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Author Archives: A & J Manufacturing

  1. Rack Mounting Options for your Electronic Equipment

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    A rack mount is a description of a hardware device capable of being mounted in an equipment rack. All types of electronics and computing devices come in rack-mounted packages including servers, test instruments, telecommunications components, which are bolted to the side frames of the rack. Note: shelves are available for equipment that is not rack mounted.

    Measuring cabinet dimensions, specifically depth

    Before ultimately choosing a rack mounting option, let’s first review how to properly measure your rack space. As a reminder, cabinets or enclosures are traditionally referred to by their external dimensions. But in most cases, the rack depth is 4 to 6 inches less than the external cabinet depth.

    To measure the rack depth, measure the distance between the forward-most part of the front rail to the rear-most point of the rear rail. A&J typically recommends 34 in. (86.36 cm) or greater cabinets for use with equipment that have an average depth of 28 in. (71.12 cm). The 6 inches (15.24 cm) at the back between the equipment and the back door or panel allows for cable management, airflow and maintenance access.

    Equipment mounting options

    Originally mounting holes were tapped with a particular screw thread, but has since become problematic where equipment is frequently changed because the threads are easily damaged or the mounting screws can break off. Both problems render the mounting hole unusable.

    Tapped-holes were then replaced by clearance-hole racks. Holes are large enough to permit a bolt without binding and fastened in place using cage nuts.

    The third innovation has been square-hole racks. These racks allow boltless mounting where the weight of the equipment and small retention clips are all that is necessary to hold equipment in place.

    The structural support

    A key structural weakness of front-mounted support is the bending stress placed on the both the rack itself and the mounting brackets of the equipment. Our A&J racks can incorporate front and rear rails that may be moved forwards and backwards that allows equipment to be supported by four posts, but also easily installed and/or removed.

    Our standard AJR 150 Series 4-post racks are 22.31″ (566.6 mm) wide with three depths: 26″, 30″, 36″ (660.4 mm to 914.4 mm). The extra width and depth enables cabling to be routed with ease and deeper equipment to be installed. It can also accommodate “Zero-U” accessories such as PDUs and vertical cable managers in the space between the rear rails and the side of the enclosure.

    Rails (slides)

    Often used for heavy equipment that requires regular servicing, a pair of rails can be mounted directly onto the rack which allows the component to slide into the rack along the rails. The equipment can then be bolted to the rack (as described above) or the rails may also be able to fully support the equipment in a position where it has been slid clear of the rack. Consider purchasing a cable management arm, which folds the cables attached to the server or component and allows them to expand neatly when the rail is slid out, without being disconnected.

    Tools required

    You will need some of the following tools to rackmount your equipment:

    • Philips No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 screwdrivers
    • Flat-blade No. 1 and No. 2 screwdrivers
    • Allen and adjustable wrenches
    • Needlenose pliers
    • Level
    • Electrostatic discharge (ESD) wrist strap
    • ESD mat

    Rack Mounting Tips & Guidelines

    • Install the heaviest equipment and storage devices in the lowest position in the rack to prevent the rack from becoming too-heavy and prone to tipping over.
    •  Install any remaining equipment from the lowest system upward into the rack.
    • For applications that require high-density cabling, you may need 1U of horizontal cable management for every 1U of patch panels or switches.
    • Ensure the rack is properly secured to the floor or ceiling and level before installing any components.
  2. How We Build Quality into Each Enclosure We Make

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    Of course one of A&J Manufacturing’s primary goals of manufacturing is building a quality product. But, quality also means planning to avoid possible problems and defects. It’s a continual process that is more than just the final inspection before your enclosure or rack is shipped.

    We want to obtain full customer satisfaction through the consistent delivery of high quality electronic enclosures and racks. Internally, we leverage various methods, such as Lead Manufacturing and Six Sigma, but each method has a few things in common:

    1. Continuous improvement
    2. Consistency
    3. Teamwork as part of our culture
    4. Routinely measure and analyze
    5. Training

    By our definition, quality is not a quick fix, but rather a long-term outlook.

    We use the best materials and construction techniques available

    Our electronic equipment enclosures are built to last, and we stand behind every one of them. Our commitment to quality is evident in every aspect of our operation, from the modern inspection systems we use to the multiple visual inspections that every component undergoes during production.

    At A & J Manufacturing, we only use the highest quality components in the production of our items, such as:

    • ASTM B209. This is the Standard Specification for Aluminum and Aluminum-Alloy Sheet and Plate.
    • ASTM B221. This is the industry standard specification for aluminum and aluminum alloy extruded bars, rods, wire, profiles, and tubes.

    The degree of protection required for industrial equipment and complex electronics is very demanding. Machined aluminum has the highest quality of durability, toughness and rigidity when compared to other types of enclosures. And they are perfect for precision applications wherein dimensional tolerances are critical.

    Maintaining quality while work is in progress

    Our quality management system extends beyond our product and materials to include our facilities, training and certifications, process monitoring and inspection points.

    1. Facilities. Quality can’t be maintained on our production floor without clean and organized areas that are prepared for work. And all manufacturing equipment and CNC machines must be in good order to deliver the level of precision required for proper assembly.
    2. Training & Certification. We have earned accreditation for two of the world’s most widely recognized quality management standards, including:
      • AS9100D. According to NQA, this establishes quality management system requirements to improve quality, cost, and delivery performance for businesses worldwide. Our AS9100 First Article Inspection is a rigorous process that ensures every component meets our high standards.
      • ISO 9001:2015. Advisera states that this benchmark sets the standards for a company that wants to offer goods and services that meet consumer demands and laws while making clients happy.
    3. Process Monitoring. We have documented process controls in place with procedures for assembly that allow us to maintain consistency and quality in our manufacturing.
    4. Inspection Points. We utilize multiple inspection points to examine previously assembled or machined parts throughout the manufacturing process. Inspections are performed both manually and with our Hexagon Arm CMM machine to detect any incorrectly placed components and to confirm accuracy.

    Our commitment to “Made in the USA” and “Buy American”

    The first “Buy American” Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Hoover in 1933. Products must meet two requirements: 1) the end-product must be manufactured in the US and 2) more than 95% of the cost of all component parts must also be manufactured in the US (revised under the Trump administration).

    A&J is committed to being a “Made in the USA” manufacturer:

    • Manufacturing all kits, accessories and enclosures at our CNC machine shop in Foothill Ranch, CA
    • Purchasing our aluminum raw materials from US manufacturers
    • Purchasing ancillary components from US manufacturers

    By partnering with US suppliers, we can easily visit with them in-person to ensure their products meet our customer needs. And when we manufacture things ourselves, we can adapt quickly to design changes and customer inputs. Beyond this commitment, we can help lessen the burden on government purchasing agents by ensuring easily demonstrable compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and giving them the option to buy from a US, women-owned, small business.

    Customer satisfaction is our top priority

    At A & J Manufacturing, we are committed to providing the highest level of customer satisfaction possible. We focus on timely delivery and exceptional quality, and we work hard to comply with all customer requirements from start to finish.

    We also protect confidential customer information and prioritize the health and safety of our employees, customers, suppliers, and community. We have established ourselves as a leader in the quality equipment racks industry by consistently meeting or exceeding our customers’ expectations.

    If you’re looking for a reliable, high-quality product, look no further than A & J Manufacturing. We build quality into all equipment racks we make, and we’re always looking for ways to improve our products and services. Send us a message or request a quote today to learn more about what we can do for you.

  3. Test & Measurement Equipment Racks for Research Labs

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    Test, measurement and simulation systems have undergone significant technological advancements in the past decade. Couple that with specific environmental or physical challenges and your electronic rack or enclosure likely includes a wide variety of requirements to ensure you purchase an effective solution. The increasing number of test and measurement tasks means that our customers require greater modularity of the enclosures that protect the sensitive electronics that make up high-end test systems.

    Common Concerns for Simulation, Test and Measurement Enclosure Solutions

    At A&J, we want to support and help accelerate innovations in testing, measurement and other common functions of a research lab or facility; specifically protecting the electronics that help provide network security and the Internet of Things (IoT).

    Common challenges include:

    • Physical space or a reduced footprint
    • Protection against shock and vibration
    • Increased heat dissipation

    Physical Space

    It’s important to understand and make note of all the relevant specifications prior to designing and even eventually installing your rack solution. Rack height is the most important. But not only does it need to fit in the installation space, but in every space that needs to be transited through to get there: subterranean parking garages, hallways, elevators, utility corridors.

    Additionally, consider the space required for maintenance, monitoring and servicing access.

    Shock & Vibration

    Vibration and shock issues pose significant challenges to many industries. The development of robust products that can be exposed to long term exposure or periodic shocks without degradation is critical to the overall performance of any system and can be a tremendous risk to millions of dollars of research effort.

    Every facility will have its own unique structural and environmental considerations. We’ve designed, manufactured and qualified more than thirty (30) different configurations of racks and enclosures to meet stringent military requirements (MIL-S-901, STD-167-1) and our wide range of accumulated test data for our designs could allow additional configurations to qualify by extension. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re interested in reviewing our testing data.

    Heat Dissipation

    Components like power suppliers and processor chips can generate significant amounts of heat and those increases in temperature can sharply reduce the life of your components, even just 10 degrees! 

    Some of the factors that influence the success of enclosure cooling includes: the ability of heat to dissipate, the ability of air to flow freely to and from the outside, contamination from dust and other substances and consistent air flow to all components. Frankly, anything that can aid natural convection should be considered since this is “free” and can dissipate a significant portion of the heat in an enclosure.

    Factors To Consider When Buying Measurement & Testing Enclosures

    A high-quality laboratory rack is invaluable to any research environment. Laboratory racks have a compact and space-saving footprint to maintain a neat appearance while facilitating laboratory organization. They offer a safe storage solution for protecting critical lab equipment and accessories from outside contaminants as well as falling and breaking.  

    Lab equipment racks can also facilitate laboratory compliance and storage safety standards. At A&J Manufacturing, we rely on innovative technology, integrity, and collaboration to deliver superior laboratory equipment racks for your needs. We inspect our products rigorously under an ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100 certified quality management system to ensure we meet our customers’ stringent requirements.

    There are several factors to consider when choosing the best enclosure manufacturer:

    • Improved EMI shielding 
    • Superior signal integrity
    • Improved cooling or thermal management 
    • Modular or flexible configuration options

    At the base level, our AJR 150 Series rack satisfies the test and measurement application requirements for modularity and EMI shielding. As the cornerstone of our enclosure rack offerings, it uses a modular design that allows for significant cabinet reconfigurations as your component requirements or testing equipment changes. Our AJR 150 Series is offered in a wide variety of sizes giving you additional flexibility based on any physical restrictions and the bolted-together construction makes applications both scalable and enables multi-stage installation or where access might be constricted due to small footprints. 

    Because temperature directly affects the reliability and service life of electronic equipment, thermal management accessories are paramount to the success of your test and measurement enclosure options. At A&J, we can offer both passive and active thermal management options. Wherever possible, use passive solutions first because they make the most of the natural properties. They also tend to be cheaper and more practical. 

    Laboratory Racks From A&J Manufacturing

    Laboratory racks are crucial components in any research facility, offering a safe storage solution for protecting valuable lab equipment and accessories. At A&J Manufacturing, our racks come in light, medium, and heavy-duty configurations to meet various application and industry requirements. To learn more about our commercial off-the-shelf and custom equipment racks, or for help determining which lab equipment rack is right for your needs, contact us today.

  4. Benefits of a Modular Enclosure

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    Because the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) has accelerated the evolution of industrial engineering, it’s generally a good idea to err on the side of versatility. But there are several misconceptions or misunderstandings about the traits and attributes of a modular enclosure. A fully realized modular enclosure will help you respond better to market demands, supply chain logistics and other variant-rich environments with greater flexibility, agility and speed.

    What a Modular Enclosure Is and Isn’t

    There are specifically three terms that are used incorrectly.

    Unibody Enclosure – Often constructed with welded steel or other heavy sheet metal, their rigid design can hamper maintenance, repair or modification of the enclosure and the equipment within it.

    Modified Enclosure – While a modified enclosure can have some of the same traits as a modular enclosure, it simply encompasses an enclosure with custom holes or tapping

    Modular Enclosure – an industrial enclosure with accessories or panels that can easily be reconfigured or rearranged within its standard frame. It virtually eliminates costly machining and fabrication as your device components change.

    Benefits of a Modular Enclosure

    1. Infinite configurations – Modular frames come with pre-drilled holes using the EIA’s standardized unit of measurement. And common accessories or network devices can be added to the interior without additional drilling or welding. Plus, these frames can easily be bayed together to create nearly infinite configurations.
    2. Faster mounting & installation – Using rails, an integrator can easily slide panels into or out of the front, side or rear openings of an enclosure. Mounting becomes easier and faster when compared to the unibody technique of laying an enclosure on its back and lifting the panel with a forklift or crane. This all adds up to saving you time and money.
    3. Built to last – Due to its vertical framing, a modular cabinet won’t lose any of its strength or protective qualities.
    4. Flexibility – A designer, integrator, engineer and end user each have the freedom to make assemblies as basic or as complex as a job requires. Again, components can be arranged without the need to cut or weld. This allows for varied and unique configurations inside, while also allowing flexible cable or maintenance entry. Any enclosure can be adapted to meet your  needs.

    Core Elements of a Modular Enclosure

    The prime characteristics of a modular enclosure include:

    1. Protection of enclosed devices / equipment – There are several physical stressors present in any given environment: tampering, water, mold, corrosion. And just like traditional unibody designs, a modular enclosure can be certified to rugged industry standards (MIL-S-901D, NEMA). Properly assess local weather conditions, corrosive substances and even resistance levels of internal components.
    2. Compartmentalization – A modular design allows you to compartmentalize separate pieces of IT equipment or add thermal accessories to help with climate control. It removes the need to source several cabinets or climate-control systems. It also saves floor space!
    3. Ease of modification – It’s easier to scale up or scale down manufacturing needs based on production sequence, customer demand, space or other factors with a modular design. And users can easily swap parts out for new ones and modify panels.
    4. Availability of sizes and types – While available in traditional sizes, it can also be configured to specific applications with full size or partial doors, multiple mounting panels and entry points.
  5. Thinking About a Custom Rack Design? Here’s What to Consider

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    Racks help organize IT equipment into more collective assemblies that free up space and make efficient use of resources. A rack typically consists of two or four vertical rails for mounting, along with a supporting framework that secures the rails. Both the framework and rails tend to feature aluminum or steel construction, which makes them capable of supporting up to thousands of pounds of IT equipment. The rails also include round or square holes that make it easy to use screws for mounting rack equipment.

    If standard rack designs don’t work for your application, you may benefit from a custom server rack. When creating your custom rack design, there are many key factors to consider to ensure the best possible rack for your needs.


    Things to Consider with Custom Racks & Enclosures

    When in the market for a custom electronic rack, there are certain items to consider to inform your design.

    One element that will go into a custom rack design is the desired size. Obviously all of your electronic components need to fit comfortably inside, but you also need to consider the space between them to avoid interference. Your rack or enclosure should also accommodate the necessary space needed for maintenance and device assembly or installation.

    Regarding external size dimensions, the primary limitation is that the bend radius must not be less than the enclosure material’s thickness. Through CNC machining, we can manufacture enclosures as small as 11.75″ x 16.5″ x 9.5″. We encourage you to contact us about your design to discuss it further with our design engineering team.

    Depending on the application, you’ll need to account for any industry standards or ratings that enclosures must meet to protect equipment from dust or water. For instance, equipment may need to meet NEMA and military standards or have an IP rating.

    Consider the different accessories available to you, which could include:

    • Cooling — Blowers, fans, and fan trays
    • Power Management — Cable support, distribution, and power strips
    • Internal Slide Hardware — Slide brackets and mounting brackets
    • External Panels & Hardware — Blank panels, nuts, screws, and washers
    • Shelves & Drawers — Sliding and fixed shelves and sliding drawers
    • Shock, Vibration, and Seismic Resistance — Open-frame racks and enclosure racks
    • Secure Racks — Blanking panels

    Standard Options vs. Custom Design

    Oftentimes, you may not need a custom rack cabinet if you can benefit from using standard equipment, which is why this is one of the first determinations to make. Customers may also be able to fit a stock enclosure with various custom features instead of designing an entire custom rack, saving more time and resources.

    A&J’s racks are modular, which makes them easy to adapt to various hardware and technology.

    Other factors to consider include:

    • Expandability. At A&J, our kits allow us to gang cabinets together to form a “suite,” which helps increase stability and enables easier management of interconnecting cables.
    • Accessibility. Our cabinets’ bolted-together design makes it easy to remove side panels from the exterior, allowing easy access to interior cabling and components.
    • Cable Management. Most equipment on a rack requires cabling for operational or network connectivity purposes. Our cable management accessories offer a key solution in these situations.

    Benefits of Custom Enclosures from A&J

    A&J’s custom enclosures offer the following advantages:

    Lower Upfront Costs
    Although you can create custom enclosures in-house, it can be very costly to invest in the required equipment, manufacturing tools, and materials. This equipment can take up a lot of space in your facility and may require lots of trial and error to produce an effective enclosure. Our expertise at A&J can help you avoid these challenges, saving you time and money.

    Greater Process Knowledge
    Our engineers possess the necessary techniques and expertise to drill into aluminum rack materials without causing any damage.

    Lower Labor Costs
    When creating custom racks in-house, your staff may have less time to focus on primary goals. It will also make employees work beyond their expertise, leading to reduced productivity. A&J will help reduce labor costs by enabling your staff to spend more time on the tasks they can effectively handle.

    Customizing Your Enclosure with A&J

    At A&J, we offer custom CNC machining to manufacture custom electronic racks. This allows for precise cuts, reduced scrap, and advanced capabilities. In addition, you’ll benefit from engineering support as well as a wide selection of standard rack sizes and models with accessories that we can easily modify to suit different applications.

    To order a custom or standard rack, you can take the following steps:

    1. Browse our selection of standard rack enclosures and accessories to locate the ideal choice
    2. Submit a quote with basic specifications
    3. Upload a drawing, ideally a CAD drawing, for our engineering team to review, or we can draft an initial design with the help of our design engineering services
    4. Place your order, and we’ll ship your rack to the designated final destination

    Get in Touch with A&J Today

    Want to get started on selecting or designing an electronic rack for your application? Request a quote or talk to an engineer today.

  6. What are EIA Standards? And Where Do They Come From?

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    A 19-inch rack is a standardized frame or enclosure for mounting electronic equipment modules. Common uses for these racks / enclosures include datacom, telecommunication, audiovisual production equipment, scientific equipment, and networking hardware. The weird thing: almost nothing on a 19″ rack measures 19 inches. The term comes from the width of the front panel of the boxes that are installed in the rack. Other common rack hole-to-hole spacing includes 23″ (566.7 mm) and 24″ racks (592.1 mm).

    EIA stands for the Electronic Industries Alliance. It was a group of trade associations for electronic manufacturers in the United States. The current iteration or standard is EIA-310-D. Note: these standards are not enforced by any governing bodies, therefore compliance isn’t enforced.

    The document outlines specific guidelines for several components:

    • Rack Units (U) – hole spacing for standard racks on the mounting flange is spaced in groups of three holes. This three-hole group is defined as a Rack Unit (U). 1U is 1.75″ (44.45 mm) of vertical space
    • vertical hole spacing – repeating pattern of holes within one Rack Unit of 1.75″ (44.45 mm). Whole spacing alternates at 1/2″ – 5/8″ – 5/8″ and then repeats. “U” space starts and stops in the middle of the 1/2″ holes
    • horizontal hole spacing – specified at 18 5/16″ (465.1 mm), but this dimension is not universal so most manufacturers will use equipment mounting slots to allow for variations
    • rack opening – specified at a minimum of 17 3/4″ (450 mm)
    • front panel width – 19″ (482.6 mm), but the physical width of the rack itself can vary significantly

    A&J’s standard equipment specifications for our three standard racks can be found on our website.

    What the EIA-310 Standard Doesn’t Include

    Despite having a document defining standardized 19″ racks, there are still several details left out.

    • Are the rack-mounting holes threaded, square or round?
    • How many posts does the rack have? (2, 4 or even 6) Are there any obstructions between these posts?
    • How deep is the racks mounting depth?
    • What is the thread type?
    • How much space is between the front or rear door and the front or rear post?

    A Brief History

    The term relay rack first appears in the world of telephony, but was also being used in railroad signaling by 1911. However, there is little evidence that these early racks had any standardization.

    A 19″ rack format with 1.75″ or 1U was established as a standard by AT&T around 1922 in order to reduce the space required for repeater and termination equipment in a telephone company’s central office. Their engineering department created a family of modular panels “designed to mount on vertical supports spaced 19.5 inches between centers. The height of the different panels will vary, but in all cases to be a whole multiple of 1.75 inches.”

    By 1934, it was an established standard with holes tapped for 12-24 screws with alternating spacings of 1.25″ and 0.5″. The standard was again revised in 1992 to comply with the 1988 public law 100-418, setting the standard U as 1.75″ (44.45 mm). The 19-inch format has more or less remained constant since despite the fact that the technology mounted within has changed considerably.

  7. How to Modify your Enclosure, but Still Save Time & Money

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    Modifications are often necessary during the enclosure design phase to ensure that your electronic components are properly protected and stabilized. With proper planning and coordination, your product design can be manufactured with your exact customer specifications and requirements.

    Identify modification needs early in the design process

    The earlier you can identify modification requirements in the design phase, the more often you can take advantage of “stock” enclosures, which will cost substantially less and require less lead time. Consider the following:

    • Mounting – are internal or external mounting provisions required? We can add tapped holes or preassemble mounting brackets
    • Shielding – add EMI/ RFI shielding to enclosures
    • Accessibility – who will need to be able to access the internal components for maintenance? also consider security

    In addition to features, consider your realistic quantity for the lifetime of your program. Do you have a continuity plan? Are you developing to grow to an ultimate quantity over time? 

    Our best advice: keep the design simple. Remove anything that doesn’t serve a specific purpose and try to minimize the number of fasteners. Keep things like thread size and fastener type the same across your design in order to bring the cost of your design down as much as possible.

    Source the proper supplier

    Look for suppliers that have invested in tooling, can produce modifications rapidly and are equipped to accept customer-generated CAD files. You’re the expert in your electronic products and understanding what can be modified and to what tolerance, but leveraging the manufacturability expertise of your supplier can quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively give you the enclosure you’re looking for.

    Our tooling investments means no more measuring, drilling or cutting in-house so that you can focus your attentions on other segments of your operations and programs. You’ll get repeatable cutout accuracy, increased safety by eliminating manual power tools, cut any shape or size and drawings can be stored for future needs in our ERP system.

    Take advantage of our services

    A&J can provide design recommendations for customers who don’t / can’t do their own, and can quickly offer alternative layouts using our Design Engineering services. We’ll figure out how to accommodate unique designs using standard product to keep your required features and still keep the price low. Try to provide as much detail as possible since most design services are priced hourly. The less time a design engineer is using to research, design, modify and redesign, the lower your overall cost will be.

    And we can preassemble additional enclosure components, including cable and mounting brackets, access panels, shelves, fans, vents or other accessories.

    Request a Quote

    We have an experienced design engineering services team that is knowledgeable, available and capable.

  8. Questions to Ask your Electronic Enclosure Manufacturer

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    Choosing a manufacturer to build your COTS or custom electronic equipment enclosure is a big decision. With money and so many important factors at play, it requires careful consideration. Before committing, there are several questions you should ask to get a better idea of what they do and the level of quality they offer in both service and product.

    What is your experience with similar projects?

    Look for a history of satisfied customers in your industry. Each industry has different regulations, requirements and considerations, so your electronic enclosure manufacturer should understand your unique conditions — and how to design an enclosure that will protect your sensitive electronic equipment components.

    Longevity is also a plus. It means they have been there, and done that. They have successfully launched projects like yours and can quickly navigate challenges like manufacturability and scalability.

    Where are you located?

    Supply chain issues can and will affect everything from sheet metal fabrication to packaging. A supplier closer to you and your customers can mitigate shipping costs and delays in the face of rising material costs, and make it easier to keep tabs on progress.

    Will my enclosure be manufactured in-house?

    When the majority of the manufacturing process is completed in-house, design and production teams can work in tandem to ensure that specifications and deadlines are met. Other benefits include: quality control, reduced manufacturing time and controlled costs. Plus, having direct access to both teams becomes an advantage if they need to accommodate any changes or modifications.

    How do you accommodate special requests?

    One of the primary factors driving your selection process should be choosing a manufacturer that can resolve your challenges and provide a solution. At A&J Manufacturing, we can custom design and fabricate enclosures within our state-of the-art facility in California. Our team works closely with each customer to produce the exact enclosure your application requires with our knowledgeable and experienced design engineers.

    Make sure you’ve done your homework to properly identify the type of environment in which the enclosure will be used and any requirements that affect the materials, equipment or components involved:

    • Need for UV resistance
    • Plant or factory conditions
    • Temperature extremes
    • Presence of any electromagnetic interference
    • Required size and available space
    • Ease of accessibility
    • Mounting requirements
    • Thermal management for components

    You should also be aware of their process controls and how they handle design deviations or problems. Remember to examine how they manage their communication and inspection / progress reports.

    What certifications do you carry?

    Quality is essential! Does your manufacturer have the appropriate certifications required? Each industry has different certification requirements such as AS9100D or RoHS compliance. It’s prudent to discuss ALL requirements in advance.

    Some applications will have particular performance standards that the enclosure must meet too, such as NEMA and UL. These standards are met during testing when an inspector determines if any dust, moisture or other damaging elements have entered the enclosure.

    You should know if they keep their certifications up to date and have training programs to keep staff certified in their skills. Certifications show they can deliver products that meet rigorous quality standards. Look for a supplier that holds the latest ISO certification to ensure the supplier can meet your expectations around quality management systems.

    What are your facilities and equipment like, and what kind of company culture do you promote?

    Manufacturing is a versatile field that keeps on advancing with technological changes. Ensure that your ideal partner is well informed and knowns how to use modern manufacturing technology and equipment. It would be hard to build your product if the equipment used is outdated. If you’re interested in A&J’s production equipment and would like to “visit” our facilities, check out our Factory Tour video on YouTube.

    Before you choose a supplier, make sure they have the capabilities. Ask for an equipment list! There’s nothing worse than finding out too late that your supplier can’t produce the high-quality enclosure you need.

    Lastly, find out what kind of company culture they promote. Do they have the same business values you do? At A&J, its about strong communication, allowing flexibility in our employee’s day-to-day schedule, creating accountability and making sure that our people feel like they matter.

    If you’re looking to outsource an electronic enclosure project and need help finding someone who is just as passionate about quality as you are, let’s chat! We would love to see what products or programs our team could partner with your business.

  9. Understanding the Components of an Electronic Enclosure

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    Today, virtually all businesses rely heavily on technology to satisfy their customers, regardless of size. And with these technological advances, we’re starting to place electrical equipment in a variety of nontraditional environments. To ensure proper protection of electrical components, choosing the right electrical enclosure for the application at hand is critical. But first, let’s break down the basic components of an electronic rack.

    The Structure of an Electronic Enclosure

    Generally tall and rectangular in shape, an enclosure is typically made up of a two- or four-post rack mainframe and mounting rails. Depending on the design, some enclosures have rear and/or front doors, side panels, top panels and bases. Enclosures are highly customizable and various components or areas of the rack can be modified to fit a customer’s needs or environment. If you’ve never seen one outside of a data center or other industrial function, they could easily be mistaken for an extra large filing cabinet.

    The terms cabinet and rack are often used interchangeably; however, that would be incorrect. As described above, racks are simply the frame inside a cabinet that is used for mounting all of the electronic equipment. Cabinets enclose a rack and include all of the necessary connections for electrical power, cooling fans for thermal management, and EMI / RFI shielding capabilities. Cabinets themselves come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

    Again, because the two terms are often used conversely, there’s often confusion about how to measure dimensions properly. Cabinets are traditionally measured by their external dimensions while racks are measured from the most-forward portion of the front rail to the rear-most point of the rear rail. We typically recommend at least 6 inches between components and the rear cabinet door to accommodate cable management, airflow and necessary service access to components.

    Rack widths are specified by EIA 310D standards and include 19″, 23″, 24″ and 30″ inches. With racks you also need to be mindful of your vertical spacing for all equipment that you plan to mount in your enclosure. EIA 310D-compliant define one rack unit (RU) as 1.75 inches with three mounting holes spaced at 5/8, 5/8 and 1/2 an inch apart.

    Equipment Found in a Rack

    The design of a rack is rather basic, but the vital equipment inside can process or store an immense amount of information. And military systems specifically often represent extreme environments for COTS electronic equipment. Typically, equipment found in racks support IT or datacomm equipment such as: servers, network switches, GPS and navigation systems and telecommunication routers/hardware. However, there are several industrial applications for cabinets and enclosures too: large-scale battery storage, test system components, and manufacturing or plant floor enclosures.

    Equipment layout, whether isolation is required and how the electronics are mounted/”housed”, can vary widely. Racks also accommodate all the accessories that support the equipment itself like PDUs, cable management, patch panels, shelves and drawers, and thermal management systems.

    When you’re able to demystify the necessary components and even the basic structure of an electronic enclosure rack, you can more easily identify the features you need. For more information on the products we offer, please contact A&J Manufacturing today or browse our Frequently Asked Questions.

  10. Metal vs. Plastic Electronic Enclosures

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    Metal and plastic are the two main categories of materials for electronic component enclosures. The better material depends on the intended application of the electronics. Whichever enclosure material you choose, safety should be the topmost consideration. The material and design of the enclosure should also be able to withstand the environmental conditions in which they will be used.

    Here we’ll outline the main differences between industrial-grade plastic and metal electronic enclosures.

    Pros and Cons of Metal Electronic Enclosures

    Aluminum is the most common metal used to fabricate electronic enclosures. Since aluminum is nonmagnetic, it is an excellent choice for applications that require electromagnetic and radio frequency blocking. These metal enclosures enable good electrical conductivity and independent circuitry. They are also a good option in moist environments due to their corrosion resistance.

    Here are other important benefits of using aluminum electronic enclosures:

    metal vs. plastic electronic enclosures
    • Rugged: withstands impacts and tension
    • Lightweight compared to steel
    • UV resistance without material additives
    • Easy to coat or paint with additional finishes
    • Maintains shape
    • High temperature resistance
    • Flame resistance
    • High scrap value

    On the other hand, if your application is temperature-sensitive, requires a lighter enclosure, or operates with a lower budget, metal enclosures may not be the best choice. Metal enclosures conduct heat, so they can be dangerous to touch. They also tend to be heavier and more expensive than plastic enclosures, but if these are not major concerns, metal enclosures are still preferable.

    Pros and Cons of Plastic Electronic Enclosures

    Plastic enclosures are constructed from electrically insulated polycarbonate, PVC, acrylics, ABS, or HIPS. Unlike aluminum enclosures, plastic enclosures allow radio and electromagnetic waves to pass through, so they are ideal for electronics that send and receive signals. Most plastic enclosures are used in indoor settings, but some polycarbonate enclosures can be designed for use outside, where they can resist harsh weather conditions. 

    The following are some other pros of using plastic enclosures:

    • Lightweight
    • Nonconductive
    • Cost-effective
    • Non reactive
    • Non corrosive
    • Can be made transparent or painted as needed
    • Easy and quick to install
    • No sharp edges or corners that need to be machined

    Drawbacks to plastic enclosures include limited chemical resistance and less strength relative to metal enclosures. Heavy-duty applications should not utilize plastic enclosures, as they won’t stand up to sustained tension or high temperatures. They often require additional coatings, which can add to the overall cost of the enclosure. Plastic enclosures are also less resistant to vandalism and cannot be recycled as readily as metal enclosures.

    Why Choose Metal Electronic Enclosures?

    Aluminum electronic enclosures are superior in durability and strength under extreme conditions. The material can resist rust, flame, and UV. Aluminum is a naturally conductive metal that is excellent at shielding against electromagnetic waves and radio frequency interference. Thus, aluminum enclosures are perfect for projects involving independent circuitry and minimal interference. 

    Metal enclosures are also easy to paint and retain their shape over time. Typical finishes include natural aluminum, black anodized, or powder coating. Diecast metal enclosures eliminate concerns about possible seams or folds.

    Aluminum Electronic Enclosures from A&J Manufacturing

    The right enclosure will depend upon your application and budget. You should also consider the quantity needed and the environment for use.

    Electronic enclosures are a crucial part of important electronic systems. A&J Manufacturing is a leading manufacturer of standard and custom aluminum electronic enclosures. Contact us to see how we can help with your electronics project.