According to Oxford Dictionaries, an enclosure is “an artificial or natural barrier that seals off an area.” Enclosures house and protect a variety of products and items, though electronics are perhaps their most common contents. For example, computers, instruments, pushbuttons, and remote controls are typically contained within an enclosure for protection and safety. In fact, most electronics that people use in their homes and workplaces are contained in some sort of enclosure (typically plastic). There are numerous enclosures available these days in all different shapes, sizes, and designs. So when we talk about the various types of enclosures, it’s hard to know where to start.
Types of Enclosures
Sizes & Materials
First, of course, enclosures come in a variety of sizes and materials. We don’t need to detail the various sizes (small for small contents, large for large contents, you know the drill), but materials are a different story. Typically, the enclosures you will find protecting small electronics indoors are plastic. Lightweight, affordable, and versatile, plastic offers an excellent protective housing.
However, when the application requires extreme durability, you should probably turn to metal materials. Common types include aluminum, galvanized steel, carbon steel, and stainless steel. Consider your enclosure’s application and location and your budget before selecting a material. Carbon steel can rest out of doors, for example. Stainless steel offers a high level of protection for a premium price. Lightweight aluminum provides great heat dissipation, and galvanized steel is strong and resistant to corrosion.
Next, as you explore types of enclosures, consider enclosures built for specific applications. Each of these enclosures has a different purpose and offers unique protections. As there are too many different enclosure application types to list every one, let’s explore some of the most common:
- Console Enclosure: Console enclosures house electric equipment at an incline of 30-60 degrees. They often have a flat section toward the rear, which helps with connector entry and mounting.
- Desktop Enclosure: Similar to console enclosures, desktop enclosures are typically found on desks and contain numerous controls, like keyboards, instrument controls, and pushbuttons.
- Floor-Standing Enclosure: As you might imagine, floor-standing enclosures are large and house sizable electronics while standing directly on the floor. To save space, they are typically only as large as they need to be to hold the electronics. They sometimes have special features like mounting panels, handles, and fans.
- Motor Enclosure: Motor enclosures protect the device’s mechanical parts from moisture, abrasion, chemicals, and contaminants in the environment.In addition, they often include cooling elements to dissipate heat quickly. Some are totally enclosed, while others are open to allow air flow.
- Power Supply Cases: Due to their importance and safety risks, power supply elements are housed in special enclosures that offer additional protection. They are typically made from steel, aluminum, or high-quality plastic to protect against corrosion and abrasion. In addition, they often include heat extraction features to diminish the risk of overheating.
- Speaker Enclosure: Speaker enclosures are cabinets that house speaker drivers and their associated hardware. They range in design from simple, rectangular boxes to complex cabinets with features like ports, acoustic insulation, and internal baffles.
NEMA Enclosure Types
Finally, when most people talk about types of enclosures, they are referring to the standards defined by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). These standards were created so that manufacturers could clearly communicate to consumers the level and types of protection offered by their products. The types run from 1 to 13 (Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, etc.), but there are also variations, such as 3R, 4X, 6P, and 12K. Each NEMA enclosure type offers different benefits. For example, these are some of the protections included in the NEMA standards:
- Protection against light
- Protection against dust, lint, loose fibers, and more.
- Protection against windblown dust
- Protection against falling dirt
- Protection against light splashing
- Protection against dripping water
- Submersible (temporary or prolonged)
- Protection against coolants and oil
- Protection against corrosion
- Will not be damaged by ice formation
- Able to be used outdoors
- Protect people from hazardous parts
- Protection against rain
- Protection against sleet
- Protection against snow
So, take the Type 3 NEMA Enclosure. This indoor/outdoor container can protect personnel from hazardous parts, and it also protects the enclosed equipment from the ingress of solid foreign objects, like falling dirt and windblown dust. In addition, it provides a degree of protection against the ingress of water (including rain, sleet, and snow), and it won’t be damaged by the formation of ice on the exterior of the enclosure.
To view all of the electrical enclosure types defined by NEMA, visit their website.
Shopping for Enclosures
If you’re on the hunt for a company that can manufacture metal enclosures on your behalf, check out American Products Contract Manufacturing. Manufacturing metal enclosures is our specialty. Our high-quality, innovative enclosures enable our customers to assist the telecommunications industry in expanding and improving their network services. We offer NEMA type 1, type 2, type 3, type 3-R, type 3-X, type 4, and type 4-X metal enclosures, and we form these enclosures from aluminum, galvanized steel, carbon steel, and stainless steel to create a rugged and reliable structure. Give us a call at 1-877-960-3703 to learn more, or request a free quote online.