share article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Constant innovation leads to better enclosures for today’s electronics


By Robert Cox, Marketing Director, OKW

Industrial electronic enclosure design has been dominated in recent years by elegant panel PC and touchscreen housings. Their clean lines and sleek contours have transformed automation, robotics and modern machine control in 21st century smart factories.

But, what then for the diecast aluminium enclosures that preceded them? Has their innovation journey reached its summit? Absolutely not – because the very latest IP-rated housings are indeed diecast – and they’re full of smart design features.

Rolec, the company that is transforming industrial electronic enclosure design for over 30 years, has just launched a new generation of tough, go-anywhere housings for walls, bulkheads, machines and desks. Its aluDOOR (IP 66/67/69K) is effectively a ‘compact cabinet’, with an innovative lid that features a clever integrated hinge design. The lid opens 100° for easier access; it can be specified with or without a recess for a membrane keypad or product label. A2 stainless steel lid screws and threaded inserts ensure corrosion-resistant assembly in extreme conditions.

Fitting the lid is quick and easy: with its integrated hinge pin, it is pushed into place then secured with two tamperproof Torx T25 (M5) screws. Then the lid is shut and locked down with two more T25 screws. Extruded aluminium trims conceal and protect the fixings.

The seal is a new foamed-in polyurethane gasket that offers greater protection because it is continuous – there is no join that could eventually become a weak point. And like many other Rolec diecast enclosures, aluDOOR features separate mounting screw channels so it can be installed ‘lid closed’ – protecting the electronics and the seal.

Design forward thinking

New aluDOOR is a significant step forward in enclosure design but its technical innovations are underpinned by a long history of forward thinking. These innovations go back not just to Rolec’s launch in the 1980s, but even further – to the 1960s when the company’s founder Friedhelm Rose first became an entrepreneur. Unimpressed by the plain boxes available at that time, Friedhelm Rose launched a radical new design that would rewrite the rulebook. It was 1967, the avant-garde highpoint of a decade synonymous with design innovation. For Friedhelm Rose, 1967 was the dawn of ‘the age of enclosures’.

Years later, the enclosure that changed everything was aluCASE (IP 66/67/69K) – a model so advanced and so popular that it remains Rolec’s premium diecast enclosures range. Its technical features would set the tone for decades to come: lid-closed installation, clip-on trims to hide the fixing and mounting screws, lid retaining straps, a generous lid recess for a membrane keypad or product label – many of these benefits would be featured on a whole series of Rolec enclosure models.

One such model is aluDISC (IP 66/67/69K), the world’s first round diecast enclosure for industrial electronics – a remarkable achievement, especially since aluDISC isn’t actually circular. Its main display area is indeed round, but enclosures need flat edges for mounting connectors, so Rolec took its inspiration from the shape of a wristwatch. Not squaring the circle but extending it – while still retaining the ‘roundness’ in its design language.

Meanwhile, aluCLIC (IP 66/67/69K) enclosures offer a unique benefit – they can be clipped on to a base plate for fast installation (and they can be unclipped just as rapidly). This is vital in extreme outdoor environments; the enclosure remains sealed until it can be opened in a safer location.

But not all industrial enclosure models have lid-closed installation. Some benefit from a patent that Friedhelm Rose registered in 1985 – a single channel that could accommodate both the mounting screws and the lid screws. This frees up more space in the enclosure, allowing electronics designers to specify a more compact housing.

Another Rolec innovation solves the challenge of how to protect notoriously-fragile EMC shielding gaskets. Traditionally, these gaskets can be prone to breakage if the lid is opened regularly for inspection. Rolec’s solution was to dispense with EMC gaskets altogether. Its conFORM (IP 66/67) and conTROL (IP 66/67) diecast enclosures feature built-in EMC shielding thanks to a patented tooth system pre-cast into the lid and base. The teeth interlock, preserving electrical continuity and ensuring the reliable integrity of the Faraday cage over the long term.

However, not every advanced industrial enclosure is diecast. Extruded aluminium enclosures have a significant advantage over their cast counterparts because they can be produced faster and more cost effectively in bespoke lengths – no extra tooling is required. Extruded enclosures such as aluDISPLAY (IP 54) and mobilCASE (IP 54/65) also enable the faster installation of PCBs: circuit boards simply slide in and out on guide rails that form part of the extrusion profile.

And, when it comes to bespoke sizes, the latest command enclosures hold the crown. Rolec’s multiPANEL (IP 65) and profiPANEL (up to IP 65) can both be specified to the nearest millimetre – as standard – in any plan size up to 800 x 800 mm. They can be mounted on suspension arms, wall connectors (for pivoting about the vertical axis) and mounting brackets.

Premium multiPANEL offers flush-fit and virtually borderless installation of a front plate or glass panel – enabling the housing of displays or touchscreens and the flush integration of PCs. Construction is based on extruded aluminium profile with stainless steel trims for ultra-modern aesthetics. And, as attractive as multiPANEL is, it’s profiPANEL that offers more versatility. The range of standard depths is greater; profiPANEL combines two profile widths (60mm and 90mm) to create nine standard depths ranging from 60mm to 300mm. Options also include a capacious keyboard desk to match the main enclosure.


Whichever standard enclosures one specifies, it makes sense to order them fully customised so they can go directly from Goods In to the production line for installation of components – accelerating production and boosting output. Customising standard enclosures is now easier than ever. It doesn’t take much customisation to transform an off-the-shelf enclosure into one that is designed for a specific application and fully branded. Advances in technology have made customisation viable for smaller batches, bringing it within reach of specialist electronics manufacturers creating niche products.

Partnering with a specialist enclosures manufacturer pays dividends because they can offer the full range of services under one roof. A single-source supplier such as Rolec can carry out all the required work: CNC machining (drilling and tapping; milling cutouts, recesses and contours), branding enclosures in custom colours using either powder coating or wet painting. Legends, logos and photo-quality graphics can be digitally printed. This process is much more efficient than traditional methods, enabling printing in much lower volumes. Other options include engraving and laser processing.

Enclosures can also be specified with display windows, EMC shielding and a wide range of accessories such as cable glands, hinges, mounting rails and terminals – all of which can be assembled.

Rolec is represented in the UK by OKW Enclosures.

Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Related Posts

View Latest Magazine

Subscribe today

Member Login