The Engineer’s Guide to Superior Fabricated Enclosures

Any job shop can build a box, but only the experts at Approved Sheet Metal can deliver short-run and prototype sheet metal enclosures that meet your quality, cost, and lead time requirements! Keep reading to explore ASM’s approach to fabricating enclosures and discover the secrets of exceptional enclosure design.

Sheet Metal Fabricated Enclosures at a Glance

Fabricated enclosures are found in a wide array of industries and applications. Examples of fabricated enclosures include computer and smartphone cases, machinery surrounds, control panel compartments, telecommunications boxes, and water distribution chambers.

Fabricated Enclosures

ASM can fabricate enclosures of nearly any dimension, but most enclosures range in size from as small as a human hand to as large as a commercial oven. Crafting top-quality enclosures calls on our full range of capabilities: laser cutting, punching, forming, welding, hardware installation, assembly, finishing, color anodizing, and more.

Tips for Designing Fabricated Enclosures

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: just because a design looks great and unfolds properly in SOLIDWORKS doesn't mean your fabrication partner can manufacture it as designed.

Follow ASM’s guidelines for sheet metal designs, and you’ll be on the path to successful manufacturing. These questions will help you stay on track:

Is your design formable?

While many enclosures are designed for easy formability, some present challenges that may impact your pricing, lead time, and even the enclosure’s functionality. For instance, an oversized enc

losure may be too tall for our bending equipment, forcing us to identify another means of creating the box. Other times, the enclosure may include unique features that prevent full formability.

Before calling your design “done,” let our team take a look to verify its formability.

Does your design call for welding?

Some enclosure designs can only be completed with the addition of welding services. As you know, welding creates heat, and heat can cause sheet metal to distort and deform. Welding will also increase your quote and lead time, and it may impact certain elements of your design.

Communicate early and often with ASM to ensure we can build your enclosure the way you’ve designed it.

Does your design include special features?

From hardware like hinges and pop rivets to elements such as embossments and louvers, special features play a key role in determining our approach to your project. Hardware must be made, sourced, or supplied, while embossments and louvers must be designed to our shop’s standards.

ASM provides numerous free resources to help you achieve an optimized design.

Does your design require custom tooling?

You’re guaranteed to save money simply by avoiding the need for custom tooling, which can cost thousands of dollars per tool! When you’re familiar with the tooling your fabricator has on hand, you can design with those tools in mind.

You’ll be glad to know that ASM’s complete tooling list is available for engineers to access at any time.

Finishing Considerations for Fabricated Enclosures

Numerous finishes are available for your sheet metal enclosures, with only a few considerations to bear in mind.

Powder coating

When choosing a powder, ensure your selection is readily available. If we have to special order it, expect a minimum purchase and a lengthy lead time.

Oversized enclosures can pose challenges, too, depending on our powder coating partner’s booth size and oven dimensions. Check with our team if you’re worried that your enclosure may be too large for powder coating.

Plating

Even oversized enclosures can be plated, but you may be faced with a hefty bill for the service. If a standard plating house can’t accommodate your part, we’ll need to introduce a specialty vendor—imagine a plating setup that could accommodate a minivan! These platers are quite pricey, however, so we’ll reach out to you right away if we discover a plating callout that will require a specialist.

Silk screening

We frequently provide silk screening for short-run and prototype sheet metal enclosures. Silk-screened labels can identify ports for plugs or electrical components, and a silk-screened logo helps elevate the visual appeal of a part or product. Let us know if you want a standard design applied or if you’ll be supplying a custom graphics file.

Electrogalvanized (pre-plated) steel

Many ASM customers choose to leave their electrogalvanized or “pre-plated” steel unfinished. However, if your enclosure requires enhanced corrosion resistance, it may benefit from a final powder coat or wet paint application.

How Sheet Metal Enclosures Benefit Your Application

Sheet metal enclosures lend these advantages to a diverse assortment of critical applications:

Damage prevention

Enclosures ensure the sustained functionality of components, machinery, and sensitive equipment by protecting against physical damage and detrimental environmental factors such as dust, moisture, debris, and UV radiation.

Workplace safety

Sheet metal enclosures ensure a safe working environment, protecting personnel from dangerous contact with powerful machinery and electrical components that could inflict severe or even fatal injuries.

EMI shielding

Conductive enclosures—those made from conductive sheet metals or polymers—shield electronic components and devices from electromagnetic interference (EMI) by absorbing, redirecting, and blocking disruptive EMI waves.

Heat dissipation

Thanks to metal’s thermal conductivity, sheet metal enclosures can serve as heat sinks, dissipating the heat generated by electronic components. The addition of proper ventilation also aids in eliminating overheating risks.

Complete customization

Custom-fabricated enclosures meet your exacting specifications to ensure a perfectly tailored fit for your components and devices.

Aesthetic appeal

Expertly crafted sheet metal enclosures lend visual appeal to almost any application and can be further customized with your unique branding elements or other graphics.

Choosing the Best Material for Your Fabricated Enclosures

ASM fabricates enclosures from many different materials, including these preferred sheet metals:

  • Steel. When you need an enclosure that’s durable, strong, and corrosion-resistant, stainless steel and regular steel are excellent choices. Stainless steel’s rust resistance makes it especially suited for harsh environments and outdoor applications.
  • Aluminum. Naturally lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and conductive, aluminum is a top choice for enclosures with strict weight maximums.
  • Galvanized steel. Coated with a zinc layer to prevent rusting, galvanized steel is a cost-efficient solution that provides reliable durability and corrosion resistance.

Ultimately, the application’s requirements should dictate which material you choose for your short-run or prototype sheet metal enclosures. The ASM team is happy to help you narrow your material options to a final selection that satisfies your requirements for durability, corrosion resistance, electrical conductivity, weight, cost, and any other relevant considerations.

The Industries Using Sheet Metal Enclosures

Every industry ASM serves uses enclosures.

  • The electronics industry uses fabricated enclosures to house circuit boards, power supplies, control panels, communication devices like routers and switches, and other electronic components.
  • In the telecommunications industry, enclosures provide protection for servers, networking devices, and data storage units.
  • Throughout industrial manufacturing, you’ll find sheet metal enclosures surrounding control systems, machinery components, and power distribution units.
  • Medical equipment companies safeguard sensitive electronics, monitors, and control systems with enclosures that prevent external interference and maintain sterility.
  • The automotive industry uses fabricated enclosures to surround electronics, control modules, and countless critical vehicle components.
  • Sheet metal enclosures are crucial in the aerospace and defense industries, which use them to house avionics, communication systems, radar equipment, and other sensitive electronics.
  • Across the renewable energy industry, enclosures protect solar power systems, wind turbines, and other applications containing electrical components and control systems.

ASM Is Your Perfect Partner for Fabricated Enclosures

Our prototype specialists offer select custom capabilities that production shops simply don’t provide, and we exercise our in-depth engineering knowledge to limit your costs and improve your lead times. We even maintain cutting-edge technology that helps us identify and resolve fabrication problems before they arise.

No matter the kind, shape, or size of your enclosure, ASM is available to help you make the best decisions from design to delivery.

Get a quote!

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