Hiding the Mess

I have been tasked with covering up this electronics mess with something slick to slap our logo on. We’ve got 6 of these to cover.

The only things I’ve designed for production are small aluminum milled parts in SolidWorks. And we order these by the hundreds, not handful. I am very lost with this one.

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to start? The boss thinks a curved plastic cover would look cool. I was leaning towards some angular sheet metal. In any case, I wouldn’t know how to proceed down either of these paths. I would like to go with something that isn’t going to cost big $ up front in tooling.

Any suggestions or thoughts are welcome!



If you want to go the lightweight plastic route I would suggest using thermal-formed parts. You can do very limited runs, and you can have lower cost molds cut from Ren shape or other prototyping materials. The part wall thickness might be limited somewhat but you can get pretty thick with pressure assist, definitely thick enough for a cover.

got Wood ?

If you’ve only got 6, why not make something out of a composite panel material like Alucobond or DiBond? Score some break lines in it, fold it up like sheetmetal. Rivet/Glue/VHB tape together, screw it to your frame… Piece of cake.

Vacuum formed 3-4mm ABS with haircell texture on outside. Aluminum frame on one edge to hold the shape. Look at current suitcases for inspiration.

Straight line shapes Alucobond is great material to work with. Prefinished surfaces.

Custom sheet metal fabrication, welded edges and powdercoating could give you nice radii and clean look.

Getting a hold of some Rimova cases and reworking them…

Stick with sheet metal, following reasons:

seems you know this process a bit
quantity 6, custom sheet metal companies are completely familiar with this
service issues for this installation look important, easy on/off with no damage are easier with sheet metal formed parts
ease and cost of replacement parts if there is damage or 7+ units
Probably in your area there are numerous capable custom sheet metal manufacturers
Overall, marginally easier program to manage from design, installation and ongoing service.

It looks like a printer plus cameras on a gallery wall? Design a sheet metal enclosure of minimal parts that connect to the aluminum extrusions. Pay attention to safe installation - a guy on a ladder, cable management, thermal and perhaps acoustic issues. Add your company name and graphics via screen printing on the painted sheet metal or an adhesive, printed label.

On installations like this people are not going to notice the design of the shell, they will notice the utility of the application and that’s what you want your company name associated with, assured by a neat, tidy enclosure.

I bet you could do a pretty simple sheet metal part that locks into those grooves on your 2 extrusion rails to stay attached. Or maybe it slides on, in those grooves and has a slot for the cables, or it could just push cables down to the end

Thanks for all the help! All of this was extremely valuable

I really like the idea of the dibond-paper-mache prototype. I’ve got this on order now. Are there any tools I should get to make this easier? Will a boxcutter do the trick? Would I be able to score along the inside so the outside looks seamless?

If this looks too much like a prototype, I think I’ll stick to my guns and go down the sheet-metal road. I know what to expect.

Plastic scares me.

Box cutter won’t do with Dibond. You could rip grooves on a table saw (1/16" deep or just shy of the aluminum skin). Best bet is to cut it on a CNC router with a 90 degree bit and fold it over, just like you would with sheet metal.

Oh I see…I’m not set up for that here. Seems like I’ll need to outsource in any case.

So, as I was designing this, it occurred to me that I really don’t know anything about sheet metal either. Is this something that a sheet metal shop could turn out quickly? Are the curves going to be a problem?


By the way, the overall dimensions of this are 28" x 18" x 10"

Curves are possible, but will present some problems for what you are trying to do. Time to complete will depend on the shop.

Should not be a problem to get the radius corners, it is a common technique in sheet metal. You might be limited to a radius that the fabrication shop has as tooling.

Alucobond type sheet can also be bent into that shape if a certain ratio to thickness is maintained.

Some examples of what you are looking for in this video at 0:48

And this is just kind of cool.

Is this for 6 one off pieces or is this some kind of prototype.

You probably could’ve made 6 of these out of black FoamCor in the time it took to solicit responses from everyone :slight_smile:

From my experience with sheet metal, you should probably do a few sheet metal tutorials in your 3D program.

I use solidworks which has sheet metal tools. You might need to make you part as a top with the side part with curve as one part, bent then welded on the inside. Your holes look like they may need to be laser cut before assembly. Also keep an eye on how close your holes are to a joined edge. Attaching the adhesive medium to a very narrow edge would be problematic.

Rounded holes would be cheaper too.

This is for machined parts, but may be of some interest… http://www.omwcorp.com/partdesign.html

Thanks for all the help. Thought you might like to see the finished product. Overall I am happy with the parts. There were some issues with fit and alignment, but nothing I couldn’t fix with spacers and a drill.

What do you think?

A couple of other notes:

  1. Removing the massive quantities of square holes helped to bring down the cost
  2. The bending process marred the front surface, so they had to weld on an extra plate for our logo (photoshopped out)
  3. This is for the military (hence the color and general bulkiness of the design)