Sheet Metal with SolidWorks: Enclosure Design Project
Illustration by Richard Downs

Circuit-board basics


Sheet Metal with SolidWorks: Enclosure Design Project

with Gabriel Corbett

Video: Circuit-board basics

When we're going to bring a circuit board into assembly, as Working with circuit boards can be complicated, there are

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Watch the Online Video Course Sheet Metal with SolidWorks: Enclosure Design Project
2h 31m Intermediate May 21, 2014

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Real-world projects are vital to mastering SolidWorks, and sheet metal enclosures are a perfect example of a typical project. Sheet metal enclosures house and protect circuitry, wiring, and other sensitive electronic parts and frequently require customization by a professional CAD designer. So take a firsthand walk through designing a sheet metal enclosure for circuit boards and panel-mounted connectors, as well as fans, power cords, and switches, with SolidWorks. Gabriel Corbett covers the key techniques for working with in-context parts and assemblies that dynamically adjust based on the master part model. He'll show you how to use equations to drive the size of the box and calculate vent holes, work with circuit boards, and download connector components. Plus, learn how to add decals before prepping the final drawings for manufacturing.

Topics include:
  • Working with the Base and Flange tools
  • Building the rough enclosure shape
  • Designing the cover
  • Adding vents
  • Adding components
  • Cutting holes for connectors
  • Adding graphics
  • Making assembly drawings
Gabriel Corbett

Circuit-board basics

When we're going to bring a circuit board into assembly, as mechanical designers, we're primarily interested in the mechanical aspects of the design. And the components they're going to to be protruding through the enclosure. So we can cut the right size hole for the connector. We also might be interested in heat sources and cooling. There might be fans or heat sinks in the design. We need to account for those as well. It's best to model all the key components in the design, and then work with the board layout people to make sure that there is not a conflict with the mechanical layout or the board layout.

However many times the board is already complete or is an off the shelf component that we are just going to be integrating into the design. In either case we need to model the board and the components so let's get started with the board. As you can see here I've got a bunch of components all opened up to build a design with. Now depending on what type of situation we're working with, we might have multiple components, multiple boards, and all types of different constraints and changes. First things first, you want to start with a board. Now if you're just designing a board from the very beginning, you've got a lot of flexibility because you can design out the board however you want it, and place the components that are going to make the most sense.

Keep in mind though, we're doing the mechanical layout we're not doing the electrical layout. A lot of times the electrical layout is going to dictate a certain amount of components or placements or how they're going to flow together and connect electrically. But in this case here we're not going to really want to add all the components, we just really want the ones that are going to be protruding through the outside of the enclosure. And then give the layout of the other components, maybe the passive components, over to the board layout guys and give them a little more flexibility on that. And a lot of time it's a little bit of going back and forth between the board layout people and the mechanical layout people, to make sure that everybody's on the same page and things workout well.

When we're working with circuit boards, really circuit board layout thicknesses are determined ahead of time. Most board thicknesses are about a 16th of an inch thick, so 0.0625. It's probably your most common board thickness. And there are some boards that are thinner, and some that are thicker, but that's pretty much a good way to start. And it's a great thing to do is to touch base with the circuit board design layout guys, and ask them about how many layers of a board you're going to be using, and about the thickness of the board, because that's going to have a lot of effect on how we mount that circuit board in the design.

We're going to probably use some type of a stand off or some other type of mounting mechanism and the thickness of the board's going to determine how high those components with those holes are cutting through the outside of the enclosure. So that's what we're primarily concerned about there. The other things is where the origin is on our circle board. Most of the time for board layout it's going to be in this bottom left hand corner. So right down here is going to be the origin for the board and everything should be based upon that one location. Keep that in mind. Now when we start bringing in components, again, we want to be referencing that one origin point all the time in all our designs so we could know exactly where it is for the components.

And then a lot of times we're going to have thing that are going to be moving around in the design. And, if we're referencing a common origin point, then the board designer may be can say, hey we're going to be moving this component over by a half of an inch or up a certain distance and we can easily make those changes especially if we use some type of equation to layout the board, then we can easily place and move things around in the design. So there's a lot of great options and now lets get started bringing in the components and building a board. Like I said, if you already have a complete board, that's fine we're going to be defining and placing those components exactly where they are in the final board.

If you are designing the board from beginning or working with a board layout people, then you want to coordinate a little bit more. So in this case here we're going to assume we've already got a complete board, we're just modeling it and we bring it in so we can build and cut the right size holes in our sheet metal enclosure to contain it. Working with circuit boards can be complicated, there are thousands of components and layouts that can be chosen. And many times the board layout people don't choose the most logical, mechanical design. Just start simple and build from there.

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