Advanced Search Part-No.
Login / Registration Your location/language Canada, English

How To Specify Customized Plastic Enclosures For Your Electronics

How to specify customised enclosures

Custom vs Customized Electronic Enclosures: What’s The Difference?

You want fully finished electronic enclosures that are component-ready: RFI/EMI shielded plastic enclosures in the right custom color, with all the cutouts already machined and all the logos and legends printed.

You want your enclosures to be perfect. Out of the box and on to your production line, ready for your PCBs and connectors – no friction, no wasted time. So you search online for custom enclosures. But if you’re serious about maximizing efficiencies, what you really need are customized electronic enclosures.

What’s the difference? Custom (or bespoke) electronic enclosures are designed from new each time…whereas customized enclosures are standard housings that have been modified to your specific requirements.

It is an important distinction: especially where plastic enclosures are concerned because the tooling costs are so much higher. Unlike folded aluminum enclosures, plastic cases have to be molded. That means new tooling for every change in shape. It is costly and time-consuming. And it makes low volume orders prohibitively expensive: it makes them unviable.

Customizing a standard plastic enclosure makes much more sense because you don’t need new tooling. So you can specify production-line-ready enclosures in much lower volumes – making them viable for small-batch products.

It doesn’t take much customization to make your finished enclosure unique to your product. You would be surprised how little machining, branding and printing is needed.

Specifying the right standard enclosures

Selecting The Right Standard Plastic Enclosure To Customize

Good standard plastic enclosures shouldn’t look ‘standard’. They shouldn’t look like anonymous cuboid boxes. They should look as if they’ve been designed for a specific task or function (but still be discrete enough not to look like a rival product). That’s true of all the plastic enclosures in our wide range.

Why such a huge range? Why so many different shapes, sizes and configurations? It makes it easier for you to find a standard enclosure that is closest to your requirements: without the need for much machining – and certainly without the need to mold any extra sections (although that is possible, should you require it).

Specify the standard enclosure you intend to have customized as early as you can – before you finalize the size of your PCB. That may sound counterintuitive but you can make significant savings if you work on an ‘enclosure first’ basis. It will help you to finalize the component layout on your PCB. And it will help you to keep to a smaller enclosure – resulting in cost savings.

You’ll obviously know from the outset whether you need a desktop, wall mount or handheld enclosure. But nowadays the choice is so much larger than that. Need a handheld enclosure? How about an ergonomic design that doubles as a wearable housing?  Or one that is designed specifically for infrared remote controls? Or a cable-mounted case for wired electronics? Or a case with a trigger for scanning applications? Will you need a battery compartment? And if so, for which size of cells?

Does your wall-mount enclosure need to be flush-fitted? Designed to fit standard cavity boxes? Or corner-mounted? Or inclined to the optimum viewing and operating angle for an access control keypad? Are you looking for a set of enclosures to provide a complete turnkey solution for an IIoT Industry 4.0 Smart Factory fit-out? Will your enclosures need higher levels of ingress protection (IP 65, IP 66 or IP 67)?

Will your desktop or tabletop enclosure need a larger recess to accommodate a membrane keypad or touchscreen? Will it need a slot so it can be used as a credit card reader? Does it need to be dual-face so it can be operated by both employee and customer sitting on either side of a desk? Are you looking for a portable enclosure with an adjustable bail arm that doubles as a desk stand?

Subtle differences in standard enclosure specifications can make a big difference – not just from a performance point of view – but also with regard to any customization work you’ll need. So it pays to get expert advice from an enclosures specialist. It could save you a lot of time and money.

View full standard enclosures range >>

Accessories and options for enclosures

Selecting The Right Options And Accessories

Rising numbers of enclosures have led to a massive increase in the number of accessories for them. And some of those accessories can be highly specialized, such as charging stations for desktop enclosures – or belt clips for wearable enclosures, or specialized tool sets for opening tamperproof wall-mount enclosures.

So don’t just look at the enclosure – always look at the standard range of accessories that come with it too. They may be specific to that particular housing, and they may offer benefits that other enclosures do not because they don’t come with those accessories as standard.

Even generic accessories that could be fitted to any enclosure are well worth exploring in detail. Not all cable glands are made equal: do they have a higher IP rating (IP 68) to safeguard your electronics? Are they Quickfix to speed up installation? Will they extend by only a few millimetres into the enclosure to save space? Do they have integrated strain relief and kink protection to help extend cable life? Again, it’s worth getting expert advice. 

View accessories range >>

Getting Your Customized Plastic Enclosures Machined

Your standard enclosure will almost certainly need machining to create apertures for operating elements such as a touchscreen, membrane keypad, buttons or for LEDs, connectors and input/output cable glands.

Work includes milling cutouts, tapping threads (>M2) and engraving inscriptions (either with or without color lines). Our website offers the following downloads to make specifying cutouts quicker and easier:

  • 3D models (X_T, STEP, SAT files)
  • drawings (2D pdf, 3D pdf, AutoCAD DWG, AutoCAD DXF).

Find out more about machining electronic enclosures >>

Customizing The Color And Texture Of Your Enclosures

Changing the color of a standard enclosure makes it instantly your own. There are various ways of doing it quickly and easily. One option is to specify a different colored plastic so the color is molded in at the start of the process (see the Special Materials section further down this blog post). But most customers opt for other methods such as lacquering and decor foils.

Lacquering offers a wealth of choice – not just a wide range of RAL and Pantone shades but also lustres and textures. Matt lacquers stop undesirable light reflections; glossy lacquers give a modern sheen. Metallic lacquers enhance aesthetics and perceived value. Textures such as soft-touch velvet add comfort – an important consideration for handheld enclosures.

Other options include antibacterial paint to safeguard your product from bacteria (a key consideration for medical electronics). ESD conductive lacquer (black) prevents electrostatic discharges.

View examples of lacquered enclosures here >>

Adding A Product Label Can Bring The Product To Life

Product labels (decor foils) take the process a stage further – enabling you to customize your enclosures with photo-quality graphics. They can be as subtle and understated or as bright and attention-grabbing as you like, depending on your product.

They’re a great way to add color graduations, consecutive numbers, codes or technical specifications quickly and easily. We print the foils in-house and can apply them to your enclosures to save you time. There are no minimum batch limits; we can start with one unit.

View examples of product labels >>

Printing Legends and Logos, Laser Marking

Printing your enclosures with logos and legends is now faster and more cost-effective than ever thanks to digital technology. Traditional screen and tampo printing methods are still available if required – but the initial costs are higher so we tend to recommend digital printing as the best option.

We can print on a range of plastics (ABS, PC, ASA and ASA+PC), aluminum and steel – all with a height difference of up to 1.4 mm.  Digital printing is recommended for glass.

Laser marking enables you to add very small machine-readable labels such as QR codes, barcodes, Data Matrix codes or consecutive numbering of individual parts. The marking changes the color of the plastic to gray. Materials suitable for the process include ABS, ASA+PC, ASA+PC-FR, PC, PA, PA GF and aluminum. Laser marking works well on enclosures in the following colors: off-white, pebble gray, light gray, lava and black.

View examples of printed enclosures and tuning knobs >>

Specifying Enclosures In Special Materials

As mentioned previously, one of the easiest ways to change the color of your enclosure is to specify a different shade of plastic at the moulding stage: your new color is ‘baked in’. But there are other reasons to specify special materials:
  • higher flammability rating (V-0)
  • greater UV stability than ABS – specify ASA (or an ASA blend)
  • extra strength and resilience – specify an ASA/polycarbonate blend.

Find out more about specifying special materials >>

Specifying RFI/EMI Shielding For Your Electronic Enclosures

Protection from electromagnetic interference (EMI) is an essential consideration for plastic enclosures. You’re not just safeguarding your own product; you’re also protecting any surrounding electronics from any EMI generated by your device.

RFI/EMI shielding involves applying a 2.5 µm coating of 99.99% pure aluminum to the inside of your enclosures to ensure good conductivity, creating a Faraday cage to block EMI. We carry out this work at our own in-house vapour-plating facility – guaranteeing quality and reducing delivery times. We also apply conductive seals (ø 1.5 mm – 3 mm) to ensure protection from electromagnetic radiation.

Read more about protecting your electronics from EMI >>

Installation And Assembly

Customizing your enclosure means making it as component-ready as possible – presenting you with a turnkey solution that can go straight from your Goods In to your production line for maximum efficiency. We can:
  • add any accessories such as cable glands, mountings and hinges
  • apply foils, fit PCB mounting pillars, fasteners, threaded bushes, bolts and spacers
  • fit membrane keypads, mount assemblies, install components and much more.

View examples of pre-assembled enclosures >>

Get Expert Advice On Enclosures

Contact OKW – the electronic enclosures specialist – for expert technical advice on the best housings for your PCBs and electronic components.

Contact our team and discover how easy it is to specify the perfect enclosures for your electronics.