While this may be the last consideration, choosing the right enclosure for your industrial application can make or break your operation. Manufacturers conduct thorough research and invest heavily in their control and switchgear, but often give little thought to enclosures that protect, cool, and power their systems. At Rattail, we understand that severe downtime can impact your bottom line, so we’ve come up with the top considerations every designer must consider in order to find the right enclosure for their implementation.
When choosing an enclosure, the correct size and adequate protection are the top priorities. When considering the quality of conservation, the type of material and the professional rating system are the deciding factors. Other features such as locks, keypads, impact resistance or knockout may be important depending on the application.
Size and shape
Choosing the size of the chassis is also critical, as it directly affects the overall space required for the system. This is where the modular housing and unibody design differ significantly. The modular design allows full use of the 3D space within the enclosure. Because the frame can also hold components, the design is not limited to just mounting panels. This means you can shrink the chassis footprint while still maintaining the same operating space.
Larger surface area modular housings provide more accessories. The smaller door in the one-piece design reduces the size of the mounting panel that can pass through. Modular enclosures feature removable doors and side walls, so panel sizes can be up to 15% larger than comparable unibody designs. This can be used to add components such as bus power, LED lighting, and a folding keyboard shelf.
The weight of the equipment is also important. The modular enclosures can be two-thirds lighter than unibody enclosures and still carry the same amount of weight. This is because the mounting panels and components are carried by the internal frame rather than the welded walls of the enclosure. This means a higher degree of worker safety, whether for routine maintenance or transportation purposes. Often, one-piece enclosures must be laid for panel installation and removal, which requires multiple workers, forklifts, and chains.
The next consideration is the housing material, mostly carbon or stainless steel. Daily protection from contaminants such as dirt, dust, drips or splashes is achieved with powder-coated carbon steel housing. For harsher environments, a stainless steel enclosure is a good choice. With its corrosion-resistant and hygienic properties, the stainless steel housing provides excellent protection against corrosion, chemicals, high-pressure cleaning, rust, and various harsh weather conditions. Stainless steel housings are a popular choice in oil and gas, wastewater, mining, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage applications.
Metals generally exhibit higher thermal and electrical conductivity than other material types. Steel is widely used to form shells because of its strength and ductility. In environments where corrosion-resistant and lightweight materials are required, stainless steel is used instead of standard steel. Aluminum is a cheaper, lighter, and more conductive metal with good oxidation resistance.
Polymers are non-metallic materials with different properties. ABS is a hard, rigid, inexpensive thermoplastic polymer with good chemical resistance and creep resistance, but is prone to cracking under stress. Fiberglass is a strong, durable, reinforced polymer that can withstand many corrosive agents and extreme temperatures. Polycarbonate exhibits excellent impact strength and can be molded to tight tolerances, yet has moderate resistance to chemical attack. Polystyrene is used for its rigidity, hardness, heat resistance and dimensional stability and ease of manufacture. Endplates are typically made of clear, infrared, solid or clear plastic and include cutouts for DB9 or DB25 connectors.
NEMA ratings indicate whether a modular enclosure is suitable for use in hazardous or non-hazardous locations and designed for indoor or outdoor use. All NEMA enclosures prevent accidental access to the enclosed equipment. The International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) Intrusion Protection (IP) rating system describes the degree of protection modular enclosure provides against the ingress of foreign objects and moisture. There are six IP ratings describing protection against foreign objects, ranging from >50mm protection against particles to complete protection against dust. If you’d like to learn more about control systems and their enclosures, you can check out Keltour Controls Inc, a leading electrical control panel manufacturer.
When you consider all factors, modular enclosures are an important part of the success of the entire manufacturing system. The correct carbon or stainless steel housing, rated for the appropriate level of protection, will extend the lifespan and increase the efficiency of your control and switchgear. This will ensure your operations deliver the most value to your operations and your bottom line.