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Selecting the optimum enclosure

Selecting the optimum enclosure
Steve Gallon, Managing Director of Fibox, looks into the electronic and instrumentation enclosures and answers common questions on such aspects as the precise production methods and materials to meet specific technical, aesthetic and budgetary needs.

Before choosing an enclosure for whatever its final application, specifiers must ask a series of basic questions. Firstly, one must determine what sort of electronic components or other, often critical equipment is to be housed within the enclosure. Is the enclosure to house a 'stand alone' device or is it to fit in with other equipment; as part of a larger system? Does it have to aesthetically fit in with other products and/or the surrounding environment?

There are other key questions too. Where is the enclosed device to be located? Does the system operate within a hostile area where it must guarantee a high IP rating and have to stand up to shocks, vibrations, be resilient to the ingress of water or moisture, dust and heat or the need for EMC shielding capabilities? Is the enclosure to be sealed or is easy and quick access required? And does the final housing need to be customised?

Only when you have answered these questions can you begin to narrow down the choice of enclosure, the material it is to be produced from and identify the most appropriate manufacturer.

Based on a broad range of over 2000 standard enclosures and enclosure systems, Fibox already supplies hundreds of thousands of innovative products and services to cus-tomers globally, helping them to house everything from micro electronics to much larger control and instrumentation solutions in the most arduous and hostile of environments. As well as standard products, highly customised enclosures are also available direct from our manufacturing plants with very short lead times. OEMs can save time and money with access to Fibox's fast prototype service and the facility to order ready modified enclosures in place of standard products. 

With the development of new software and internet based services, Fibox customers can now download CAD drawings and design in house a fully customised enclosure solution. Fibox can then, in a matter of minutes, provide a quotation for this work and arrange a prototype. Enclosures designed to house the multitude of applications required of them come in various forms, with materials including steel, stainless, die cast aluminium, polycarbonate, GRP and ABS - each of which must be assessed in the light of offering the best possible protection for the environment it is to operate in. 

In serving both traditional and emerging markets, Fibox recognises to-day's changing industrial dynamics. The ability to deliver quality engin-eered products in ever shorter lead times is critical. Time-to-market for new products is decreasing; meaning more specialist products are created based on a made-to-order basis and even occasionally manufactured as one-offs, while at the same time the complexity and variety of those products are increasing. If you are manufacturing families of control systems and instruments, then the ability to source and customise different sized enclosures from the same manufacturer to maintain your product identity could well be of paramount importance.

Undoubtedly a sizeable majority of industrial controls and instrumentation (for example, remote telemetry equipment) needs to be installed in hostile environments, and very frequently in inaccessible locations and therefore a different set of criteria become important: IP rating, UV stability, temperature classification, durability and robustness of material, anti-corrosion qualities and the need to be RoHS compliant.

Industrial enclosures are increasingly used to house and protect equipment not normally associated with the traditional electronic and electrical industry. A recent example is fire extinguishers on the decks of cruise ships. So when you're looking for an enclosure supplier, do you need assurances that this trend is in the mind of its designers when innovating new product ranges - that they have very much a blinkers off approach to product development. It's a fact that the ultimate reliability of the system or device you build and supply is as much influenced by the initial choice and design of the enclosure, as it is by the components used, to build the system itself. So, if you have an unusual application and need help in defining and choosing an enclosure solution for your problem, start by asking a few questions.
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