Nimble Design Principles Are Shaping Custom Case Selection

Publish Date:
April 1, 2023

Designing the right case for a specific application can be very challenging.   Often, the designer is forced to develop a highly customized enclosure, where costs can escalate, particularly during prototyping, and time to market can be lengthy.  And there is inherently more risk, as custom parts and obsolescence can be factors as well.

Starting with modular design principles offers a more intelligent approach to developing an application-ready instrument case.

Specific considerations for this critical piece of electronics equipment include metal fabrication, silk screening, plating and powder coating as well as final assembly and test. In addition, some cases need to meet industry certifications and regulations. For example, an important consideration in developing portable medical equipment is the packaging requirements to ensure both the durability of the equipment and proper adherence to in-room patient safety.

Cost-effective, nimble case design improves innovations

Elma's iD-Case 18 enclosure is displayed at a trade show-

Non-invasive medical treatments, especially for chronic, painful conditions, not only reduce the pain and recovery time of patients, but help to keep healthcare costs down as well.  Because of this win-win among the medical community, many new technology innovations have been fueled by the desire to improve the patient experience and clinical outcomes, while reducing expenses for healthcare providers and payers.

Although companies developing medical innovations may know of the certifications and design criteria that need to be met in relation to packaging medical equipment, manufacturing the physical cases for their equipment is still a function that is traditionally out of their wheelhouse. So, how can they be sure their groundbreaking technology withstands the rigors of the medical field, where portability is key, as well as ensure compliance with medical standards and regulations?

One example is a company that has harnessed the power of the ultrasound to provide a fully noninvasive technique that uses heat transfer to eliminate nerves causing pain and discomfort, without the risks, pain, high costs, and extensive training required by more invasive methods. The device is designed to successfully treat a number of chronic conditions including arthritis in the knees and hips, lower back pain and inflammation and even bone metastases.

Knowing it needed a partner with proven success in medical packaging, and could also offer a standard product that could be cost-effectively tailored, the start-up chose Elma Electronic.  With readily accessible engineering capabilities, Elma was able to quickly modify a proven standard product and provide full turnkey production of the chassis.  

Beyond Function to Physical Appeal

A stack of iD-Case 20 enclosures show off their modular extruded sidewalls
Compact Case 20 enclosures show off modular extruded sidewalls

Electronics cases no longer sit in a back room in a lab or on industrial shelving, but rather are designed to sit table-side in a work environment or be portable, so they can be moved to various locations, depending on where the unit needs to be used.  Aesthetics play just as critical a role as the function and modularity of a case housing advanced electronics systems. The look of the unit helps impart a sense of technological innovation through modern design elements.

Visually-appealing construction aims to minimize unsightly, distracting parts of the case. For example, screws can be placed in less visible locations or the unit can be indented, where screws are placed to maintain a flat, sleek surface.  Elements such as cover panels, rounded corners and bezels can add to the appearance of the chassis and a painted exterior or silk-screened exterior can help finish off the look, as well.

Working with a customer that needed a high-resolution optical spectrum analyzer used in a high-profile work environment, the Elma design team started with the iD-Box16, which offers some customization options that really enable the end product to stand out.

The optical spectrum analyzers use reflective or refractive techniques to separate out the wavelengths of light. A high-quality display is critical to data analysis and these types of systems are usually designed to be benchtop or for transport to different locations. The system developed not only suited the mechanical, portability and user interface parameters, but also provided a modern look and feel to the system.

And another benefit is that as more units are put into production, inventory and assembly costs are reduced, leading to cost reductions based on quantity.  

Versatility for user-specific requirements

Thanks to the modular versatility of design enclosures, they can be tailored in a variety of ways – be it color, size, custom accessories, but it doesn’t end there. The front panel can also offer custom design elements, so you can specify exactly what your system needs and cases come in a virtually infinite choice of colors, finishes and cutouts.

As technology companies move to a more nimble design and development process, there’s an increasing need for cost-effective standard products that can still offer elements of customization.  By starting with a diverse standard product offering, designers can work through their thought process to formulate an idea, and then tailor that concept to their specific desires and needs. This successful model has been employed in the development of many electronics cases for Elma’s customers. Think about your application needs and start your custom enclosure design here.


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