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FEATURE ENCLOSURES


SPECIALIST ENCLOSURES FOR SPECIAL SITUATIONS Words by Mandy Thompson, BCL Enclosures


O


ften, considerable advantages can be gained through the selection


of the correct enclosure to protect delicate electric, electronic or mechanical components. But, finding the right product can be time consuming, so it’s always best to determine what is needed at an early stage. A range of technical issues need to be considered, including: • Intended product application and type of enclosure – handheld, mounted, desktop? Is it to be fixed to a surface? If so, it may need flanges, pre-drilled holes that are a certain distance apart, slotted lugs for push fitting, etc.


• The environment in which it will be placed - is an IP or IK rating needed? (IP ratings denote varying degrees of sealing effectiveness against dust, dirt, water and other contaminants, while IK ratings give the level of resistance to mechanical impact).


• Enclosure material – ABS, polycarbonate and different plastics, aluminium, steel or stainless steel? (ABS and plastics generally offer advantages in terms of lighter weight, modern appearance and easier customisation. Metal enclosures generally offer greater impact resistance, and are more vandal-proof, ideal for certain industrial applications).


• Is access to enclosure contents needed? Or is visual inspection sufficient? This affects such choices as solid or transparent doors/lids, and for frequently opened enclosures, robustness of any hinges and other hardware.


• Size of functional contents – with the drive to ever-smaller products providing greater functionality, the right choice of enclosure can


12 MARCH 2020 | ELECTRONICS


provide advantages in terms of space-saving, design and weight.


• Aesthetic considerations such as colour choice, quality versus pricing and the opportunity for differentiation from competing similar products.


Standard ranges in different materials can be sourced from different suppliers, and pricing can vary, so it also pays to order from reputable companies who are prepared to supply full specification information, including materials, details of fire retardancy, adherence to quality standards and ratings. Sometimes, a great deal of time can be spent searching for an enclosure to a specification that turns out not to exist in a standard range. It is often more cost-effective to look for a custom solution. Specialist companies will have many years’ experience in supplying enclosures to individual requirements – ranging from simple punching or drilling of apertures to moulding in different materials - and should be happy to offer advice without obligation. Full custom enclosures can also be a viable option, particularly for high volume orders and high value end products. Customers may also want


the advantages of visibly branding their products by placing them in a recognisable enclosure. For example, one global supplier of automotive speed limiters was using BCL Enclosures’ MB3 standard enclosure with a lid, which has PCB slots and a polished finish. The company decided it needed to achieve greater visibility and branding in a highly competitive market, so wanted to customise the look of its products by introducing a matt finish unit with an embossed company logo


and no PCB slots. This was discussed with BCL and, although producing the design required a new machine tool, it has been cost-effective and achieved the desired outcome. The custom enclosure is now utilised for three of its other applications, and order quantities are high, approaching half a million custom enclosures since the initial order. Sometimes, speed of turnaround


BCL’s MB3 enclosures offered the familiar, matt look to compliment the smooth finish of the automotive dashboard and its speed limiters


time by the OEM is the driving factor. One manufacturer of electronic safety equipment was using a standard, BCL- supplied T3 small multipurpose ABS box with a lid; during a regular sales discussion, they requested a reduction to installation time. By ordering customised boxes from BCL that are ready to use once on site at its own customers’ premises, this client was able to cut its turnaround time by one to two weeks. The customer maintains stocks of its custom enclosures, sending in scheduled orders to maintain stock levels. A custom enclosure solution need not be a delaying factor in getting the final product to market. For example, an electrical design and manufacturing company needed a customised potting box with a base and lid, and fixing lugs. BCL sent some samples from its standard range, one was approved as suitable for the application, so BCL created a sketch of the desired final custom design with precise dimensions, then produced a machined sample and sent it for final approval. From initial enquiry to delivery, this took seven


days. The first order followed shortly afterwards.


BCL Enclosures www.bclenclosures.com / ELECTRONICS


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