This article first appeared in Components in Electronics Magazine Oct 2017
Hitaltech’s Andy Fitzer examines the effect of finding novel ways to pack more into less.
DIN rail space is often at a premium, especially in complex industrial control and signal conditioning applications. Frequently, the control panel or console may have plenty of headroom but it will be stuffed full of control gear, power supplies, PLCs and more. It is desirable, therefore, to use enclosures that take up a minimum amount of width on the DIN rail.
Hitaltech’s Italtronic Railbox and Guidebox are ideally suited to these applications. The PCB sits vertical to the DIN rails and enclosure widths start from as little as 6.5mm (typically going as wide as 45mm, with potential to extend further using a spacer). The vertical design allows for a relatively large number of inputs and outputs to be configured in a small amount of space. Add a spacer and it can also be used to house an additional PCB, increasing the overall width beyond 45mm and providing additional openings for more inputs or outputs.
Although space on the DIN rail will often be the prime issue, it’s not the only one. Height can also be a concern, especially in building automation applications. The Italtronic Modulbox range is particularly suited to this type of application, with the PCB sitting horizontally in the enclosure. The height from the DIN rail to the top shoulder of the enclosure is a standard 53mm which is the same height as a moulded circuit breaker (or 26mm for the Modulbox compact variant). The enclosure is available from a single module width (17.5mm) to a 12 module width (210mm).
The right fit
What happens when the PCB you’ve designed no longer fits the enclosure? Of course, in an ideal world we would always suggest designing the enclosure and its contents concurrently, so you don’t reach that critical point of needing a TARDIS-like enclosure to fit everything in, but that isn’t always a viable option.
When we receive challenges like this, we are fortunate to be able to fall back on a decade of experience and a large product range. We may explore the potential of an alternative enclosure, or machine larger openings, so the terminal block arrangement can be accommodated. In one example, we developed a solution using lugs that effectively enabled a PCB to ‘hover’ mid-enclosure.
Our ability to customise has made a huge difference to the design process, and has highlighted the importance of enclosure size. When the enclosure height was fixed, and we could only offer a limited choice of four widths (as used to be the case), inevitably that had an impact on the end product, either in terms of functionality or aesthetics.
Now, we design or customise the right enclosure for the right application, in multi-level sizes. The results enable innovators to create products that are closer to their original vision, products that don’t have to make compromises because of the limits imposed by the state of the enclosure art.
More than an enclosure
And yet, as other recent innovations show, enclosure manufacturing has more to offer than mere advances in size customisation. Where once, colour choice was limited to three options, now we can mould in custom colours. We can machine larger openings for specific components. And we can print legends, logos, keys and instructions, so the enclosure adds value in terms of production speed or product quality.
The result is a product that no longer simply the ‘contents box’ – it is an enabler of better design, simpler production, and a truly custom feel.