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Understanding the Nema and IP Rating Systems


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Electricity and water do not go well together as I'm sure most people are aware. However, dust is equally as bad for electrical components as water. Dust varies in size from tiny airborne particles to larger particles that fall and stick to anything.

Dust can also consist of any material from the benign skin cells in household dust to conductive metals and particles of liquid, damaging to electrical equipment. Dust also has a nasty habit of blocking up filters and acting as an insulator causing machines to overheat and fail.

Dust and water are often found together in industrial environments which is why electrical equipment that is manufactured to operate in conditions is given a rating by both the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC) and by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The European IP rating is a numerical standard given to a piece of electrical equipment to the level of protection it provides.

The IP rating is a two-digit number each digit a separate number code to indicate protection, the lower the number the lower the protection and the higher the number the harsher environment it can withstand. The first digit represents the dust-proof protection that is afforded the second digit represents waterproof protection. For instance an IP65 computer cabinet will be a cabinet with the highest level of possible protection (dust IP rating is from 0 to 6), whilst also affording moderate to high levels of waterproof protection enabling the unit to be protected from water jets but not from immersion in water (water protection goes from 0 protection to 8).

The Nema rating is very similar to the European system except that in most cases a single ascending number is used the higher (13 being the highest) the number the higher level of protection is afforded. Although some ratings such as Nema 4 which affords similar protection to that of the IP65 rating although Nema 4x does offer added anti-corrosion protection (in most cases the units enclosure would be stainless steel rather than mild steel therefore able to be used in food preparation and manufacturing ).

Whilst many manufacturers produce IP rated, or Nema rated specialist equipment the simplest solution to most industrial environments is to use an IP rated or Nema rated protective cabinet for equipment. An IP65 or Nema 4 industrial computer cabinet combined with an IP rated or Nema rated printer enclosure with also an industrial mouse and waterproof and dust-proof keyboard will offer the same protection as an IP65 or Nema 4 industrial computer except the computer cabinets are flexible to allow the equipment to be changed and upgraded.

Richard N Williams is a technical author and a specialist in the industrial computer industry helping to develop industrial computers and protection for all environments. Please visit us for more information about touch screens industrial computer solutions.


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