The first part of our Introduction to Enclosure Design discussed the functional requirements and overall considerations due to aesthetics and ergonomics. While the functional requirements should encompass all features of a product, our Lead Engineer summarises the key functional design elements that must be considered with almost all product enclosures.
Environmental protection is a key consideration of enclosure design. For the individual parts, corrosivity and resistance to abrasion or potential misuse affects the material choice. For the system, seals must be designed to prevent ingress into any areas not protected from corrosion or parts containing electronics as well as ingress or egress of, for example, gases, noises, odours and even electromagnetic radiation. Environmental design should also consider the importance of eliminating dirt and dust traps and ease of cleaning, and how the product could be damaged by the consumption of a foreign object.
Safety and user protection
For enclosure safety we generally consider limiting access to certain areas, for example, to prevent a user from touching high temperature or high voltage components. We should also consider manual handling weight and the need to incorporate lifting handles to encourage proper lifting technique.
Routing of services
Routing of harnesses, cables and pipes is functionality associated with the enclosure design and a well-thought-out routing of electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic services makes all the difference when it comes to assembly, durability and maintenance. Examples of the most effective routing solutions are found in nature’s organic structures. Having system schematics is critical here.
Considerations in electronics enclosures include heat dissipation, electrical isolation, creepage (in high voltage systems) and electromagnetic noise and interference – where sensitive equipment and high-voltage AC power supplies are combined – is often of great importance in testing or laboratory equipment.
Detailed mechanical design
The enclosure’s mechanical design could feature any number of considerations depending on the product features and functions. At the very least and as with any engineering design, consideration of forces and stresses on materials is essential. Other common mechanical design considerations are:
- Mechanical isolation to reduce loading on components
- Thermal management and ventilation
- Electrical grounding and isolation
- Noise: limiting propagation of internal noise from the product, cooling fans, etc.
Enclosure breakdown for maintenance, transportability and packaging
How the product will be packaged during shipment to the purchasing customer should be considered at this stage. This will often have an impact on the placement of external components and the overall breakdown of the assembly as this requirement overlaps with any considerations for disassembly during service or maintenance.
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