Manufacturing Processes
and Costs Comparison

Having roots in manufacturing, Electronic Enclosures, Inc. (EEi) knows the flexibility and limitations of each material and process. A critical step in planning and developing an optimal rack mount chassis systems includes determining what is most appropriate for both materials and process for your application and market. This may include more than one process with the possible intent to add greater perceived value or product/market differentiation. Your projected production ramp-up or level, tooling budget (if any) and target cost will begin to define or limit your choices.

For instance, the process of sheet metal rack mount chassis will be governed by either a significant tooling budget, or no budget, and production levels. If production is 10,000/year or more with significant tooling budgets, then stamping is appropriate. Conversely, if production is a few to 100s/month with little of no tooling budget then sheet metal fabrication is the way to go.

When designing for fabrication, features vs. tooling budget may result in a conflict that needs resolution. With limited or no tooling budget, many features may be possible but will increase your production cost. There are other alternatives.

Knowledge of machinery, available tooling, programming methods, setups, capabilities, etc., makes a difference as it defines the design rules and design limitations and ultimately impacting your reoccurring production costs. EEi can help with alternatives to reducing production cost. Designing to each processes’ strengths is key to reducing manufacturing costs, time-to-market and reducing production costs.

Higher production and angled SFP port

Higher production and angled SFP ports made die casting a perfect choice for its minimal secondary operations, natural EMI shielding and low part cost.

Sheet metal, when properly designed, can provide inherent EMI containment. Extrusions and die-casting can also be considered where unique part geometry, structural strength and EMI containment are desirable.
rack mount extrusion front panel

A custom extrusion provides a unique front panel appearance, part of a family look.

Injection molding is not always the most appropriate choice for plastic enclosures. With the proper concept and execution, pressure forming may provide similar feature detail and definition vs. injection molding. Structural foam, gas-assist injection and reaction injection molding (RIM) plastics may also add unique features where sheet metal may not.
rack mount pressure form front panel

A pressure formed front panel provides a unique appearance – otherwise not possible in sheet metal for this low volume rack mount system.

Labor is frequently the driver of increased production costs. Knowing how to design out and decrease laborious secondary operations is key to cost savings.
The design rules change from fabrication to stamping and from injection molding to RIM or pressure forming. In-depth knowledge of materials, tooling design and production methods all play a part in making optimal material, process and design choices. The correct choices save costs.

Process Pros Cons Volume Tooling Part
Sheet Metal Fabrication Design flexibility for regular shapes
Small to large parts
No or minimal tooling
EMI containment
Increased labor
Secondary process for hardware
Secondary processes (plating/painting)
L – M 0 – $ $$$
Sheet Metal Stamping Design flexibility for regular shapes
Increased structural design shapes
Thinner material thickness than fabrication
EMI containment
Tooling costs
Tooling production time
Tooling modifications
Secondary process for hardware
Secondary processes (plating/painting)
M – H $$ – $$$ $ – $$
Injection Molding Flexibility for design geometry
Uniform wall thickness
Large selection of materials, colors and properties
Tooling costs
Tooling production time
Tooling modifications
Secondary process for EMI containment
M – H $$ – $$$ $
Reaction Injection Molding (RIM) Flexibility for design geometry
Thick and thin wall thicknesses
Increased labor
Secondary processes (EMI & painting)
L – M $$ $$
Pressure Forming Mid to large part size
Somewhat flexible part geometry
Increased labor
Secondary component assembly
Secondary processes (EMI/plating/painting)
L – M $$-$$$ $$-$$$
Extrusion Some design flexibility
Small to medium part size
EMI containment
Limited material options
Secondary operations (machining & surface preparation if unpainted)
Secondary processes (plating/painting)
L – M $$ $$
Die Casting Flexibility in design geometry
Increased structural strength
EMI containment
Limited material options
Secondary operations (trim/threading/machining)
Secondary processes (plating/painting)
M – H $$$ $ – $$

Additional Considerations

  • Market
  • Customer perception
  • Production levels
  • Products’ physical size
  • Environment
  • Industry compliance
  • Tooling budget
  • Reoccurring costs
  • Material selection
  • Tooling production affecting time-to-market
  • Tooling material options
  • Tooling design
  • Part design geometry
  • Coatings for EMC compliance
  • Secondary processes
  • Plating
  • Painting
  • Decorating (silk-screen, labeling, etc.)
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.