What can I do with this application?
Upload circuit board IDF files and generate enclosures for those circuit boards!
What are IDF files?
IDF (Intermediate Data Format) files are used for transfer of electrical cad data (ECAD) to mechanical CAD data (MCAD). The current standard used is IDF v3. The enclosure generator takes 2 types of IDF files: EMN and EMP files:
- EMN: File that contains information about the circuit board, such as dimensions, hole placement, and reference designator placement.
- EMP: File that contains information about the components of the circuit board, including size, part name, and component height.
How do I get IDF files?
Many ECAD programs can export IDF files from a circuit design. Seaching your circuit design tool's documentation for IDF export will likely yield how-to instructions.
After generating an enclosure on this website, how do I make it?
There are several methods of creating a generated enclosure:
- Download STL files of the enclosure and upload them to Shapeways, 3DHubs, or another 3D printing service, and have them print the design.
- Download STEP files of the enclosure and upload them to Protolabs, Xometry, Fictiv, eMachineShop or another prototyping service for quoting and fabrication (both CNC milling and 3D printing in a variety of materials are possible).
- Download the files and make the parts with your own fabrication equipment.
I want to modify a generated enclosure design beyond what this website allows, how do I do that?
The best way to further modify or change a generated enclosure is to download the STEP files for the design, and then import those into a fully featured CAD program. CAD programs that accept STEP file formats include (but are not limited to) Solidworks, Autodesk Fusion 360, Onshape, FreeCAD, PTC Creo, and many more.
Why shouldn't I buy an off-the-shelf enclosure and modify it for my needs?
You totally should! That is a very well-trod path to getting a custom enclosure, and the results often look great. However, sometimes it can be difficult to find the right enclosure for your needs, perhaps you have a 3D-printer or laser-cutter on-hand and want to get started making your enclosure right away, or you just want to see what different designs might look like. Additionally, one of the planned improvements to the EnclosureGenerator is support for quickly sizing and modifying an off-the-shelf enclosure to minimize time spent searching for just the right one.
Can I use an enclosure design from this website for mass production?
While it would be possible to take a generated design through to mass production, it is not advisable. The purpose of the enclosure generator service is to allow for engineers and designers to quickly prototype and see different design possibilities, but it is not yet powerful enough to account for the all of the details a mass-produced enclosure entails.
That being said, it is possible to download a generated enclosure and further modify it to suit the needs of mass production. Improvments are planned to the enclosure generation software that runs this site, and hopefully they will bring the website closer to the point where fully automated design is possible. However for now, a human touch is still required for most designs.
Why isn't this a plugin for an CAD tool like Solidworks?
One of the first decisions when building the EnclosureGenerator was whether or not to design it as a plugin first or a web-based tool. A CAD plugin has several advantages:
- No server costs, all computation is done on user's machines.
- Very easily edit the geometry of generated files, as they will be created natively within a given CAD application.
- Access to powerful, proprietary CAD kernels that are (often) faster and more capable than existing open source implementations.
Despite these advantages the first iteration of the EnclosureGenerator is not a CAD plugin, for the following reasons:
- Accessibility - not everyone has whatever CAD program I would have chosen as the first target for a plugin, but everyone has a browser.
- Learning curve - I believe many of my target users (EEs) do not want to have to learn a mechanical CAD package to get a PCB case design. I wanted to create a way for them to easily get designs with less hassle.
- Control - making the EnclosureGenerator a plugin for another program would inherently limit what it would look like and how it would operate. I have used many CAD plugins, and they are often difficult or frustrating to use, and I did not want to create a similar user experience.
- Learning - I wanted to learn more about web development.
All of this being said, EnclosureGenerator plugins may still be in the future based on the feedback I get from interested users.
I want a feature you don't have!
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
! New ways to improve the design process are always welcome!