Enclosures are a critical element of any input device, like membrane switches or touchscreens. No such device can perform optimally if its enclosure or housing is not built to high-quality standards and well-suited to its intended application or operating environment.
“Enclosure” itself is a wide-ranging term; it can include operating panels or boxes, hand-held devices, remote controls, terminals, and more. Generally, enclosures are highly customizable, and one of the most important customization options is construction material.
Below, we compare four of the most common options: plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, and fiberglass.
- Plastic is lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and easy to work with.
- Non-conductive, it can help protect users against electrical shortages.
- It’s also non-reactive and non-corrosive in most applications.
- It allows radio transmissions to pass through.
- However, it has limited chemical resistances and may not weather outside environments as well as metals.
- Aluminum is heavier than plastic but lighter than steel.
- It’s also less expensive than stainless steel and is easy to finish with a high-end surface that improves appearance.
- It’s anti-corrosive and chemically resistant and will block radio transmissions.
- However, it’s less durable than steel – more prone to damage and breakage.
- Steel is heavier, harder, and denser than aluminum. This makes it less malleable but far stronger and gives it excellent longevity.
- It’s highly anti-corrosive, chemical-resistant, and it will absorb and conduct heat.
- It’s a conductive material and needs to be grounded. It will block radio transmissions.
- It’s relatively expensive and less easy to work with than aluminum.
- Fiberglass is a strong, resilient, non-corrosive material compatible with many solvents.
- It works well in a wide range of temperatures.
- It’s less expensive than metal and offers excellent lifespan.
- Like plastic, it’s also an electrical insulator.
- However, prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to warping; and while it’s moderately easy to modify, great care is needed to avoid shattering and breakage.
When developing an enclosure, try to find a vendor like Hoffmann + Krippner that can handle the whole process from start-to-finish – from developing 3D CAD designs through large-scale manufacturing – entirely in-house or by using an established network of close partners.These materials can also be treated or constructed to meet specific needs. For example, they can be designed with IP-rated protection and even constructed for explosion protection, if needed. Users can also opt for a variety of different finishing techniques to any of these materials, potentially including varnishing, painting, printing, and EMC coating (to protect against external interference). Special needs and safety requirements can also be taken into consideration, like IP-rated protection and explosion protection if needed.