Chris Lloyd, Spelsberg UK general manager, explains how customisation services for enclosures can offer reduced installation costs and increased product quality; and why it can benefit projects of any size
With such a variety of design requirements and time pressures in modern electrical engineering it is impossible for even the largest enclosure manufacturer to offer a list of standard products which will accommodate all of its customers’ needs. The costs for tooling a completely new enclosure also mean that for this to be economic, the order numbers often need to be in the tens of thousands. Spelsberg UK offers a customisation and pre-assembly service to address the increasing demand. But can these services really help to reduce overall project costs and increase quality, and is there room for customisation in projects where the product won’t be mass produced?
With such a wide variety of standard enclosures to choose from on the market it is understandable that many design engineers will try to fit their latest design around an ‘off-the-shelf’ component rather than specifying a bespoke product. While this does have some obvious benefits, such as lower unit costs and reduced lead times to receive the empty, unmodified enclosures, it’s quite possible that this method of specification could end up costing more in the long run.
Fitting a design around an existing component means that the end result will always be compromised by the restrictions of the component e.g. the dimensions of the enclosure, the type of entry solutions, the internal mounting options etc. These restrictions can result in a finished product which doesn’t quite meet the design brief and is less attractive to end customers, or even increase production costs which could make the product uncompetitive. These increased costs often arise from installation issues such as entry points being located in an inconvenient position for the design or lids not offering the access required.
Clearly, customising an enclosure to fit with the design is the preferable solution, and one that guarantees that there will be no compromise in the finished product. However, many designers may shy away from this option believing that the costs will be prohibitive.
Traditionally, customising an enclosure to a bespoke design could be expensive due to the tooling requirements and cost of labour; now, however, technological advances mean that customised enclosures may cost just a few pence more per unit. The options for customisation are varied and can result in drastically lower installation costs and a more pleasing result.
The most obvious, and common, request for customisation is the quantity and layout of the entry points. While a standard enclosure will typically offer a uniform number of ‘knock-out’ points in a single size, customisation allows the designer to specify the exact quantity of entries and dictate the size, shape and positioning of them. This not only improves the aesthetics of the product, as there are no redundant ‘knock-outs’ visible, but will also improve the overall protection that it offers as there are no weak points in the wall.
By specifying the design of the entry points into the enclosure the designer is also able to maximise the efficiency of the wiring which will reduce installation time during the building or installation process. This reduced time will often lead to cost savings which more than justify the higher cost of procurement. Thanks to new CNC machining capabilities and Spelsberg’s interchangeable side wall technology during the moulding process it's relatively cheap to customise most enclosure products allowing the machining and moulding to be completed accurately in short time periods, meaning that even large orders can be delivered promptly with reliable results.
Another way that enclosure manufacturers can offer customised solutions is through modular designs within their product range to allow end-users greater flexibility in terms of dimensions. The GTi range from Spelsberg, for example, is a modular enclosure range which is available with a selection of interchangeable sidewalls and connector parts. With five different sizes to build a solution from there are many possibilities. Very often popular product ranges will also offer a selection of lid depths which can provide additional installation space.
Taking customisation one step further, it may be possible to specify enclosures which are pre-assembled prior to delivery. Many manufacturers are now moving beyond the role of product provider and offering design services to complement their product. From the installation of a simple DIN rail, terminal or PCB mount through to complete population, by ordering a pre-assembled product it is possible to further reduce, or even eliminate, onsite assembly costs and improve the efficiency of your product.
By specifying an enclosure which matches the requirements of the design it’s possible to improve the end result of a product while also reducing costs. Depending on the scope of a project the potential for customisation really is limitless.
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