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Your guide to specifying enclosures

Reduce project costs and save time – read this OKW guide before you specify enclosures for your electronic devices.

Detailed Topics:

There are eight main technical factors that will affect your choice of enclosures:

1. PCB
2. Physical Application
3. Materials
4. Interfaces And Controls
5. Power
6. Assembly
7. Customizing
8. Specifying specific enclosures

Fitting PCBs in enclosures

1. PCB - Specify the enclosure BEFORE you finalise the PCB layout

Benefit: Smaller enclosures – choosing the enclosure before finalizing the component layout enables you to choose the smallest possible case, reducing costs significantly. Getting it wrong – specifying an enclosure after the layout has been decided – could increase the size of your finished product by up to 30 per cent.

Benefit: Greater choice – you will have a much wider range of standard enclosures for your project. That gives you cost effective access to more specialized models to suit your precise requirements.

Benefit: High quality – greater choice and cost savings gained from specifying smaller cases enable you to choose the best possible quality enclosures, enhancing the aesthetics and ergonomics of your product.

Benefit: Improved product features – specifying the enclosure first can offer you design advantages you may not have previously considered. It can help to influence the final layout of your electronics.

Benefit: Less machining – integrating the PCB layout to an enclosure you have already chosen can reduce any machining required.

Enclosures applications

2. Physical applications - How and where will the electronics be used?

Will your product be handheld, desk-based, wall mounted? Installed in a rack or fitted to a DIN rail?

OKW offers a wide range of enclosures to suit all applications. We even have highly versatile modular cases to house electronic devices that need to be readily accessible in a variety of environments – handheld, desk-based for charging and data transfer or mounted to a vehicle dashboard for use on the move.

Handheld cases – all good enclosures need to be ergonomic in their design but few more so than handheld cases. That is why OKW offers such a wide range. Browse the range here.

Desktop enclosures – these may need sloping fronts for optimum viewing of displays or operation of controls. They may also have to be portable if they are to be used as electronic instrument cases. View them here.

Wall mounted – these can require higher levels of protection if they are to be used outdoors or in demanding industry environments. They may also need to be flush-mounted for minimum visual intrusion in sensitive locations such as listed buildings. See the range here.

Plastic and aluminum enclosures

3. Materials - Selecting plastic or extruded aluminum enclosures

Plastic Enclosures v Extruded Aluminum Enclosures

Advantages of Plastic Enclosures:

  • Enclosures are light, modern and tactile.
  • They offer a high quality scratch-resistant finish
  • Special features – such as battery compartments or recesses for membrane keypads – can be pre-molded
  • Plastic enclosures are easy to assemble because they need fewer components

View OKW plastic enclosures >>

Advantages of Extruded Aluminum Enclosures:

  • Housings are strong, relatively lightweight, modern looking
  • Good RFI/EMI characteristics
  • Easy to modify the size - for example cut the extrusion to a special length.

View OKW extruded aluminum enclosures >>

Interfaces and controls fitted to the enclosure

4. Interfaces and Controls

OKW’s plastic enclosures feature recesses for membrane keypads as standard. Specifying enclosures from other manufacturers without recesses could result in costly machining.

Where is the split-line in the enclosure? Many plastic enclosures feature the line mid-way between top and bottom – not always ideal when fitting connectors. Some more advanced cases have an off-centre split-line to create large flat areas for mounting connectors. Some cases have removable end panels for easier drilling and assembly.

Previously, some enclosures were offered with pre-molded display windows – but today OKW can machine a window to suit the exact profile of the module you are using.

Enclosures with battery compartments or cable connections

5. Power - Do you need a battery compartment or cable connection?

Plastic enclosures offer the best solution for smaller battery-powered devices (AAA, AA, 9V, N, round cells).

OKW’s modern advanced enclosures provide fully functioning battery compartments which will accept push-in contacts (unlike some manufacturers which supply cases with a compartment but no battery holder or contacts).

Battery contacts must conform to DIN EN 60601 to avoid short circuits should the cells be inserted wrongly. By law the polarity of the cells must be molded into the compartment floor. Some housings – such as OKW’s DATEC-CONTROL handheld enclosures – offer screw-in cradles which allow different types and numbers of cells to be fitted to the same sized case (2 x AA/3 x AAA or 4x AA/1 x 9V).

A clip-on lid for the battery compartment is not always suitable. For medical applications, the lid must have tooled (screwdriver) access - to avoid tampering or battery theft. All new OKW enclosures have this feature as standard.

For low-voltage cable-powered devices, OKW also offers pocket sized handheld enclosures with integrated cable glands. See our SMART-CASE range for example.

Also, it is now possible to specify enclosures with integrated contacts for battery charging and data transfer between the enclosures and desk/wall stations – e.g. OKW’s DATEC-COMPACT and CARRYTEC ranges.

Enclosures Assembly

6. Assembly - Fast assembly reduces your production costs

Plastic enclosures are generally easier to assemble than metal ones because – being molded – they comprise fewer parts.

Also, many plastic cases feature clip-together sections that do not need fixing screws. Where fixing screws are used, they should be special self-cutting screws designed specifically for plastics with a coarse thread to reduce the risk of cross-threading. All OKW enclosures use these types of screws.

Many new OKW enclosures are supplied with Torx T10 assembly screws to prevent tampering. E.g. NET-BOX range.

Also, specifying enclosures with a tooled access feature – in which a flat screwdriver or key is needed to open the enclosure – will allow it to conform to anti-tampering regulations.

Customized enclosures

7. Customized Enclosures - Ready for mounting your electronics

OKW’s wide range of advanced standard enclosures are designed from the outset to be quicker, easier and more cost effective to customize with all the necessary modifications to suit your electronic components.

Less work is needed to tailor enclosures precisely to your needs because we offer so many specialized standard designs.

Find out more about OKW’s customizing services – such as custom colors, materials, machining, lacquering, printing (digital, silk-screen, tampo), installation and assembly.

8. Specifying specific enclosures

How to specify DIN rail enclosures >>
How to specify handheld enclosures by size >> 


Need more help? Get expert advice from the OKW sales team – phone 800-965-9872 or email us.