resource bends diagram Protocase Resources

The information below is intended to be helpful for customers who wish to learn more about enclosure design. Also, please use our online support if you have questions for our expert design staff.


Frequently Asked Questions

Building Enclosures and Parts

How long does it take to build an enclosure?

We manufacture custom sheet metal electronic enclosures, mounting hardware, and miscellaneous components. We start from your design, and build them in 2-3 days, with no minimum order requirements. Extra lead time may be required for use of non-stocked components or materials, large quantity orders or for silkscreening (due to drying time). If time is critical for your job, be sure to discuss it with your account manager, and we can review your design to determine the lead time, and suggest workarounds for any design elements that may result in delays.

What types of enclosures can you manufacture?

We build sheet metal enclosures from your design within 2-3 days. We can build many different kinds of enclosures, including rackmount, U-Shape, L-Shape, consolets, machined enclosures, hybrid enclosures, custom computer enclosures, extruded aluminum, as well as panels, brackets and copper bus bars. View our Electronics Enclosures page for full details.

I need my enclosure right away. It's not a standard shape and has some unusual cutouts. How fast can you deliver?

Most enclosures are typically shipped within 2-3 business days after the client has approved the design, regardless of level of customization or complexity. However, extra lead time may be required for use of non-stocked components or materials, large quantity orders or for silkscreening (due to drying time). If time is critical for your job, be sure to contact us, and we can review your design to determine the leadtime, and suggest workarounds for any design elements that may result in delays.

What does it mean for an enclosure to be 1U?

o 1U (1.73") is a standard rack enclosure height. It refers to the height of the front panel and also dictates the location of the front panel mounting holes. The following table shows the front panel height for the various standards.

StandardNominal Front Panel height
1U1.75 in
2U3.50 in
3U5.25 in
4U7.00 in
5U8.75 in
6U10.50 in
7U12.25 in

For U-Shape enclosure templates, does the width include the thickness of the cover or is it just the width of the base?

The U-shape template dimensions are for the width, depth and height of the base only (doesn't include cover thickness).

Are there limitations on the shape of the enclosure?

We can manufacture all the common enclosure styles, and when it comes to fully custom designs, we have an enormous amount of flexibility. We use toolless cutting techniques, so any shape may be cut. The main limitation is in bending. Press brakes can do straight-line bends only. There are few limitations on the first bend on a part, but elements of the part may interfere with subsequent bends. Our Fabrication Tolerances page has full details, including a PDF with bend tolerance diagrams. If you have additional questions, please contact us.

What is the biggest part you can manufacture?

It depends on the geometry of the enclosure. The main limitations are 4' x 8' (1220mm x 2440mm) limitation imposed by our standard sheet metal stock, and a 6' (1830 mm) bend length limitation imposed by press brake equipment, or a 10' (3048 mm) bend limitation imposed by the folder.

What is the smallest enclosure you can manufacture?

It all depends on the design. With CNC machining, we are capable of manufacturing very small enclosures, as small as 1 x 1 x 0.5. We recommend contacting us about your design so that we can discuss it.

Are there any restrictions on the shapes and sizes of cutouts?

There are virtually no restrictions. We can cut almost any shape or size cutout provided it fits within our enclosure size limitations.

Is there a maximum number of cutouts you can do per side?

There is no limit to the number of cutouts. As a rule of thumb, cutouts should be no closer than 1.5 x metal thickness from another cut, although there is some leeway in practice. Also, parts with a very large number of cutouts may warp from heat and/or relief of residual stresses inside the metal. Contact us if you encounter either situation arises when designing.

I was told my enclosure should be made of 16 ga steel. What does this mean?

ga., or Gauge, refers to the thickness of the material being used. There are a number of gauges, each of which is specific to the type of material in question, so an actual thickness specification (in inch or millimeter units) leaves less room for error. See the Materials, Components, and Finishes page for more information, including standard stocked gauges. Choose the material you'd like to use for your design from the menu on the left-hand side of the page.

Can you manufacture NEMA-rated enclosures?

We can build your design to your specifications, however we cannot certify our enclosures as NEMA-rated. Contact us with your needs, and we will work with you to build an enclosure that meets the standards required.

Can I get an IP rated enclosure?

Technically, we cannot provide you a certified IP-rated enclosure, as every order we manufacture is completely custom. However, we are happy to work to your specifications, including IP ratings. We do not provide any testing to IP ratings, therefore we cannot guarantee the rating itself. Contact us to discuss your needs.

Can my enclosure be waterproof?

Yes, it can. If you require a water-tight enclosure, we recommend a milled enclosure. Given that it is milled from solid stock, we are able to create a durable enclosure that is effective at protecting against the elements, and can even be immersed in water, provided you incorporate a custom gasket into the design.

Can I get a transparent enclosure?

At Protocase, we typically work with sheet metal; however we also work with materials such as acrylic. It is important to keep in mind that plastic materials cannot be bent.

We are able to install transparent plastic windows onto your custom sheet metal enclosure upon request. Read this customer spotlight that showcases an example of how an acrylic panel was used in a custom enclosure design.

Is Protocase compliant with international standards?

Yes, Protocase is ISO 9001 registered and AS9100 certified. We are also ITAR-compliant and registered with Canadian Controlled Goods.

Can you manufacture bezels?

Yes, we can. A bezel is essentially a cover or faceplate for an enclosure. We can build a sheet metal bezel, or a machined bezel, from your design.

Can you manufacture Raspberry Pi enclosures?

Yes, we can. Your Raspberry Pi enclosure can be manufactured using your CAD design, or you can use our design services to design a Raspberry Pi enclosure to suit your needs.

I need some brackets to hold down power supplies and fans. Can you supply these?

Yes, we commonly build internal components such as brackets, ground planes, internal partitions, etc., as an ordinary part of enclosure manufacturing. Please view our Materials, Components, and Finishes page page for complete information about the components we carry.

What are the dimensional tolerances of your enclosures?

The tolerance on variation of size and position of cutouts and profiles is +-0.005". For a full list of Fabrication Tolerances, please visit our Tolerance Resource here. If you have additional questions, please contact us.

How far do cutouts have to be from bends?

The minimum distance a cutout can be located from a bend is driven by the material type, thickness and tooling used to bend or bend radius required. You can refer to our Material Bend Radii and Minimum Bend Size Chart to determine the ideal value for your design. If you have additional questions, please contact us.

Where can I learn about your bend tolerances?

Check out our Fabrication Tolerances page, where we have listed all of our tolerances for your convenience.

What are the height restrictions for hat-shaped (offset) brackets?

• 0.50"+ material thickness for thicknesses .075" and up
• 0.29"+ material thickness for thicknesses up to.064"

Can you lathe parts?

Yes, we offer CNC Turning (Lathe), as well as CNC Machining with 5-Axis, 3-Axis and CNC Routers. View our CNC machining page to learn more about what we offer.

What is a Hybrid Enclosure?

A Hybrid Enclosure is created using a combination of extruded sides, sheet metal top/bottom, and custom machined front and back plates. This creates a simple case that feels solid, durable and sophisticated, while the extruded sides have slots for mounting a circuit board. Learn more about Protocase's Hybrid Enclosures.

Do you manufacture bus bars?

Yes, we can build copper bus bars from your design in 2-3 days. Learn more about copper bus bars.

What is the internal height of your extruded aluminum enclosures?

Currently, we offer extruded aluminum enclosures in two different options: 1U, which is 1.72" (43.688mm) high and 2U, which is 3.47" (88.138mm) high. Learn more on our Extruded Aluminum page.

How did you get the numbers for your bend radii and minimum bend sizes?

Our minimum bend guidelines stem from a combination of in-house testing by our R&D and production teams, as well as manufacturer guidance on tooling. If you have specific bend requirements, contact us to discuss your needs.

Are you capable of fabricating offset bends?

Yes, we are able to fabricate offset bends, depending on your requirements. Contact your Protocase Account Manager to discuss your specific needs.

Can you make enclosures waterproof by seam welding the corners?

While we are not able to test for waterproofing in house, we are capable of creating enclosures that are water resistant and/or splash proof. Seam welding the enclosure's corners is a good option for water resistance; however, for a fully waterproofed enclosure, we recommend a CNC milled enclosure and employing an O-ring gasket. For more information, please view our blog post about designing enclosures that protect against water and debris.