Industrial enclosures are used to house electronic components, equipment, and devices. They are designed to protect personnel from accidental injury while the equipment is in operation and to prevent the ingress of environmental contaminants such as dust and water.
Types of Industrial Enclosures
There are many types of industrial enclosures that vary based on size, rating, material, and what they are designed to encapsulate. General types include console, consolet, modular, PC, rack, and terminal box enclosures.
- Console enclosures are freestanding and have a sloped front or top for mounting control components.
- Consolet enclosures have a sloped front and can be mounted on either of two sides to provide a control surface with a 30° or 60° incline. These enclosures are used to house electric or electronic components and are ideal for the mounting of pushbutton and other operator control devices.
- Modular enclosures have standardized dimensions and can be stacked or assembled to create larger cabinets or customized enclosures.
- PC enclosures are designed specifically to house personal computers (PCs) in industrial environments.
- Rack enclosures or cabinets are designed to house standard 19-inch components or other standard, rack mounted devices.
- Terminal boxes and junction boxes are rectangular enclosures that house electronic components and facilitate wiring.
When selecting enclosures, correct size and adequate protection are the priorities. When considering quality of protection, material type and professional rating systems are the deciding factors.
The size of an enclosure depends on what is being encapsulated. Industrial enclosures are rectangular or T-shaped and may include a sloped or slanted surface. They are made from a variety of materials and available in many different sizes, sealing configurations, and mounting styles. Enclosures may come in standardized dimensions or shapes which can be stacked for assembly, or they can be custom built to particular specifications.
The amount of protection and durability an enclosure offers has depends largely on its material composition. Most industrial enclosures are made from materials classified as either metals or polymers.
- Metals generally exhibit higher conductivity to both heat and electricity than other material types. Steel is widely used to form enclosures because of its strength and malleability. Stainless steel is used rather than standard steel in environments requiring corrosion resistance and lightweight materials. Aluminum is a less expensive, lightweight, and more conductive metal that exhibits good resistance to oxidation.
- Polymer materials are nonmetal materials with varying properties. ABS is a hard, rigid, inexpensive thermoplastic polymer that has good chemical and creep resistance, but is prone to cracking under stress. Fiberglass is a strong, durable, reinforced polymer that is resistant to many caustics and extreme temperatures. Polycarbonate exhibits excellent impact strength and can be molded to tight tolerances, but has only moderate resistance to chemical corrosion. Polystyrene is used for its rigidity, hardness, heat, and dimensional stability and because of its ease of fabrication.
NEMA ratings indicate whether industrial enclosures are suitable for hazardous or non-hazardous locations and designed for indoor or outdoor use. All NEMA enclosures protect personnel against incidental contact with the enclosed equipment.
The Ingress Protection (IP) ratings system from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) describes the degree to which industrial enclosures provide protection against the ingress of foreign objects and moisture. There are six IP ratings that describe protection against foreign objects and vary from >50mm particle protection to completely dust-tight protection. There are eight IP ratings for protection against moisture which vary from dripping water protection to protection when completely submersed.Read user Insights about Industrial Enclosures
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Console enclosures are freestanding structures with a sloped front or top for mounting electric or electronic control components. They protect sensitive equipment such as computer monitors in harsh, wet, dirty, or dusty environments.
Electronic and Instrument Enclosures
Electronic and instrument enclosures are structures that house electronic components and instruments. They are usually designed for handheld or desktop applications. Example applications include calculators, cash registers, remote controls, and data acquisition instruments.
Modular enclosures consist of smaller components that can be assembled to create custom enclosures, often for temporary or mobile systems. These modular components are available in standard sizes and allow modular enclosures to be used for a variety of purposes.
NEMA and IP Enclosures
NEMA and IP enclosures are designed to house electrical components, protect personnel from accidental injury, and prevent the ingress of environmental contaminants such as dust and water. NEMA enclosures are rated by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and designed for hazardous or non-hazardous locations and indoor or outdoor use. Ingress protection (IP) enclosures provide protection against foreign objects and moisture.
Operator Interface Enclosures
Operator interface enclosures are used to house industrial controls such as display screens, pushbuttons, keyboards, lights, and other operator control devices. They are designed to protect personnel from accidental injury and to prevent the ingress of environmental contaminants such as dust and water.
PC enclosures are designed to protect personal computers (PCs) in industrial or office environments. They are designed to prevent the ingress of environmental contaminants such as dust and water and can be used to integrate a monitor, central processing unit (CPU), keyboard, and printer into one cabinet.
Rack enclosures (rack cabinets, laboratory enclosures) are used to house standard 19 in. rack-mounted components or other standard-sized devices. They are designed to protect personnel from accidental injury and to prevent the ingress of environmental contaminants such as dust and water.