If you’re designing a product with a hinge, there’s a decent chance you want it hidden away from the world.
While there are plenty of products that have exposed hinges, most consumer products are designed to be visually appealing. (Sadly, a hinge is not in most people’s eyes.) There are other valuable uses for hidden hinges that we’ll cover below.
As you can imagine, building a hidden hinge into a product is more complicated than using an exposed hinge. Here are the most important questions to keep in mind for hidden door hinge design:
Hidden Door Hinges: 5 Considerations for Design
Whether you want to make a hidden-hinge refrigerator, cabinet, or other product, you’ll need to be careful with your design choices. Consider the following:
1. Are you over-designing?
Many products use hidden hinges, but not all. Kitchen cabinets, for example, tend to have hidden hinges. These are the type of hinges you can pick up at your local hardware store, meant for light, thin cabinet doors. It’s probably not worth custom designing counterbalance or hidden cabinet hinges unless your cabinet door is cumbersome and potentially a safety hazard.
Appliances often have hidden hinges, too. Grills have elements of hidden hinge design in them, particularly the counterbalance that allows you to open the monstrous lid with ease. Even some refrigerators use hidden hinges. (What’s a hidden hinge on a refrigerator, you ask? Some fridges have decorative panels that look like cabinetry -- hidden hinges help achieve a consistent look in the kitchen.)
There are several reasons, some of them functional, to use a concealed hinge:
- Aesthetics: Many customer goods look better without a bulky counterbalance or articulating hinge in the way.
- Saving space: A no-show hinge can allow a product to fit into a tighter space and smaller packaging than one with exposed hinges.
- Avoiding heat: Keeping a hinge away from extreme heat can extend its service life. In grills, ovens, presses, and other kitchen appliances, hinges are often moved to a safer area.
- Avoiding critical components: You may need to keep hinges away from critical components to avoid harming those components. Rotisseries and lights on grills, control panels on fridges, and knobs on ovens are examples of pieces to avoid.
2. Your hidden hinge will be more expensive than a standard hinge.
Hidden counterbalance hinges are not the kind of $5 hinge you pull off the shelf at the hardware store. They provide extra value, but you have to pay for that value. This is because additional manufacturing and engineering considerations have to be taken into account by the hinge supplier.
Since invisible hinges are more expensive and complex to design, be sure your application requires one. Otherwise, your price point may be unnecessarily inflated.
If you want to find out what kind of specifications your hinge design will need, whether it’s for a tanning bed design or grill hinges, check out the Vectis DYO app.
3. Where do you want your door in the open position?
- Do you want your door to be open within the cabinet space?
- Do you want the door to open beyond the cabinet space?
- What kind of open-angle do you want to achieve?
- Do you want a self-closure mechanism?
- What angle do you want it to actuate at?
Your manufacturer should ask all of the above questions. In most situations, you’ll be buying a custom concealed hinge, so get specific when discussing your goals with the hinge manufacturer.
4. What kind of doorway do you want?
Some doors only need to move a short distance from the cabinet, while others need to move much further away. You need to know how far you want the door to travel away from the product so you can determine the specs for your hinge.
The larger the doorway, the meatier the hinge has to be to keep the door operating correctly.
5. What kind of cycle life are you expecting?
Since the hinge is custom-made in almost all cases, you have the option of choosing hinge designs that last a certain number of cycles.
How often will your product’s cover, lid, or door be open and shut each day? A hinge with a 10,000-cycle lifetime is not the same as one with a 200,000-cycle lifetime. Clarify how long you’d like the hinge to last (keeping increasing cost in mind as that cycle number goes up) so your manufacturer can choose appropriate design elements.
Hidden Hinges: In Conclusion
No matter what your market, you probably want a hinge that is out of sight, out of mind. You want customers to open the lid and have a favorable impression -- to say, “Wow! How does this stay up!?”
To accomplish this goal, you need a smart concealed hinge design. Now you just need to decide exactly what you want out of that hinge -- if you have questions about the design stage, ask an engineer below:
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2019 and updated in June 2022.