When engineering electrical apparatus or systems, an enclosure plays a crucial part. The enclosure is needed to protect valuable electrical components from outside threats and people from equipment threats. Here we provide a quick glance to the topic of how to choose an enclosure - smartly.
Application dimensions – size matters!
The minimum and/or maximum dimensions of the application determine the size of the enclosure. When selecting the size, consider whether further components are likely to be added at a later stage and, if so, whether the dimensions of the enclosure will still be adequate. If the enclosure size needs to be changed, the whole mechanical engineering needs to be designed again. This can in turn mean more design hours and delay for the project. Cost wise, smaller enclosures are cheaper than bigger enclosures of same material. However, assembly and installation of the components can be harder with the smaller enclosure, especially if installed outdoors. This can eventually make it a more expensive solution.
Pay attention to material!
The enclosure material is constantly in contact with the surrounding environment. The right material ensures the safety of the installed equipment and its users, and eliminates the risk of unnecessary additional costs due to emergency breakdowns. Typical materials used in industrial enclosures are polycarbonate, ABS, GRP, aluminium, painted mild steel and stainless steel. Choosing the right material can greatly enhance the application benefits. For example, plastic allows radio waves to pass through, so it makes the perfect option for electronic equipment applications without need for external antenna.
Focus on gasket!
Besides enclosure material, it is important to pay attention to the gasket used. The gasket is normally the weakest link in terms of temperature range and it is also a critical part preventing dust and moisture getting inside the enclosure. Cost difference between different materials can be big. Therefore, it is important to decide what attributes you need from the enclosure and not just from which material it is manufactured in. This way you can have an enclosure with a long lifetime - economically.
Protection and impact – keep it safe!
The degree of protection is an important factor for an effective enclosure. It is defined purely for the enclosure and should be maintained during the installation work. It means that, for instance the IP or NEMA rating of the cable glands used for cable entries should be higher or the same as that of the enclosure. NEMA rating in USA and IP-rating used in other countries define how well the enclosure is protected against dust and moisture. Typically, the more hostile the environment is the better protection you need to have. For example, cement factories have a lot of very fine dust, so high protection rating is recommended. Besides IP and NEMA rating, it is important to decide how well enclosures can withstand impacts. IK rating ranges typically between IK06 and IK10. While a better degree of protection is always a safe bet, it typically means that you need to pay more as well.
In order to have the best cost quality ratio for your enclosure, you need to understand the environment where the final product and internal components inside the enclosure are used. This way you can choose an enclosure that is durable, a long lifetime product that protect your electrical product and save money at the same time.