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Your Seven-Step Guide To Specifying Customised Metal Electronic Enclosures

Specifying customized metal enclosures

Fabricated metal enclosures are quicker, easier and more cost-effective to prototype than plastic cases: you don’t need new tooling every time you design a new housing. So you can specify fully customized aluminum enclosures in very low volumes. Here’s the best way to start…

Step 1: What’s The Enclosure For? 19” Rack, Wall-Mount, Desktop/Portable Electronics?

Partner with us early in the design process because you’ll be surprised by all the opportunities available. It’ll save you time, budget and stress. Here are the main options:

Remember that standard enclosures are designed to be versatile. For example, a sloping-front desktop case can be ideal for wall-mount applications such as access control. Our UNIDESK terminal enclosures are a prime example of this. Three sizes of wall-mount kit are available in the range of accessories.

Step 2: How Will You Mount Your Components? Ease Of Access

This is very important for installation and maintenance. PCBs that slide in and out on guide rails are faster to install and remove than boards mounted on pillars. Advanced instrument enclosures such as TECHNOMET offer both options.

Using a 19” rack? How will users open the case? Via the front, rear, top or base? Will they need access while the case is still in the rack? This is a crucial consideration because it determines whether or not your enclosures will need diecast bezels (which cost more). This is one reason why it pays to get expert technical advice from us early on before committing to a particular enclosure model.

Step 3: Standard/Customized Or Fully Bespoke?

Specifying a standard enclosure then having it customized is usually quicker and more cost-effective than opting for a fully bespoke housing. Not always: bespoke cases can be cheaper if they are simple – but customized enclosures are usually the best option.

Determined to go bespoke? Ask us about prototyping offers; combining prototyping with an initial production run can offer astounding value. Batch sizes can be as low as 10 for larger rack cases or 25 for smaller instrument enclosures.

Step 4: Which Standard Model Is Best For My Electronics?

Most designers take the standard/customized enclosure route. Choosing the right model is critical because similar-looking cases can offer very different design advantages. So getting our expert advice pays dividends.

Does your preferred standard model offer all the features you need? Is it available in a wide range of sizes? Can it be manufactured to a custom size in all three dimensions? What are the standard ventilation options? Does the enclosure have earthing studs on every panel or will they need to be added later?
Bezels are a key factor for two reasons:

  • they enhance aesthetics but add cost
  • they are diecast – often limiting the availability of custom sizes.

But enclosures without bezels don’t have to look prosaic. The smart flat front of a bezel-less rack case gives it an unfussy elegance – and offers you a highly customizable enclosure at a very sensible price. Our bestselling COMBIMET rack cases are proof positive. They’re easy to modify, technically advanced and offer a great choice of options – and yet they’re still the most cost-effective 19” enclosures in the METCASE range. Hence their popularity!

Step 5: Download A 3D Model

Downloading a 3D model of your preferred enclosure enables you to spot design opportunities or pitfalls early on. You can specify apertures for controls and connectors – and see exactly how your components will look inside your customized housing.

Presenting us with a signed-off 3D model shortens the design process and speeds up production. 3D models are available for every enclosure in the METCASE range but they’re design-protected so you’ll need to register to download them.

Step 6: Customizing Your Standard Enclosure

It makes sense to order your enclosures from a single-source supplier like METCASE so they’re fully customized and with all the accessories assembled. Your housings will be ‘PCB ready’ when they arrive at Goods In – you can send them straight to your production line.

METCASE customization services include:

  • CNC machining – punching, forming, milling, drilling and tapping
  • fixings and inserts – threaded studs for mounting PCBs, connectors and electronics assemblies
  • custom colours – ask about ‘always in stock’ custom colors (that cost no more) and clever ways to add branding touches by coloring isolated panels and trims
  • legends and logos – digital printing has much lower set-up costs, making customization viable for low-volume orders.

Step 7: Taking Account Of Project Timings – How Long Will It All Take?

Customized standard enclosures will always be faster to manufacture than fully bespoke housings. Our engineers can concentrate on the customized parts of the housing, while using standard parts for the rest.

For bespoke housings, finalising the design is usually the longest part of the process. If there is a clear specification for the component location then it can be quick. But often a series of prototypes may be needed – thus extending the project timing.

Our project delivery times are typically four to eight weeks for customized standard enclosures and from six to 16 weeks for bespoke projects. It’s always worth asking about customization – you’d would be surprised how few modifications and how little extra finishing is needed to transform a standard housing into one that’s unique for your electronics.

View METCASE customizing services >>

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Contact us now for expert technical advice on how to specify the best fabricated metal enclosures for your electronics.