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?

1U 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.

Is Protocase compliant with international standards?

Yes, Protocase is ITAR-compliant and is also 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”.

How far do cutouts have to be from bends?

Our minimum bend dimensions are as follows:

• .200” for thicknesses up to .064”
• .275” for thicknesses between .075” and .081”
• .500” for thicknesses between .090” and .125”

To prevent deformation, please keep cutouts away from the minimum bend.

Where can I learn about your bend tolerances?

Our Fabrication Tolerances page has full details, including a PDF with bend tolerance diagrams.

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/turn parts?

Not at this time. We are currently working on how to offer rapid-delivery lathed/turned parts. In the meantime, our CNC milling machine can produce similar results. 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.