Forty years ago, enclosures were manufactured to order to suit the equipment being produced. Today, as well as being mass produced, their design has changed dramatically. Rittal comments

Forty years ago, the thought of using standard size enclosures supplied from stock was relatively new. Most enclosures were made to order to suit the size of equipment being produced – but why? After all, the equipment to go inside the enclosures was already being mass-produced, therefore the mass production of enclosures themselves seemed a logical step.

The founder of enclosure manufacturer Rittal, Rudolf Loh, came up with the idea of manufacturing enclosures for electrical controllers in a range of standard, predefined sizes for off-the-shelf delivery. Loh faced much scepticism regarding his vision to standardise and mass-produce enclosures, but the family-owned company revolutionised enclosure manufacturing when it began series production of four simple enclosure types. The concept soon took off nationwide, when a leading German automotive manufacturer specified the Rittal enclosure as standard in 1971.

While the move to mass-produced enclosures had begun, their style and function remained basic. Over the years, developments in technology and manufacturing allowed enclosures to evolve into the multi-function products we see today. An example is the electrical floor standing enclosure, once mass-produced but hand assembled and wet spray paint finished. Now, these are automatically produced on sophisticated production lines with robot and plasma welding, which leads to customer benefits such as double mounting level and pre-punched frame design.

Thirty years ago, manufacturers generally only made enclosures, but with progress comes change. Industrial automation led to an expansion of product portfolios, and companies moved into the areas of climate control, power distribution and IT infrastructure. Milestones included the invention of the bayed system in 1985. Rittal’s PS 4000 Perfect Panel enclosure system was introduced to replace the RS, one of its original products. A floor standing electrical/industrial enclosure, the PS 4000 was the first with a punched pattern of holes in the frame. This set the benchmark for the market and quickly went on to become the industry norm.

A concept

The more traditional methods of cooling enclosures with fans and filters or fan trays are still used today within industry. In many situations, however, this is not ideal, especially where higher ambient temperatures are present or in environments that contain dust or oil particles.

Since cooling unit production began in 1983, Rittal has continuously improved the efficiency and benefits of its units, with examples including: the introduction of the first enclosure cooling unit with a microcontroller (1998); the first CFC-free cooling unit (pro-ozone initiative 1992); the first designer cooling units with the second generation of microcontrollers (1994); and TopTherm cooling units complete with a consistent platform strategy (2002). A more recent introduction was the Power Cooling System, highly efficient water cooling directly available to the processor or on cold plates featuring simple, drip-free maintenance-free connectors.

Modern approaches to enclosure cooling now encompass technology such as air to air heat exchangers, refrigerant cooling units, cold plate cooling and even liquid cooling. In all situations where optimum operating temperatures are required inside an enclosure, even high temperatures, climate control concepts are available to suit the requirements.

In 1999, Rittal set new standards with the TS 8 enclosure system, designed specifically for data centres where styling and functionality are of equal importance. The welded construction with the innovative 16 fold profiled frame sections and two mounting levels makes the TS 8 lighter and 30% more stable than previous comparable models. Today, there are some 7.7 million of these multi-talented enclosures in use, which provide the platform for ‘Rittal – The System’, a modular range of coordinated product solutions, engineering tools and services.

The system concept provides an intelligent modular infrastructure from a single source. Enclosure technology, power distribution, system climate control and electronics, through to IT technology – together with engineering tools that have been designed for efficient planning processes – are pivotal to this concept. Based on the TS 8 enclosure and IT rack system platform, this allows advantages such as flexibility, quick and simple assembly, minimal warehousing, fast availability and high quality.

With RimatriX5, the integrated solution for IT infrastructures, Rittal offers a future-enabled and comprehensive solution for building up state-of-the art data centres, plus the competent servicing and support backbone to go with them. Be it network and server racks, power management, cooling, monitoring, IT security or interactive terminal systems.

Numerous inventions and advancements in 2011 prove once again that talent for new ideas is as powerful as ever. Examples include data centres in four dimensions, a new range of energy-saving cooling units, advancements in heat exchangers and software tools, and an intelligent base/plinth solution for enclosures.