Lifting the lid on enclosure choice

Camden Electronics owner, Nicola Kay, poses 10 questions to ensure buyers get the best enclosure solution to house their products Q) Where will the product be used?
A) This is a crucial question. Consider carefully where the product is going to be situated. This will dictate the types of enclosures that can be used. For example, is a UL94V0 flame retardant enclosure required? Does the product need to be water or splash proof? Are high voltages present and what ingress protection (IP) rating is required? Is the product going into a hazardous environment (eg petrochemical industry) and therefore needs housing in accordance with ATEX regulations? All these questions will determine whether a plastic enclosure will be suitable or whether a metal housing is necessary.

Q) What mounting method is appropriate?
A) Consider how the end-product will be mounted. Will it be wall or DIN rail panel-mounted for example? Perhaps the product will be mounted either way depending on users requirements. Some enclosures, such as Camdens CNMB series, can be wall and rail mounted, cover both applications.

Q) Off-the-shelf or custom moulding?
A) Production volume will determine whether the cost of tooling a custom moulding can be justified. However, todays products tend to have shorter lifecycles and frequent changes are often necessary mid-stream (eg new connectivity options). In such cases it is worth considering off-the-shelf products that can deliver a flexible range of options. Camdens CNMB range was developed specifically to meet the challenges of the fast-moving electronics market, letting buyers specify options that cover their immediate requirements, while allowing a level of customisation to meet future needs.

Q) How much customisation of an off-the-shelf enclosure will be needed?
A) With most off-the-shelf enclosures some customisation is required to accommodate holes for switches and I/O etc. This adds costs unless options exists that covers the applications exact needs. Again, Camdens CNMB range meets this challenge by letting buyers choose from numerous options designed to match market requirements, from self-customised perforated terminal covers to extended height modules and curved covers.

Q) How much ventilation/cooling is required?
A) With more electronics packed into smaller spaces, this is also a critical question. Heat dissipation has always been a problem and unless a metal enclosure can conduct heat away, some form of ventilation is required. Cooling slots are often machined into off-the-shelf plastic enclosures but this is time consuming and expensive regarding breakages. It can also compromise an enclosures strength which may reduce product performance, particularly in high stress environments. Camden designed its CNMB range with optional ventilation slots that can be moulded in during manufacture, avoiding machining and any compromise of housing strength.

Q) Are aesthetics important?
A) In many applications, a products look can be important and a family of different products may need a similar appearance to distinguish their brand. Polycarbonate enclosures are ideal as they can be supplied in virtually any colour (subject to volume). When using metal enclosures, painting is required, introducing additional costs.

Q) How does the internal electronics connect with the outside world?
A) It is important to consider how the internal electronics connect to the world outside the enclosure. Input/output options and electrical terminations need to be convenient and simple to access if maintenance is required.

Q) How easy is it to fit the electronics?
A) In a way, this relates to the question of ventilation. Designers are under pressure to increase product features so it is inevitable that more electronics will be packed into a given space. Flexible enclosures allow multiple printed circuits, in different orientations, so that optimum packaging density is achieved.

Q) What about cost?
A) Enclosure costs can vary immensely and over-specifying can result in an end-product that is high value in relation to the components within. Thus, it is essential to specify an enclosure that properly meets the applications requirements, without going over the top. For example, equipment housed in a closed panel need not feature an expensively painted enclosure just for looks. A plastic DIN rail mounting enclosure will usually suffice for such applications, providing a low-cost solution.

Q) Where is the production being undertaken?
A) This is a question often overlooked by buyers, yet is one of the most important. The benefits of global manufacturing are well documented but buyers must ensure their suppliers can deliver components into the relevant areas without difficulty. Camden has coined the term glocal supply and put in place a worldwide supply chain designed to ensures products are delivered to manufacturing sites anywhere in the world. Regardless of where the design has taken place, having local supply at the point of manufacture is critical to ensuring a successful outcome.