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I have an odd sized PCB (about 0.8" x 14" x 5" ) that needs to be housed in data centers (rack mount.) It's a fairly expensive device so even though we won't have too many of them we're considering having a custom case designed, and style will matter. We're also therefore thinking aluminum or some other nice material. Further, the device has a PCIe finger. While we don't plan on using it in the near future, we'd eventually like to link up several to communicate with one another over a PCIe bus.

The optimal design would therefore have a case for the cards that left the fingers exposed, but could be mounted as is in a rack, or be placed in a very spacious computer (it's over-sized for PCIe), but also that in the future would allow us to insert the same card into a case with a PCIe bus (magma has a nice kit, but it seems expensive for what it is and it doesn't allow for too many slots.) That plus the low quantity and need for high quality, plus my general inexperience with enclosures has led me here.

So where do I start? What design firms could pull this off? Could laser sintering give us the quality we want?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The PCB is 0.8" thick? You're including components, yes? \$\endgroup\$ – pingswept Nov 12 '10 at 5:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I'm including components. It also has a fan that brings it up to about 1.7", but we'd like to remove it and add a large heatsink or a shallower fan (CPU pulls only a few watts so it should be fine.) \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Nov 12 '10 at 5:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ considering audio components often use rack-mounts, and are often made of nice materials, and such, poking around audio-diy sites might have some useful leads. \$\endgroup\$ – Journeyman Geek Nov 12 '10 at 5:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Always keep your target enclosure in mind from the outset of design. Trying to fit an enclosure around an existant board layout is always a pain in the ass. \$\endgroup\$ – Connor Wolf Nov 12 '10 at 7:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm still hoping someone can point me to some good industrial design firms for this sort of thing, which is why I haven't marked this question answered yet. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Nov 13 '10 at 19:25
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A few similar questions with good answers:

Regarding laser sintering, the answer is probably yes, but the price might be higher than you want. A good model maker can make stuff that looks indistinguishable from the final product, but for many k$.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I saw both of those questions and found the answers helpful for our internal and prototyping needs, but they won't work for our final product. Is that many thousands of dollars PER case? If so that would be excessive. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Nov 12 '10 at 5:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, several thousand per case. You can probably get SLA's or something like that for something in the hundreds per case, but I doubt you can get it under $100 for an enclosure that large without going to plastic parts, or at least higher volume machined parts. \$\endgroup\$ – pingswept Nov 12 '10 at 20:31

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