When designing an electronic system, one factor to consider is housing and protecting this system, especially if it is for use in harsh or difficult environments. As a result, there are a number of key criteria which need to be addressed to ensure the enclosure suits the application requirements. Steve Gallon from Fibox explains
With applications for electrical and electronic devices growing all the time, the term ‘harsh environments’ has to encompass much more than those encountered in traditional manufacturing and construction environments.
For example, the destructive forces involved in extremes of weather as well as manmade destructive forces must now be considered too.
As a result, OEMs designing electronic systems now have a multitude of issues to take into consideration – not least is whether you can find an enclosure to house and protect the system you have just developed. Faced with the task of specifying an enclosure to house and protect a specific device or control system – especially one designed to operate in harsh or difficult environments – there is an art to getting the decision exactly right.
On the face of it, selecting the right enclosure is normally viewed as a relatively simple process, determined by its size and where it is intended to be installed. This, in turn, normally dictates the construction material, its IP rating, its availability, its flexibility in terms of customisation, cost constraints and finally its aesthetic value.
At this stage it is also important to take into account that there are many individuals in the decision chain, and each link in the chain has a different specification priority. It could be the marketing requirement for aesthetics or the R&D/design engineers need to download CAD drawings from a manufacturer’s website. When pulled together, all these facets will make the final decision to purchase a particular enclosure much more failsafe.
Addressing the criteria
So let’s look at the key criteria which, when addressed, will narrow the choice down to just a few options:
Where is the enclosure likely to be installed, inside or out? This determines the material choice, the IP rating and any specific corrosion risks which need to be addressed at the design stage.
What is being installed in the enclosure? This solves the size issue and also answers the question of what type of internal fixing points are required. Some manufacturers can offer extra fixing pods to accommodate cover mounted components, etc.
How often is access to the interior required? Should the design include hinged opening doors for regular access? Alternatively should the design include security such as locks or tamper proof cover screws to guarantee total integrity of the enclosure?
Does the enclosure require visual access to the internal components?
By answering this question the option of transparent or opaque covers is addressed. This could include the provision of viewing windows in an opaque cover, for example.
Does the enclosure need to be delivered already customised? This is a very important question often asked by
specifiers who do not have in-house machining facilities. Customising includes machining of holes and apertures, special fixing points, graphics and corporate colours, and a multitude of other bespoke services. Some manufacturer’s offer a comprehensive customising service and this should always be discussed with them at the design stage.
What is the budget price? This question has to be addressed at some point so why not cover it at the early stage of the project. Manufacturers can then offer alternatives and compromises to assist the specifier in achieving their cost criteria.
With safety guidelines being continuously updated – ATEX, WEEE & COSHH to name just a few – new technologies will need to be produced. This means that, from the enclosure industry’s point of view, all those new devices will need even more advanced enclosures and enclosure systems to house and protect them.
Fibox enclosures are designed to protect equipment and devices in all conditions, even the harshest and most demanding of environments. In fact the wide selection of plastic, polyester and ABS cabinets guarantees the ideal solution for the application, including those which house electronics that must operate outside the usual parameters of typical industrial environments.
The more hostile an environment becomes, however, the greater the need for a more specialised approach to protecting sensitive systems. As a solution, Fibox products can be customised to meet specific needs – and with the range of electrical and electronic devices and components diversifying all the time, those needs will only increase. Customisation therefore includes drilling, tapping, punching, milling, RFI/EMC shielding, painting, powder coating to any special colour, screen printing, engraving and component assembly.
Forward thinking manufacturers are taking this opportunity to invest in the development of new technology platforms that will transform their served markets with innovations that will shape the designs of products of the future.
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