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The virtues of injection moulded enclosures

06 June 2014

Mild steel has been the material of choice for control cabinets and panels for decades; now there is a corrosion-free alternative made from injection moulded polycarbonate.

An Arca cabinet installed at an exposed site, opened to show its double-insulated construction
An Arca cabinet installed at an exposed site, opened to show its double-insulated construction

An enclosure fabricated from a sheet of mild steel is relatively easy to make; the techniques of bending and welding are tried and tested and the results are consistently good. But there is a problem with mild steel. No matter how good the paint finish, in a harsh environment, corrosion will ultimately have its way.

For many years the only alternative to sheet steel wall mounting cabinets has been glass reinforced polyester (GRP). The manufacturing process is somewhat archaic and involves using a dough-like material, or latterly a blanket of GRP which is laid into a mould and heated until it forms the shape of the enclosure. Then comes the laborious task of cleaning the sharp edges and making them look something like presentable.

GRP is not the most user friendly material to use either. It is recommended that face masks and arm protection are used when handling it due to the glass fibres which are present in the surface and in the atmosphere which it is claimed can be damaging to health. GRP also has a habit of delaminating through time, thus exposing the glass fibres to the environment.

Injection moulded enclosure specialists, Fibox has spent a lot of time and money on developing injection moulding techniques and tools which can produce enclosures in a material which is not only a match for sheet steel and GRP, but exceeds the specification. The company has used glass reinforced polycarbonate for a number of years but only when moulding enclosures which are small in comparison to the cabinet ranges available today.

Unveiled for the first time at Hannover Fair back in April, Fibox's range of injection moulded glass reinforced polycarbonate wall mounting cabinets is more than a match for the GRP and sheet steel products that continue to dominate this market. Dubbed 'Arca' and currently in sizes ranging from 300 x 200mm to 800 x 600mm (1000 x 800mm is at an advanced design stage), these products provide the corrosion resistant features that panel builders and installers have sought, without the disadvantages of GRP.

The tooling used to create the new Fibox Arca IEC cabinet range is state of the art, resulting in a product which is not only extremely robust, but aesthetically pleasing in terms of its finish. And because the Arca product has no exposed metal parts, Fibox confidently assures customers that it can be installed in the most remote and exposed of sites and then forgotten about.

A standard Arca cabinet of lightweight, double-insulated construction will provide IP66 ingress protection, IK10 impact resistance, a multitude of locking options and a reversible door hinge facility. Both landscape and portrait formats are offered, together with various wall mounting options, including brackets that allow trunking to be installed behind the cabinet. A variable pole diameter mounting option is also available as a standard feature.

As far as the internals go, there’s a good selection of accessories, including mounting plates in three materials, internal lockable doors and DIN rail chassis assemblies which require no tools to install. Arca cabinets can be safely machined onsite or in the workshop without the worry of releasing conductive swarf residue or harmful fibres into the atmosphere.

PUR gaskets mean the cabinet can be repeatedly opened and closed without risk of distortion, so the IP rating is maintained for the life of the enclosure. Even the original packing case is designed to be reused after the cabinet has been populated, enabling safe and damage-free shipment to site.

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