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How enclosure accessories can make or break a design

How enclosure accessories can make or break a design Chris Putman explains the importance of specifying suitable enclosure accessories as part of the design.

Enclosures and cabinets can be found in countless environments across almost any industry. While each unit has its own unique application, they all have one thing in common; they are responsible for protecting their contents from external hazards. For OEMs and designers it is important that, to avoid early failure, the components which will be used alongside the product are carefully considered.

Specifying accessories and components for enclosures may seem like a simple task for an OEM or design engineer. However it's important to consider that accessories such as hinges, latches, gas struts and anti-vibration mounts play a vital role in maintaining the integrity of an enclosure; the failure of one of these components could result in the enclosure losing its integrity and failing in the field.

During the specification of an enclosure a number of criteria must be considered, such as the required IP, size  weight, access requirements, security requirements and the environment in which it will be located. These design criteria will also have a bearing on what accessories may be needed and the materials which will be suitable. Specifying the correct solution during design can ensure that an enclosure performs its role with virtually zero maintenance requirements for the life of the product.

Ingress protection is one of the most important requirements for enclosures, ensuring that contents can't be damaged by intruding external contaminants. For enclosures that will be located outside or underwater the ingress protection levels will be extremely high, requiring complete resistance to the smallest dust particles and water droplets. In this scenario it is vital that hinges close the lid flush to its sealing and that and locks provide equal security.

The operating environment of an application may also play a role in deciding what accessories are required, and what materials are needed. An enclosure housing sensitive electronics in a heavy production plant may well benefit from effective anti-vibration mounts for protection. Equally, where an application will be subjected to wash-down environments, materials must be resistant to corrosion; WDS for example stocks a complete range of 316 grade stainless steel accessories which are suitable for such instances.

Accessibility and security requirements for an enclosure can also vary greatly. The control cabinet of a finely calibrated CNC machine will rarely be opened and will need to be secure from un-authorised access. In this scenario a strong and reliable locking system would be required that could be integrated into the enclosure without drastically reducing installation space. Using key locks, or quarter turn locks, is a fantastic way of protecting contents from unwanted intrusion.

Other enclosures may require frequent access from many people - for example a storage cabinet or switchgear panel. In this case it is important to ensure that hinges are able to withstand frequent use to avoid failure. It will also be important to use an efficient latch system which will prevent the enclosure from opening of its own accord but allow users easy access. At the other end of the scale some enclosures may hold emergency gear in which case they must remain closed unless required; in this case a quick release pin would be ideal.

If an enclosure is extremely large it may be awkward or heavy to hold the lid open. Gas struts can be used to support the weight of the door meaning that hands free access can be granted. WDS gas struts are available with forces between 20 and 2,500 Nm and feature a brass adjusting valve and long lasting seals to ensure a constant and precise pressure is maintained.

There are many small components and accessories which can be specified with enclosures. While they may at times appear inconsequential, they can play an important role in maintaining the efficiency of a design. During the specification stage it is vitally important that the full life requirements of an enclosure are considered and that all accessories are suitably manufactured.

WDS has a complete range of enclosure accessories including hinges, handles, catches, locks, latches, gas struts, castors and anti-vibration mounts. The range includes various material options including stainless steel and strengthened polyamide. WDS manufacturers most of its products in-house and maintains a large UK stock holding, meaning that next day delivery is available on the majority of most orders.

As with all products found in the WDS catalogue, products can be ordered individually without a small order surcharge. CAD files are available to download free from the WDS website. Items can also be adapted or custom manufactured for unusual or very specific requirements in a range of materials. As ever, the first step in any successful design is to discuss requirements with a suitable supplier or manufacturer.
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