Instrument enclosures protect electronic devices inside metal or plastic housing. Because of their sensitive circuitry, the components must be protected from dirt, water, and accidental contact. Being kept in an enclosure prevents the intrusion of solid foreign objects as well as liquids to a certain extent. Instrument enclosures are made from aluminum, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, stainless steel, and, for certain models, polyester with fiberglass reinforcing.
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Applications of Instrument Enclosures
Electronic instruments are used in many applications, especially for precision work in scientific, engineering, medical, and technological fields. Possible instrument uses include control panels, operation switches, and measuring devices. New ways of making enclosures safe and effective are constantly being researched due to the demand for and critical nature of electronic instruments.
Instrument Enclosure Design and Customization
Instrument enclosures come in many varieties to accommodate the wide array of electronic instruments. For small handheld instruments, enclosures may be custom-contoured to the shape of the device and designed to provide long-lasting protection and shock absorption. Desktop instruments can generally be housed in a box-like enclosure that is manageable in size and durability, protecting against spills and accidental contact. Wall mounted enclosures keep their contents close to the electronic equipment the instruments control while shielding them from dust, dirt, splashing water, and other undesirable contact.
The parts of an instrument enclosure vary depending on the application. Hand held enclosures may have slide-on covers or a knockout for a LCD screen. Desktop enclosures may have vents, handles, locking mechanisms, and membrane keyboards, while wall mounted enclosures are frequently hung on DIN rail with the ability to slide into position. Other options incorporate neoprene seals or watertight gaskets, transparent lids or covers, recessed areas for labels or keypads, cylinder catches, lock covers, thermometers, drains, air dyers, and special coatings to shield the contents from static electricity or EMI/RFI (electromagnetic and radio frequency interference). Metal enclosures can be constructed of cold rolled sheet metal welded for a smooth seam; aluminum is usually extruded. Plastics, fiberglass, and composite materials are gaining favor in certain situations because of their corrosion resistance, durability, and weight.
Instrument Enclosure Standards
No matter what material an instrument enclosure is made of, there are certain standards to which all enclosures must adhere. NEMA (the National Electrical Manufacturers Association), UL (the Underwriters Laboratories), and the IP Code (the International Protection Rating) are all used to identify the enclosure's strengths and applicable functions as determined by the conditions they can withstand. For example, the common NEMA Type 4X enclosure can be used indoors or outdoors to protect its contents against corrosion, windblown dust, rain, sleet, snow, splashing or hose-directed water, and the external formation of ice.