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Comparing Enclosure Types: Diecast vs. Sheet Metal vs. CNC Machined


When it comes to housing critical electronics and components, choosing the right enclosure is vital; it must offer robust protection for internal components, manage heat dissipation effectively, and provide connectivity options.

Typically, the decision falls between three primary types of enclosures: diecast, sheet metal, and CNC machined.

In this blog, we dissect the advantages, applications, and considerations for each type so you can make an informed decision in your next project.

Diecast Enclosure: The Rugged Protector

Customizable diecast enclosures at Protocase are pre-fabricated Hammond enclosures that we can customize to fit your needs. We have a variety of styles and sizes stocked at our facilities as inventory, so the turnaround time is fast – 2-3 days, with, of course, no minimum order.

Diecast Enclosure
Diecast enclosures are known for their durability

Protocase can customize diecast enclosures with the same services offered for custom sheet metal and CNC machining, including but not limited to:

  • Custom through-holes, pockets, grooves and chamfers using CNC machining
  • Chem-film conversion coating
  • Powdercoating
  • Labelling and branding via digital printing, silkscreening and laser marking

Customizable diecast enclosures are an excellent option if you’re looking for the protection and durability of a machined enclosure, but you want the most cost-effective option.


  • Ruggedness: Diecast enclosures are durable and can withstand harsh environmental conditions, making them suitable for outdoor and industrial applications.
  • Cost: If you are looking to do simple or minimal customizations, a customizable diecast enclosure will be your cost-effective option (compared to a fully-machined enclosure) for a more durable and rugged enclosure for specific conditions.


Due to their durability and protective properties, diecast enclosures are commonly used in automotive electronics, industrial control systems, and telecommunications equipment.


Limited design flexibility can present hurdles when aiming for intricate shapes. Furthermore, their heaviness could impede mobility at times.

Sheet Metal Enclosure: The Versatile Choice

It’s the manufacturing that started it all for Protocase. Custom sheet metal manufacturing gives you the benefit of economics, versatility and efficiency.

Sheet metal is laser cut, bent, and formed into either a templated shape (rackmount, u-shape, consolet, etc.) or a custom shape as indicated by a 3D model. This makes it perfect for customized enclosure designs for electronics.

Customized extruded consolet enclosure for electronics

We offer a wide range of in-house finishing options to make it a one-stop shop for your next sheet metal design project (powdercoat, graphics, hardware, etc.).


  • Flexibility: Sheet metal’s malleability allows for intricate, customizable designs to accommodate complex assemblies using self-clinching fasteners or welding techniques.
  • Scalability: This type of enclosure is cost-effective for both low- and high-volume production, with minimal cost variation.


Sheet metal enclosures are frequently found in consumer electronics, medical devices, and laboratory instruments, where rapid design iterations and custom enclosure styles are common.


If the enclosure has riveted or welded seams, there could be potential points of issue for moisture and dust in harsher environments.

CNC Machined Enclosure: The Craftsmanship Option

Using CNC machining allows for the creation of enclosures from solid blocks of material, providing superior strength and durability compared to sheet metal. This process is remarkably versatile, accommodating a wide range of materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, and even plastics.

CNC machined enclosure
CNC machined enclosures are quite popular for their aesthetics

CNC machining is the preferred option for enclosures with intricate geometries and tight tolerance requirements, especially when prioritizing quality over cost efficiency.

Our unique custom manufacturing process for CNC machined enclosures offers 2-3 day lead times and no minimum order.


  • High Precision: CNC machining offers the tightest tolerances, producing enclosures with extremely precise dimensions and smooth finishes.
  • Material Flexibility: A variety of materials, including metals and plastics, can be machined. This allows for specific material properties such as thermal conductance or insulation.
  • Aesthetics: The smooth, professionally finished appearance of CNC machined enclosures can enhance the perceived value of the product.


CNC machined enclosures are often the choice for high-end electronics, aerospace equipment, and precision instruments due to their high-quality finish and the ability to work with a range of materials.


CNC machining, although advantageous for customization, may not be as cost-effective as a fully-finished sheet metal or custom diecast enclosure.



When weighing cost and design simplicity, sheet metal enclosures often prove to be the most cost-effective option. Diecast enclosures follow closely behind. CNC machined enclosures, depending on complexity, will most likely be the most expensive option.

Customization Options

For maximum design freedom and rapid changes, sheet metal and CNC machined enclosures offer the most flexibility as you can start from scratch with your design. Diecast enclosures, while still customizable, excel in off-the-shelf sizes for applications that don’t require specific dimensions or adjustments.


Diecast enclosures offer superior protection against impact and are ideal for harsh environments. On the other hand, sheet metal enclosures provide a lightweight yet sturdy shell for your gadgets. And CNC machined enclosures elevate precision to new heights, ensuring a snug, tailored fit for delicate internals.


CNC machined enclosures are usually the most aesthetic-pleasing as they embody elegance through precise and elaborate details. Meanwhile, diecast enclosures provide smooth and consistent looks with integrated features, while sheet metal enclosures exude minimalism, featuring sleek folds and bends that demonstrate a straightforward, modern approach to enclosure design.


Selecting the right enclosure type is a decision that hinges on a variety of factors, from the complexity of the design to the environmental conditions where the equipment will operate.

You must carefully consider your project’s unique specifications, the required quantities, as well as the budget and lead time constraints.

If you require any assistance with choosing the right type of enclosure for your design, give us a shout. We are here to help you revolutionize your workflow and source your custom electronic enclosures way faster!

On the other hand, if you have an enclosure design ready, fill our Request a Quote form. You will get a response within one business day.

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