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Why understanding enclosure design is the key to a long product life

Published: 5 November 2013 - Rachael Morling

Specifying the right enclosure and ancillaries will help prolong the life of the installed equipment. Here, Philip Glenister, Rittal product manager, examines the factors that need to be considered

Increased productivity and profitability can result from specifying the right enclosure and its ancillaries for an application. Fundamental to the successful design, however, is not only understanding the environment in which the final system will be operating, but also the most suitable internal environment for the installed equipment, and the ability to control this throughout the system’s life cycle.

Such factors can have a huge impact on the overall performance, safety and efficiency of the system, and they can also significantly prolong the life of the installed equipment, save energy, utility costs and protect against unscheduled downtime.

Considering materials and surface finishes

The enclosure material or surface finish can affect design life, maintenance and operational down time, with the wrong selection resulting in corrosion, material failure or difficulties in cleaning. To help, Rittal offers a wide variety of material finishes such as carbon steel, 304 and 316 stainless steel, cast aluminium, sheet aluminium, polycarbonate plastics and GRP. Carbon steel is suitable for the majority of applications and, when finished in Rittal’s Nano three stage powder coating, shows long term durability for indoor applications.

In corrosive environments – outdoor, coastal, chemical and heavy pollution, etc. – stainless steel should be used. It should also be used for clean environments, such as in the manufacture of food and beverages, hospitals or pharmaceuticals. This material can also be powder coated. While it exhibits exceptional corrosion resistance whether in its raw state or powder coated, users should be aware that if the surface is contaminated with carbon steel then the enclosure can show signs of surface corrosion.

The enclosure material or surface finish can affect design life, maintenance and operational down time, with the wrong selection resulting in corrosion, material failure or difficulties in cleaning

Lightweight sheet aluminium, meanwhile, can be used for more cost effective outdoor solutions. This also provides a high degree of corrosive protection and is powder coated to provide a tough finish to the enclosure surface. Anti-graffiti finishes can also be added, making it easy to remove paint and adhesive residues from posters.

For smaller electrical enclosures, plastic or GRP impregnated plastics can be used. As well as providing a robust mechanical strength and electrical insulation properties, this type of enclosure provides an extremely high degree of corrosive protection. This can, however, discolour under certain light conditions, although this won’t harm the material properties of the enclosure.

Meeting industry standards

IP and National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) are the industry standards for the ingress protection of enclosures, with IP ratings referring to protection against contact, foreign bodies and water.

Rittal has taken this a step further and has a range of enclosures that meet IP69K, developed for high pressure, high temperature washdown, suitable for areas where hygiene and cleanliness are paramount. NEMA classification outlines the protection of individuals from unintentional contact with equipment and the protection of an enclosure from external factors in much the same way as IP ratings.

Access, security and accessories

With the correct enclosure selected for the integrated system it is also important to understand the requirements for access and security – part of a well-designed system will consider access for maintenance and repairs. With a good system design, maintenance critical components and procedures are integrated into the overall system and the type of enclosure and accessories selected play a major part in the process. Selecting something as simple as a door stay to hold the door open at a set angle can make it easier for the operative to change the fan or filter, as well as for the operator working on a solid object within a designated area around the enclosure and not in front of a live open system.

Modern switchgear and control components in industrial engineering are highly complex and must satisfy universal requirements. Rittal enclosures offer an extensive range of accessories to satisfy the demands for flexible solutions in industrial production processes.

The accessories have been designed to make the installation, fit-out or maintenance, at high level or at low level, as simple, safe and as easy as possible, providing effective cable management solutions into, within or out of the system enclosure. Solutions including plinths for cable routing, and internal lighting which can be operated when opening the door, all make the enclosure a critical part of the complete system integration, and a quality product that any good system designer would be proud to be associated with.


T: 01709 704000

Industry Connections: Rittal Ltd

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