folding, assembling, or folding the sheets. It is an effective and economical way of producing electronic enclosures. When comparing sheet metal fabrication to CNC machining, it has been revealed that metal fabrication is fast and has less complication.
Many outdoor electronic enclosures and desktop enclosures are made from metal sheet fabrication. The initial costs associated with buying sheet metal fabrication machinery and tools are high but as the production volume increases a rapid decrease in cost per part is expected.
Computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining is a type of machine that uses subtractive machining processes by reading CAD files to direct a cutting tool on the workpiece to cut the material according to the CAD program.
The process on CNC machines is repeatable if the program files are still accessible to the machine. This is an advantage because the same program used to manufacture a plastic enclosure can be used to fabricate a metal enclosure. CNC machining enables the fabrication of complex geometric designs.
Injection molding is a manufacturing process that involves shaping materials such as plastic, metals, glasses, elastomers, polymers, and injecting heated material into the mold. This method is mainly used when manufacturing simple enclosures like car remote controls, tv remote controllers, gamepads, kiosk displays, calculators, etc.