Modular design slashes cabinet installation times

Dean Palmer talks to the founder of a German manufacturing company about its unique, modular approach to designing cabinet hardware

Every control cabinet, server enclosure or piece of industrial machinery requires some form of hinge, latch, handle or fastening device, not only to provide access to the equipment, but also to protect it from tampering and to keep it secure in its operating environment.

Latches and fasteners also get lost. A failed screw for example, could lead to a server enclosure or rack being shut down until a maintenance technician can be called out to locate the piece. The consequences of failures like this can cause costly downtime.

Dirak, a German company that specialises in the design and manufacture of modular latches, hinges and other hardware for cabinets and sheet metal enclosures, has built a reputation over the years for supplying modular hardware that helps end users and enclosure suppliers to reduce installation times (and costs), sometimes by as much as 90%.

Dieter Ramsauer, founder and CEO of Dirak, told Eureka: "Most of our customers are large enclosure manufacturers. Even though our hardware represents only a small percentage of the total cost of the cabinet, the cost of installation can be high. Our modular products help reduce these costs by simplifying and speeding up installation time."

D-SNAP technology is Dirak's unique mechanical approach to installing hardware on sheet metal surfaces, without using screws or tools. The technology reduces the cost and time of installation by eliminating the use of screws, washers and nuts. Because installation hardware is not used, the product remains securely attached to the panel, even in severe vibration environments. The firm's products, with integrated D-SNAP technology, incorporate a unique housing which holds a spring-loaded set of wings. The wings are designed to snap into position to secure the product in the panel. Panel preparation consists of a simple rectangular cut-out.

Ramsauer also pointed out that, very often, a failed screw or handle can be a threat to the security or safety of an enclosure. "For example, a server enclosure has many racks, each rack might have a drawer with two handles. If there are 30 drawers, that's 60 handles and 120 fasteners that go into that product. If one of those screws fails, perhaps due to vibration during transportation, or incorrect installation, the consequences can be disastrous. Business continuity planning and keeping the downtime of your machine or server to a minimum is key."

Because of issues like these, Dirak reviewed its hardware designs and gradually moved to a modular approach to product development. Dirak's products include mainly hinges, latches, locks and rods, and so back in 1991, when the firm was founded, Ramsauer focussed on listening to the customer's problems and how to develop appropriate solutions.

Ramsauer holds more than 100 patents, has been the source of the company's customer-focused approach to product development. This means whatever the application, Dirak can offer the customer a solution based on its modular hardware designs, the distinguishing feature of Dirak products.

Ramsauer said that recently he had showed D-SNAP to one of his customers out in China, a company that supplies a major UK-based telecoms company. Apparently, the Chinese firm needed to solve a recurring problem, that of losing failed fasteners in its cabinets. With D-SNAP, Ramsauer said that the company was now installing cabinets in 10% of the time.

Dirak's modular approach has resulted in a wide acceptance of the company's products in a wide variety of industry applications. Ramsauer cited several industries, including industrial cabinets, IT and telecommunications, domestic appliances, medical technology, refrigeration and air conditioning systems, the food industry, environmental technology and rail vehicle engineering.

The company also boasts an impressive client list that includes HP, Dell, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Intel, Rittal, Knurr, ABB and Caterpillar. Dirak employs around 300 people world-wide and turnover last year was around 34 million euros.

Tom Shelley

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