Many electronic OEMs don't buy standard off-the-shelf enclosures, but they don't have to go the custom route, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. In many cases, the best bet − in terms of time-to-market and cost requirements − is to select a configurable or modified standard design. This can benefit both the buyer and designer by meeting cost, delivery, and design requirements.
Over the years, I've talked to many enclosure manufacturers, including Bud Industries, Hammond, OKW and Protocase, to name a few. They all offer some form of custom modifications that are designed for a fast turnaround.
Many of them offer base units that reduce engineering involvement and cost by eliminating the need for custom tooling. Typically mix-and-match modular parts are available for the base units that also allow OEMs to create different versions of the same enclosure for different applications. The use of common parts is an additional time and money saver because buyers don't have to source different enclosure types.
Modifications or value-added services are available for a number of options ranging from drilling holes and cutouts to silk screening and custom paint colors. For example, OKW Enclosures offers a variety of custom services including silkscreen and tampo printing, surface finishing, membrane keypads, special materials and colors, digital printing, assembly, and installation.
Some of these modifications can be turned around fast. Bud Industries, for example, provides simple modifications in five days. Here's a video about how it's done.
To make it even easier to source, several enclosure makers offer online tools to speed up the design to purchase process. One example is Protocase, which offers several ways to get pricing through its request a quote or instant online price quote tool.
Protocase also offers an online design tool called Protocase Designer. The free 3D CAD software benefits both the design and purchasing teams by enabling them to design a custom enclosure and get an instant quote. It streamlines the purchasing process by enabling engineers to get a spec and quote to the buyer very quickly with a few clicks at the website. In addition, these custom electronic enclosures can be built with a two to three day turnaround.
The design tool also helps eliminate the potential for multiple iterations of a custom design, which can result in significant delays, by limiting the customer to designs that Protocase can build.
Hammond Manufacturing offers a similar service through Q-Assembly, an online assembly configurator and quoting tool, which allows customers to build a bill of materials based on standard components.
New product development teams can apply the practice of selecting a configurable platform to all types of electronic components, particularly sensors and switches that have a lot of possible configurations. Look for product lines that offer multiple options to select the best part for your application. In many cases, you'll be able to configure the exact device required for your application without the long lead times and extra expense to meet your company's time-to-market and cost requirements.