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Choosing the right enclosure

Choosing the right enclosure
Steve Gallon, Managing Director of Finnish enclosure manufacturer, Fibox, confirms that the company's aim is to offer a range of enclosure products that meet both the exacting standards of an ever changing industry, and the specific needs of its diverse customer base.

When a designer is faced with the specification of an enclosure to house and protect a specific device or control system, there is something of an art to getting the exact enclosure product to fulfil the requirement exactly. To some specifiers a box is a box is a box. But nothing could be further from the mark. Invariably the enclosure is the 'nutshell', housing expensive and often critical components which must perform in extremely harsh and demanding conditions. Therefore a number of very important questions must be asked, and answered, before the purchase order can be signed. That is why it is crucially important that the relationship between specifier and manufacturer must be such that all the following points are covered at the design stage. It's a bit like the signs those of us who enjoy a tipple see above the bar stating that change should be checked because alterations can't be made later.

The conundrum facing a lot of specifiers is they have a series of enclosures from various manufacturers to choose from, and on the face of it they all look the same. They are grey, plastic and have hinged or removable covers. What they don't see is the suitability of the different ranges for a particular application, especially when one considers the increasing amount of direct copies using cheap blends of plastic being introduced into the market now from all areas of the globe.

The secret to getting to the nub of what enclosure is fit for purpose is knowing which questions to ask a manufacturer. Then it is equally important for the manufacturer's representative to have the knowledge to be able to offer constructive advice and guidance to ensure the exact enclosure solution is identified quickly and efficiently. 

At this crucial stage in a product's introduction cycle it is very important to take into account that there are many individuals in the decision chain. Each link in the chain has a different specification priority. It could be the marketer's requirement for aesthetics or the R&D/design engineer's need to download CAD drawings from a manufacturer's website. When pulled together, all these differing facets will make the final decision to purchase a particular enclosure, much more failsafe. So let's look at the key criteria which when addressed will very quickly narrow the choice down to just a few options.

Where is the enclosure likely to be installed, inside or outside? 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 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 manufacturers 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. 

By forming a partnership with a manufacturer who has the capability to provide a 'one-stop-shop' for all the specifiers various requirements, this not only keeps the project in as few hands as possible from design to delivery, it ensures that cost issues are transparent at every stage. The fewer links in the supply chain, the better the overall control.
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