In this in-depth guide, we’ll take a look at the electrical enclosure manufacturing process from start to finish. We’ll explore the different methods used to fabricate enclosures, as well as the various ways they can be finished. We’ll also touch on the testing methods that manufacturers use to check their enclosures for quality.
Electrical Enclosure Manufacturing
In order to make an electrical enclosure, enclosure manufacturers use a variety of methods and materials. They also take into account the specific requirements of their customer’s project.
Additionally, the end use or enclosure application will also dictate the manufacturing process. For example, an electrical enclosure for a residential application will have different requirements than one for an industrial environment.
Electrical Enclosure Manufacturing Steps
These steps are involved in the manufacture of electrical enclosures. Note that depending on the size and complexity of the enclosure, some of these steps may be combined or omitted. The following steps outline the electrical enclosure manufacturing process:
1. Enclosure Specifications
The manufacturing process starts with determining the enclosure specifications. These are varied and dependent on the customer and application. They include:
- Enclosure dimensions
- Enclosure type (wall mount, floor standing, etc.)
- Enclosure ratings
- Enclosure accessories
- Type of finishing
- Other features such as the enclosure windows, doors, or ventilation
2. Enclosure Material Selection
The next step in electrical enclosure manufacturing is to choose the right material. The three most common materials used are aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, plastic, and fiberglass.
Each of these enclosure materials has different benefits and drawbacks that need to be considered. For example, aluminum is lightweight and heat-resistant, but it is not as strong or resistant to corrosion as steel.
Plastic is a cheap electrical enclosure material and easy to work with. However, it is not as durable as metal and can be damaged by heat or chemicals.
The right enclosure material will, therefore, usually depend on the specific application and environment in which the enclosure will be used.
3. Enclosure Design
Once the specifications are determined, the next step is to design the enclosure. This includes creating drawings and enclosure 3D models.
The electrical enclosure design must take into account the manufacturability of the enclosure, as well as any challenges that may be encountered during fabrication or assembly.
Engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create enclosure drawings and models. Depending on the complexity of the enclosure, multiple design iterations may be required.
4. Enclosure Fabrication
The next step when manufacturing electrical enclosures is to fabricate the product using the chosen material. Electrical enclosure fabrication can be done using a variety of methods, such as cutting, drilling, and bending.
The chosen fabrication method will depend on the material being used, as well as the desired tolerances and finish of the enclosure. In some cases, multiple enclosure fabrication methods may be used to create a single enclosure.
The following methods are used to cut material during the enclosure manufacturing process:
- Blanking– die cutting method that shears the material to size
- Shearing– using blades to cut the material to size
- Punching– using a die to punch holes in the material
- Water jet cutting– a high-pressure water jet is used to cut the material
- Laser cutting– using a laser to cut the material by burning it
Enclosure materials can also be drilled using various methods. Enclosure manufacturers use the following methods can be used to bend material during the manufacturing process:
- Channel bending– using a die to bend the material into a channel shape
- Edge bending– using a die to bend the material along an edge
- Offset bending– in this method, a die and punch are used to create an offset in the material
- U bending– using a die and punch to create a U-shaped bend in the material
- V bending– using a die to bend the material into a V-shape
5. Enclosure Assembly
The next step in electrical enclosure manufacturing is to assemble or join the enclosure parts. Depending on the complexity of the enclosure, the assembly can be done by hand or using automated machinery. Some of the enclosure assembly methods are
- Mechanical assembling– this is the joining of the parts using screws, rivets, or other fasteners. Other methods include caulking, folding, etc.
- Enclosure welding– in this enclosure assembly method, the parts are joined together using heat. This can be done using a variety of welding methods, such as arc welding, flash welding, or spot welding.
- Using adhesives– this method is often used in plastic enclosure manufacturing. The parts are joined together using an adhesive, such as epoxy, glue, or tape.
6. Enclosure Machining
Machining involves the removal of material from the enclosure using tools such as lathes, drill presses, or milling machines. This is done to create openings for doors, windows, or ventilation.
It can also be used to create custom enclosure features or to improve the appearance of the enclosure. The enclosure may also be punched or drilled to make holes for various purposes. Common methods used to machine enclosures include:
7. Enclosure Finishing
After the enclosure assembly and machining steps, it’s now ready for the finishing to be applied. This will give the enclosure its final appearance and protect it from the elements. It is also at this stage that any decals, labels, or other markings are added to the enclosure. A variety of finishes can be applied to electrical enclosure boxes, such as:
- Powder coating– this is a type of coating that is applied to the enclosure to protect it from corrosion. It’s usually applied in powder form and then cured using heat or UV light.
- Wet painting– this is a common method of finishing electrical enclosures. The enclosure is first primed and then painted with the desired color.
- Plating– this is a process in which a thin layer of metal is applied to the enclosure surface. This is usually done for aesthetic purposes or to improve resistance to harsh conditions.
- Anodizing– this is an electrolytic process that creates a thin, protective film on the surface of the enclosure. It’s often used on aluminum enclosures to improve their durability.
- Printing– this is a process in which graphics or other images are printed onto the surface of the enclosure. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as screen printing or decal printing.
- Engraving– depending on the enclosure material, it can be engraved using a variety of methods. This is often done for aesthetic purposes or to add identification markings.
8. Enclosure Testing
After the electrical enclosure manufacturing process, it’s important to test the finished product to ensure that it meets all the required specifications. This includes testing for leaks, strength, and durability. Enclosure testing can also be done using a variety of methods, such as:
- Ingress testing– the enclosure ingress protection test is a test to ensure that dust and water or other liquids and solids cannot enter the enclosure. This is done to comply with various enclosure ratings, such as IP as well as ensure the longevity of the enclosure.
- Vibration Test– This test is conducted to ensure that the enclosure can withstand the vibrations that it will be subjected to in its intended environment. This is especially important for enclosures that will be used in industrial or commercial applications.
- Salt Spray Test– this is a test in which the enclosure is exposed to a salt spray. The test assesses the enclosure’s ability to resist corrosion. This is an important test for enclosures that will be used in harsh or outdoor environments.
- Humidity Test– the humidity test seeks to determine the effect of prolonged exposure to high humidity on the enclosure. This test may be done to confirm enclosure material selection or ascertain enclosure compliance with various enclosure standards.
- Thermal Shock Test– this is a test in which the enclosure is subjected to extreme changes in temperature. This may be done to check the material selection for the enclosure or ensure that it can withstand the thermal shocks it may be exposed to in its intended environment.
9. Enclosure Packaging
After the electrical enclosure has been manufactured and tested, it’s time to package it for shipping. This is done to protect the enclosure from damage during transport as well as to preserve it during storage.
The enclosure packaging method used will depend on several factors such as the size and weight of the enclosure, the fragility of the enclosure, and the intended method of transport.
Small electrical enclosures are commonly packaged in cardboard boxes with reinforced corners and other impact-resistant packaging materials. Larger enclosures may be packaged in wooden crates or on pallets.
The packaging should also include any required documentation, such as the enclosure’s technical drawings and specifications. This will ensure that the enclosure can be properly installed and used once it reaches its destination.
The electrical enclosure manufacturing process is an elaborate one that must be carefully planned and executed in order to produce quality enclosures. Enclosures must be designed to meet the specific requirements of the application. This includes factors such as thermal management, electromagnetic compatibility, and durability.
In addition to enclosure manufacture, some companies offer enclosure installation training. This is important to ensure that the enclosure is properly installed and used.