The design and specification of an enclosure can make or break an industrial application. While some projects require a standard enclosure for quick installation to keep costs down, other projects rely on a highly specialised design. Whatever the application, gaining the right advice on the correct enclosure to meet the requirements is vital. Chris Lloyd discusses the importance of engineering expertise for specifying industrial enclosures
In one respect, an industrial enclosure is simply a casing used to retain and position electrical components or equipment, while protecting them from external conditions and intrusion. However, as soon as we begin to consider the items the enclosure will be used to contain, where it will be installed and how it will be used, a series of increasingly complex questions have to be answered.
Fully understanding the requirements of the application and specifying the right enclosure can, depending on the setting, make the difference between the success of the project or its failure.
For example, failure to specify the right enclosure for use within a concrete installation can have expensive consequences. Not selecting the right level of functional integrity for the protection of an electrical system in the event of a fire could create an even more serious outcome.
When selecting an enclosure, it’s crucial to be provided with a sufficient level of advice in order to make the right specification, first time. The first step is usually Spelsberg’s technical telephone and web support, called Pro-Active. Technical support operatives ascertain specific applications’ needs to advise on critical decisions on the enclosures’ key features and properties.
Alongside understanding the application, engineering expertise will help determine aspects such as the climatic conditions and resistance to weather, temperature and ingress of dust and liquids, as well as the level of impact resistance required.
The application could even be coastal or for marine use, with challenges relating to corrosion and UV protection in addition to water ingress.
An obvious but crucial factor is the fit, especially where close dimensions could mean that the enclosure fails to fit the allocated footprint, or where knock-out points for the entry of cabling, for example, aren’t provided with sufficient access. Spelsberg provides a sample enclosure based on the specification and dimensions for customer testing in as little as 24 hours.
Dependent on location of the application, the enclosure may require diverse mounting options, which could also include the mounting options of internal components. Whether the application will be stand-alone, or may require the benefits of modular extension, should also be considered. Some applications may have more standard requirements but need the benefit of easy installation to reduce resources and cost on site.
We are also frequently challenged with bespoke projects which could include the sourcing and assembly of specific items, such as castor wheels or a special type of door handle. Complex enclosure challenges requiring specific engineering expertise includes a rail project, which required bespoke design of a plate to protect and shield the cables entering the signal cabinet. Severing the connection would mean the closure of that section of the rail network and significant financial penalties, so the ability to create a bespoke enclosure solution was critical to the overall success of the project.
Another example of responding to complex bespoke requests includes military specifications, such as an enclosure for a control unit that required a non-reflective, self-extinguishing outer coating to avoid reflections, crucial for night operations.
Engineering advice is also frequently involved to accommodate specific requirements relating to the mounting of internal components and the entry of cabling or access points. To this extent, Spelsberg offers a custom CNC machining service to finish an enclosure with, for example, the right cutouts, hinge fixing points or threaded holes required for the application. We are currently working on a unit to monitor passengers’ temperatures on entry to railways and airports. The enclosure requires specific, high precision cutouts for precise placement of thermal imaging cameras and the CNC wok is complex, involving specialised software to transpose the customer’s drawings to make a specialised cut out with an exact match.
Chris Lloyd is Managing Director, Spelsberg UK.