Understanding the Components of an Electronic Enclosure

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.

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