Computers, monitors and other electrical equipment are now just as commonplace in industry and manufacturing as they are in the office or home. Unfortunately however the demands on electrical equipment such as computers are completely different in industrial environments than those placed on the office PC.
Industrial environments tend to be dirty and grimy and contain plenty of contaminants that are harmful to sensitive electronics including water and dust.
Fortunately a European IP (Ingress Protection) system for classifying the degrees of protection provided for electrical equipment has been developed by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), these standards are designed to numerically rate an electrical product on the level of protection its afforded. By assigning different number codes, the product's degree of protection can be identified quickly and easily. In the code IP65, for example, IP identifies the standard, the 6describes the level of protection from solid objects, and 5 describes the level of protection from liquids.
IP65 and IP54 are the most commonly used in the manufacture of electrical products for use in industry. An IP65 rated product will be fully protected against dust and airborne particles whilst also be protected against water jets which would allow the machine to be washed down, while an IP54 rating offers dust protection (but not total) and protects against splashing of water but not wash-down. IP ratings do go higher than IP65 (IP68 would provide complete dust and underwater protection) but they are rare and excessive for the majority of industrial applications.
Many industrial computers are built to IP65 standard but unfortunately this can have major drawbacks when it comes to repairs and upgrades of the units. To have qualified for IP65 the industrial computer would have had to be sealed so as to prevent dust and water from invading the sensitive components. Unfortunately this means if the computer has to be repaired or upgraded then an engineer would need to be called.
Intrinsically sealed IP65 or IP54 industrial computers are also highly expensive. They are often solid state which although means they are rugged and reliable also means they are near-to-impossible to upgrade.
Fortunately a solution to expensive IP rated specific machines is to house a standard computer or other electrical device in an IP65 or IP54 rated industrial enclosure.
These industrial cabinets have a huge advantage over specifically designed IP rated equipment in that they can house conventional equipment. This provides a double cost saving in that the standard equipment such as an off-the-shelf PC will cost a fraction of the cost of the solid-state IP rated industrial computer. Also when it comes to upgrade, repairs or replacement the same enclosure can be used and the equipment taken out without the need of a costly engineer.
Furthermore, an Industrial enclosure manufactured to IP65 or IP54 will last a lot longer than a specific IP rated piece of equipment with some enclosures able to survive and offer compete dust and water protection for decades while a conventional industrial machine will be lucky to last even four or five years.
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 industrial computer solutions.