A road case is a box specifically built to protect musical instruments, properties, or other sensitive equipment when it must be moved between locations, or frequently thrown around by airport baggage handling personnel. A large number of varying-sized road cases can be built to outfit the needs of an entire touring production company, or custom designed individually for a specific industry or product, Like some of the examples you can find with a company such as Dinosaur Cases in Vancouver, British Columbia
Most road cases are constructed of three main layers. An outer layer of laminate known as ABS acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which is adhered to a middle layer of lightweight 3/16" to 1/2" cabinet grade plywood such as Russian Baltic Birch, Poplar, or Maple. Inside the case, an internal shock absorbing layer such as polyurethane or polyethylene foam is adhered to the walls of the middle layer with negative space removed that corresponds to the exact shape of the component which it is preserving. The edges and corners of road cases are further reinforced with aluminium angle bar or extrusions, and form fitting metal case corners which are cast and often coated in zinc or nickel. Caster wheels are often built into, or attached to the case for ease of transit. Road cases can also be made of molded plastic in the case where waterproofing is a concern; manufacturers such as "Pelican Cases" and "Storm Cases" sell plastic road cases that can be outfitted with a custom foam interior. All road cases, wood or plastic may be further customized to suit any application; for example by adding a power adapter and a computer fan, certain equipment may operate while on the road without leaving the protection of the road case.
The history of the road case design is based on an airplane parts packaging specification, designed by airline packaging engineers. The specification is ATA 300 Category 1. IATA is International Airline Transport Association located in Washington DC and consists of members of Boeing Airlines, Airbus, Fed-Ex, American Airlines, United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines. ATA 300 Cat 1 cases are designed to withstand 100 trips and Cat 2 containers are rated for 10 trips. The original design required the cases to be white, so they would not be left on the airport runway, when loading cases at night time. The first ATA 300 Cat 1 spec was published circa 1960.
Typical uses for “Road Cases” on tour are used for wardrobe, hair and make-up, catering, rigging, backline, sound, lights, video, production and carpentry. Road cases got their name because they are usually used by Roadies. Rackmount Cases are widely used on the road for pro audio, lighting, sound recording and video. Other applications include motion picture production, military, sports, medical, rental and staging.
Road cases are also called ATA Cases, Reusable Shipping Containers, Custom Cases, Anvil Cases, Pelican Cases, Jan-Al Cases, SBC Cases, Rhino Cases, Nelson Cases, Innerspace Cases, Kangaroo Cases and Flight Cases.