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Have you ever taken a walk around your neighborhood and noticed all of the infrastructure that is there?

The Role of Enclosures as Part of Infrastructure

Have you ever taken a walk around your neighborhood and noticed all of the infrastructure that is there? We all pretty much take it for granted, except when it stops working. The most obvious infrastructure is carried by utility poles.

A utility pole can carry high voltage, low voltage, cable TV, small weather stations and increasingly, telecommunications. Aside from the cabling that carries the power and signals, a significant part of infrastructure is the various types of enclosures that you see. The size and shape of the enclosure is the key to its function and it must be well designed and built to withstand the elements in order to do its job over its expected lifetime.

What is an Enclosure Supposed to Do?

utility pole

Notice the cylindrical can in the example. This is a 5G antenna… or rather it is the enclosure that houses one of these antennas. This type is considered a pole top, small cell antenna. There are also flat panel 5G antennas that are flush mounted to the pole that have a rectangular housing and are deployed in various arrays.

Though this example is simple, enclosures themselves are very highly engineered items. Even the simplest of enclosures need to have, as a minimum:

  • Protection from the elements
  • Resistance to temperature extremes
  • A means to carry power to, and signals out of the enclosure
  • A secure means to access the enclosure for maintenance
  • A mounting scheme that can withstand high winds and ice build-up

Other places to find Engineered Enclosures

Just like the utility pole, the insides of aircraft, hospitals, and factories have their own infrastructure as well. And just like utilities, specialized enclosures appear in the aerospace, medical, military, and manufacturing industries. Designing specialty enclosures requires a deep knowledge base, due to all the variables involved.

Enclosures can be deceptively simple from the outside but must pass some pretty stringent tests before they will be suitable for their intended purpose. Taking our example of the 5G network antenna, it must be transparent to the desired broadcast frequency while at the same time reduce, or attenuate, unwanted frequencies. This drives decisions on the size shape, material, and geometry of the antenna. This, in turn, affects the size, shape, weight, and attachment of the antenna housing to the utility pole.

Lots of testing goes into assuring that the enclosure, its contents, and connections all work well together before committing to building and installing hundreds of thousands of 5G antennas.

Enclosures as the Heart of the System

Any electronics enclosure will have a set of minimum design requirements, however, that is only the starting point. Based on the experience of the enclosure builder and the customer, margins may be included for such things as shock, vibration, sealing, over-temperature conditions, and aging. To give you an idea, here’s a look into an aerospace-grade enclosure we’ve helped to design and build.

box build example

No question that this is a complex enclosure. Not only does it have IP55 sealed connectors to the outside world to prevent moisture intrusion, but it also has a number of internal mounting structures to stabilize the wiring and electronics assemblies against shock and vibration.

The Backstory and ISC Support

This particular enclosure is a galley box used on the 737 and 737 MAX airplane versions. Typically there will be several of these in the galley area to distribute power, generate heat and control various galley functions.

When ISC started supporting the galley power requirements, their contract was just for the external wire harness that acted as a hub for the suite of galley boxes. Over time they won the contract for the boxes themselves, eventually developing over 15 varieties for other aircraft configurations and then ultimately designing the packaging and shipping containers for these boxes.

The unique vertical integration of ISC is what allowed them to expand their product offering as the demand grew. This also simplified customer concerns of interoperability, compatibility of testing, and uniformity of build and test, since it all resides within a single vendor.

Some of the more interesting details of this enclosure are:

  • They are high pot tested to 1200 Volts DC
  • Wires are Teflon coated, high temperature, low outgassing with laser marking
  • Wiring is tie wrapped every three inches and pull tested per AS9100 standards
  • When shipped it has a special protective overlay, designed by ISC that assures it arrives in pristine condition.

Perhaps most satisfying of all is that ISC had earned the trust of its customers and is now frequently consulted on new designs. By bringing them in early to the design cycle, the customer avoids costly design decisions since ISC can advise on Design for Manufacturability (DFM). This has also allowed ISC to expand to other systems on aircraft including waste management and in-flight entertainment.

Move Ahead with Your Specific Solutions

No matter the complexity of the enclosure and its contents, ISC has a lot of expertise and capability to solve for your particular needs. Contact us at 800-333-4752 for all of your cabling and interconnect needs. Everything from overmolded connector back shells to complete electro-mechanical assemblies is within our expertise. We’d love to hear about your project.

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