Modern electronic circuits are becoming more powerful than ever. Consequently, the needs and requirements of electronic components have changed significantly in the past few years. When designing an electronic circuit, engineers need to take into consideration various factors such as power consumption, heat dissipation, and other electronic specifications, to ensure the appropriate selection of electronic components particularly designed for diverse applications in both, industrial and commercial sectors.
The electronic enclosure is one of the most critical components in electronic circuits, as it does not only house the entire module but also protects it from damages and circuit failures caused due to various environmental factors. Thereby, it is becoming of utmost importance to select appropriate electronic cabinets or an electronic enclosure according to the project specifications to mitigate the risks of downtime and operational hindrances.
This article discusses the crucial circuit considerations as well as standard design considerations, which go beyond basic design concerns, for choosing the right electronic enclosure for your Electronic project. Here are the 10 most important factors to keep in mind for selecting an appropriate electronic cabinet.
1. Engineering Application and IP Ratings
The scope and application of your electrical circuit play an integral role in the selection of electronic enclosure. The design of electronic cabinets may change according to the electronic specifications of your circuit and its engineering applications. Furthermore, the requirements about Ingress Protection ratings (IP ratings) also reflect a crucial factor in the selection process as they precisely address the needs vis-à-vis the degree of protection against contact with live parts, damage control against mechanical impact, and other mechanical factors such as the opening of water along with other solid foreign components.
2. Environmental Conditions
It is important to understand what operating environment and weather conditions the circuit will be exposed to, in order to make the appropriate choice of an electronic enclosure. Having clarity about where the enclosure is going to reside is necessary, especially for choosing the right material. Based on whether the enclosure will be walled in indoor areas, outdoors, exposed to harsh heat conditions or chemical contaminants or in extreme weather conditions, the material and other specifications of an electronics enclosure can be derived.
3. Thermal Requirements
Thermal conditions and specifications of the electronic circuit must be taken into consideration while choosing cabinets for sensitive electrical components. This is another important aspect that makes a significant impact on the choice of material for electronic enclosures. Plastics are excellent insulators, which can be used in enclosures for electronic circuits with low heat dissipation needs. However, for circuits with high voltage and high current specifications, which may potentially reflect in significantly high power density and heat dissipation, metallic enclosures may prove more suitable.
4. Industry Standards related to Design and Performance
Governing bodies, international standard committees such as International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) and as well as government policymakers and regulators have defined and developed industry standards for electrical, electronic and related technologies. These identify specifications of a product that must be conformed with, and they must be taken into consideration while choosing the right electronic enclosure.
5. Types of Materials
Recent advancements in material sciences and technologies have increased the availability of various types of materials to suit the exact need for electronic enclosures in different applications. Apart from the thermal, electrical, and environmental requirements, other factors that may influence the choice of materials in electronic cabinets are price, size, weight, and aesthetics. Acrylic is one of the most cost-efficient window materials. Acrylic is one of the popular choices of materials, as it is lightweight, flexible, lightweight, and mainly due to its greater impact resistance qualities over the glass.
Another material that is gaining popularity is Polycarbonate. Despite being more expensive than acrylic, its impact and chip resistant properties and thermal stability are reflecting in the rise in its adoption. Apart from acrylics and polycarbonate, other materials that are commonly used in cabinets include glass, metal, galvanneal, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel, and these must be chosen carefully based on the needs of the application.
PLA and ABS have also become popular for 3D printed casings. It is easy to build, prototype and modify the design using a 3D printer before finalizing one.
6. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Understanding the value of cabinets, which mainly depends on the purchasing cost along with operating and maintenance costs, is important while making the right choice of electronic enclosures. An appropriate enclosure can be selected by taking into consideration the maintenance and downtime costs that may incur in different varieties, which ultimately have an impact on the TCO.
7. Size of the Equipment
This is one of the most basic yet important factors that must be thought of while choosing an appropriate enclosure. Though smaller sizes of enclosures are preferred in modern electronic equipment, the depth of the final product must be considered while choosing a cabinet to make the process of installation more convenient and feasible. Furthermore, the electronic enclosure should also be big enough to enable proper power distribution and cable management in the circuit.
8. Flexibility of Design
Based on the design of the circuit, the enclosure should offer enough flexibility in terms of depth, height, and width. Also, with the advent of advanced technologies such as Information Technology (IT), Big Data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), the enclosure should be flexible enough to integrate various controls for routers and other IT equipment.
9. Electromagnetic Compatibility
With the increasing incorporation of advanced technologies and modern electronic appliances becoming faster than ever, the problem of electromagnetic interference (EMI) has become a prominent concern. With the issue of EMI becoming more prevalent, an enclosure that can offer EMI protection must be chosen in cases where the equipment is used in environments with the presence of EMI.
10. Scope for Future Modifications
It is probably the most important factor that needs to be considered while making a choice of an electronic enclosure. Think about the potential for modification and cutouts for various reasons such as for adding a weather control to the roof, creating space for Human-Machine Interface (HMI), or adding a cable entry, when selecting a cabinet for your equipment.