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50 Years On: The World’s First Standard Plastic Enclosure (And What Came Next…)

50 years of development in plastic enclosures


Fifty years ago, OKW unveiled the world’s first standard plastic enclosure for electronic and electrical installations. FLAT-PACK CASE was a pioneering product that would transform the marketplace – and be the springboard for many more innovations from OKW.

Starting with FLAT-PACK CASE, here are the top 10 OKW enclosures that helped to change the way the electronics industry houses, safeguards and presents its products…

FLAT-PACK enclosures


After half a century, the award-winning enclosure that started it all (and scooped two iF Design Awards) is still going strong. Since the 1970s, thousands of devices have been housed in these smart, simple and cost-effective enclosures for desktop and wall-mount electronics. Over the decades, FLAT-PACK CASE has proven to be incredibly versatile; applications typically include medical and wellness, measurement and control, laboratory equipment and computer peripherals.

There are plenty of advanced technical features that set this design classic apart when it was launched – and they’re as useful today now as they were back then. FLAT-PACK CASE’s two sections feature a tongue-and-groove design for added strength. The off-centre split line creates open sides for easy access to the electronics mounted on internal screw pillars.

Two versions of FLAT-PACK CASE are available with slots for ventilation (189 L) and sound signals (120 S). And three more include a tilt-swivel carry handle that doubles as a desk stand for selecting the optimum angle for viewing a display and operating controls. Or you could use a tilt foot bar (accessory). There is even a belt/pocket clip (accessory) for mobile electronics.

FLAT-PACK CASE A is designed to accommodate a front panel (accessory). The result is a tough housing with a raised edge that helps to protect controls and/or a display. If the product is destined for wall mounting, then the frame of the enclosure can be screwed to the base from the side – making the installation process quicker and easier.

View FLAT-PACK range >>

SHELL-TYPE-CASE enclosures


Buoyed by the success of FLAT-PACK CASE, we launched SHELL-TYPE CASES – a comprehensive range that spans 51 models in three different types:

  • Type V – with open front for a panel (accessory)
  • Type O – with open front and rear for panels (accessory)
  • Type G – with closed front and rear.

Again there is the tongue and groove construction that featured on FLAT-PACK CASE. But this time there are internal guide ridges for vertical mounting of partitions and PCBs. Types V and G offer a battery compartment for 2 x AA, 4 x AA, 1 x 9 V or 2 x 9 V cells.

SHELL-TYPE CASES also feature a longer accessory list than FLAT-PACK CASE – one that includes ring eyelets, contact-strips, sealing kits (IP 65), infrared-transparent acrylic glass panels, wall mounting brackets, wall suspension elements, tilt foot bars, a belt/pocket clip, battery clips, a battery spacer, a plug-in contact (1 x 9 V) and anti-slide feet.

View SHELL-TYPE CASES range >>

DATEC-MOBIL-BOX enclosures


While FLAT-PACK CASE AND SHELL-TYPE CASES both offer smaller versions that can be carried, held or clipped to a belt or pocket, both models tended to be destined mainly for table tops or walls. But then came DATEC-MOBIL-BOX…

Smart, ergonomic DATEC-MOBIL-BOX was a big step forward – a tough handheld enclosure with optional IP 65 ingress protection. It is designed to house standard LCD modules: an acrylic display window (accessory) helps to protect the display area from dust or water ingress.

Seven different versions give designers a wide range of choice:

  • without display window
  • for LCD Type 2”-LC-Glass Module
  • for LCD Type 2 X 16 Compact
  • for LCD Type 2 X 16 Standard
  • for LCD Type 4 X 16 Standard
  • for LCD Type 2 X 20 Miniature
  • for LCD Types 4 X 20.

Little wonder then that DATEC-MOBIL-BOX remains a firm favourite with designers. Martin Nußberger of polyform Industrie Design hailed the enclosures as “a real space marvel” and “the epitome of space utilisation”.

View DATEC-MOBIL-BOX range >>

SMART-CASE enclosures


It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of SMART-CASE  that these comfortably curved handheld enclosures continue to be one of our bestselling models. Ergonomics were the starting point for these great-to-hold housings – and those classic contours continue to find favour with electronics designers.

SMART-CASE (IP 65 optional) is perfect for remote control devices – either cable connected or battery powered (AAA, AA, 9 V or 12 V round cell). Sizes start with XS which can be clipped to a key ring. The other sizes – M, L and XL – are available in three versions: with battery compartment; without battery compartment and with cable gland; with neither battery compartment nor cable gland. Infrared-permeable PMMA is available as standard for all but the cable-connected version.

Over the years, the large range of accessories for SMART-CASE has been expanded to include docking stations, wall holders, belt/pocket clips and rail holding clamps – all of which make these enclosures particularly well suited to medical electronics. A SMART-CASE with a cable gland and rail clamp is perfect as a wired controller for a hospital bed.

View SMART-CASE range >>

SMART-BOX IP 66 enclosures


Electronic enclosures for industrial applications were once very prosaic. Not anymore, not since the likes of SMART-BOX brought rounded ergonomic contours (and a whole more besides) to the marketplace. These tough ASA+PC IP 66 housings prove that enclosures destined for factories don’t have to be manufactured from metal.

SMART-BOX shares a lot of technical features with its diecast aluminium counterparts elsewhere in the industry. A key benefit is the separate channels for the mounting and lid screws. This enables ‘lid-closed’ installation, protecting the seal and the electronics when the enclosures are being mounted to walls, machines and bulkheads in challenging environments.

All the A2 stainless steel screws are concealed beneath hinged (rather than clip-on) trims. This ensures the trims won’t get dropped during installation or removal – useful when working at height. That also applies to the lid which includes plastic retaining straps. Inside, there are fastening pillars for PCBs or DIN rails.

Like so many other OKW enclosures, SMART-BOX has a recessed top for the addition of a membrane keypad. There is also an additional surface for labels on the underside. Accessories include case feet for desktop use, pressure equalisation elements, and security plugs for use with lead tags.

View SMART-BOX range >>

MINITEC enclosures


Little MINITEC brought a cheeky sense of fun to the world of handheld enclosures – and it’s still making customers smile. The concept was simple enough: create a handy little case for personal electronics by sandwiching an intermediate ring between two outer shells. And the result was something far greater than the sum of its parts…

MINITEC wowed iF awards judges with its array of shapes, sizes and brightly-coloured intermediate rings. This is supposed to be a standard enclosure…and yet there’s a huge number of possible permutations based on the various versions, sizes, colours and the different types of intermediate rings. Yes, it’s possible to customise MINITEC but you won’t need to specify much work because there’s usually an off-the-shelf combination that suits most designers’ requirements.

MINITEC can be carried in a pocket, attached to a key ring, worn on the wrist, around the neck or clipped to a belt. Most of the top and bottom sections are moulded from ABS but some are PMMA for wireless remote control applications. Recent additions to MINITEC range have included intermediate rings with a slot for a USB (and the accessories now include a USB end cover).

View MINITEC range >>

NET-BOX wall-mount enclosures


Smart networks need sleek wall-mounted units that reflect their elegance and technical sophistication. The designers of these networks wanted a solution worthy of their technology – not a large, angular box. They wanted something discreet (but not anonymous) that protected the interfaces without looking too bulky.

That something was NET-BOX (IP 65 optional) – a beautifully curved wall-mount enclosure for building management, central control units, IoT/IIoT, Smart Factory, Industry 4.0, gateways, data systems engineering, measurement and control, supervision terminals, medical and wellness applications.

Simplicity and sophistication go hand in hand. NET-BOX’s three-part assembly comprises a bottom section, front cover and a removable front lid that hides all the connectors. No screws are visible from the front; just two on the underside of the lid. And those screws are Torx to prevent tampering.

The three-point wall mounting system means there is no need to open the main electronics section after installation: only the front lid has to be refitted. Want more space? An optional infill cover closes off the underside opening. And NET-BOX isn’t just for walls – accessories include anti-slide feet for desktop use.

View NET-BOX range >>

SYNERGY aluminium enclosures


It’s no exaggeration to say that SYNERGY was a major departure for OKW. It was our first enclosure to combine aluminium with plastic. And not just any aluminium, not just any plastic, and not just any construction method…

Award-winning SYNERGY’s AlMgSi main case is matt anodised to create a beautiful high-end finish. The plastic top and base are moulded from robust ASA+PC-FR, which combines the UV stability of ASA with the strength of polycarbonate. All the sections are held together by an innovative column-based connection system that leaves no visible fixing screws. Look for the tamperproof Torx screws and you’ll find them tucked away on the base, concealed from view.

To have launched one such enclosure was bold and ambitious. But we went live on day one with four shapes (square, circular, rectangular and obround), each in three plan sizes and in three heights – creating a choice of 36 different permutations.

Martin Nußberger said: “The special feature of SYNERGY is its high-quality appearance. Right from the very start, the main focus of development was the quality of the materials. The timeless basic geometric shapes, the discreetly contoured and trimmed operating panels, as well as the intelligent installation technology, results in enclosures that meet the aesthetic demands of your customers.”

View SYNERGY range >>

SMART-PANEL enclosures


Gleaming white SMART-PANEL is elegant but understated, framing the touchscreen controls of today’s smartest building control systems. These slim, low-profile enclosures fit neatly into standard flush-mounted cavity boxes, sitting just proud enough to make a design statement without being ostentatious.

Like many of its contemporaries in the plastic enclosures range, SMART-PANEL is moulded from UV-stable ASA+PC-FR – and in traffic white (RAL 9016), rather than the off-white of many earlier models. The bottom section is highly polished while the top has a fine surface structure. There are no fixing screws: the sections snap together for easy, rapid installation. Reopening requires a pair of plastic opening tools (accessory).

Other accessories include glass panels for touchscreens and displays. These panels can be printed on the rear on request. There are also phenolic resin hardboard plates that protect the underlying electronics during installation.

View SMART-PANEL range >>

MINI-DATA-BOX enclosures


IoT/IIoT applications have created massive demand for small, easy-to-install sensor enclosures – and the very latest is new MINI-DATA-BOX. It’s a robust, attractive solution for today’s smart factories, where devices have to perform well and look the part.

MINI-DATA-BOX is available with or without flanges as standard. These are moulded with apertures for cable ties and screws, making installation swift and simple. This is a vital consideration, given how many sensors are required in Industry 4.0 applications.

These smart new ASA+PC-FR housings feature a diamond-cut top that reduces weight and enhances their aesthetic credentials. The range comprises 32 standard enclosures spanning two shapes – S (square) and E (‘Edge’/rectangular) – each in four plan sizes and two heights.

View MINI-DATA-BOX range >>

Customised enclosures


All OKW standard enclosures can be specified fully customised. Our in-house services include machining, lacquering, printing, laser marking, decor foils, special materials, EMC shielding, installation and assembly of accessories.

Learn more about customising >>



Need more information? Contact our engineers for expert advice. Ask them about requesting free samples.