Boxed in? Eight reasons to think again about enclosures

Hitaltech managing director Andy Fitzer talks enclosure design, the value of being an RS Components partner, and why treating the humble enclosure as a component in its own right is key to speeding up production and lowering costs

Hitaltech, the connecting technologies and enclosures specialist, is celebrating the latest development in its relationship with world-leading electronics and industrial components distributor, RS Components (RS).

What began with the stocking of DIN rail and wall mounted enclosures has developed to include the Italtronic range. Ken Stevenson, global category manager for the enclosures range at RS, said: “Our enclosures range has performed well over the past calendar year, with demand for specialist enclosures for electronic development boards and DIN rail enclosures leading a robust performance.”

Good news, then, for Hitaltech managing director Andy Fitzer. Always an advocate for treating enclosures as so much more than a protective shell, he’s delighted that their capacity for speeding up production, simplifying assembly, lowering costs and more is reaching an ever-expanding audience, thanks in no small part to RS’s global reach.

“Design engineers trust RS as their one-stop shop for prototype samples and new designs,” he says. “Our partnership is great for RS as it extends their range. But it’s also great for us as it gives our enclosures a much greater marketplace.”

With the enclosures market buoyant, Hitaltech has eight key enclosure considerations for planning your next product:

  1. Remove pain from the process

You might be tempted to think that off the shelf enclosures would be the simplest choice compared to a bespoke counterpart. In reality the balance is a little more complex. Off the shelf is an excellent low cost option providing the enclosure you need exists in a pre-made format. Enclosure ranges are expanding all the time – Hitaltech is currently working on a new range of wall-mounting enclosures for the UK building automation market.

But where product design demands customisation of your enclosure, the equation shifts. Here, involving your enclosures designer at the beginning of the project can dramatically reduce costs compared with ‘making do’ with an existing enclosure and compromising design elements, or introducing customisation later in the process.

That was the situation for Helvar, the low energy lighting solutions provider. When Mark Holmes, Helvar’s mechanical and PCB designer, approached Hitaltech about designing a new customised enclosure for a new lighting relay unit, he says he “brought in Hitaltech very early on because it’s important to get all the components right from the start.”

  1. Fit everything in

Helvar needed a low profile housing as a traditional DIN rail mounting would have restricted user access. The company had already attempted to “squeeze all the relays into” a suitable enclosure, but they needed the relays to protrude through the housing.

Hitaltech were able to take an existing low profile enclosure, modify it and machine custom cut-outs to provide access to the actuators.

  1. Ideally suited to the latest technologies

As Ken Stevenson at RS explains, the latest Italtronic enclosures: “Provide excellent housing and long-lasting protection for some of the latest new technology electronic boards… [including] Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Beagle Board.

“With options for DIN Rail mounting and a full selection of dimensions, the ranges are proving popular among electronic designers as well as electrical installation engineers, two of our most important customers.”

  1. Clever customisation opportunities

In Helvar’s latching unit, for example, Hitaltech replaced the standard terminal guard (usually manufactured in the same material as the rest of the enclosure body) with a translucent red guard, so it could house an LED display.

In what ways could enclosure design benefit the end performance of your product?

  1. Speed up assembly

Colour-coded connectors, or wiring legends printed directly onto the enclosure facia can make wiring fool proof, speed up production times and reduce the risk of error. So you protect reputations as well as costs.

  1. The power of print

Enclosure printing has traditionally used overlays, which has made them fiddly and expensive to incorporate into enclosure design.

As Helvar’s Mark Holmes notes: “To line up an overlay on a cut out enclosure would have been pretty difficult, and we certainly wouldn’t have had overlays on the whole enclosure. We would have been restricted to a small area and a regular shape.”

But by digitally printing directly onto the enclosures, Hitaltech was able to save Helvar time and labour.

  1. Aesthetic appeal

Enclosures may be about far more than the shell, but there’s no denying the appeal of a well-designed enclosure. Take BN Thermic, who supply heating systems for commercial and industrial applications. As Graham Watson, BN Thermic’s technical manager explains: “We were struggling to find an off the shelf enclosure for a new wall controller that had curves and looked stylish.”

Graham’s discovery of Hitaltech’s heater controllers and thermostats was a revelation. “The case becomes the focal point when producing pictures and marketing material. The styling along with all the new features in our SystemX range has made it one of the most successful new products we have launched in recent years.”

  1. Cut costs

As in most things, cost is frequently the driving factor in enclosure decisions. As the above demonstrates, taking time to consider and design or select the right enclosure for your application can help cut costs in a variety of ways, from avoiding costly design cul-de-sacs to reducing assembly times.

The choice of enclosure designer can cut costs too. Meeting deadlines, working collaboratively and being easy to deal with removes stress, misunderstandings and lost time, as BN Thermic’s Graham Watson notes: “Working with Hitaltech is a pleasure,” he says, “everyone’s friendly and helpful.”

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