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Enclosures specified to protect the UK’s machines

Enclosures specified to protect the UK’s machines

The choices made in selecting enclosures for industrial applications can have a significant effect on the performance and reliability of equipment. Chris Lloyd, managing director of Spelsberg UK, explains the key requirements OEMs need to consider when choosing their enclosure manufacturer.

For industrial electrical equipment to function, as well as protect machine operators, circuitry must be safely enclosed. As a result, it’s fundamental for OEMs to carefully consider requirements before specifying an enclosure. Whatever the application, from a production machine through to a passenger lift, its performance and safety is only as good as the enclosure that protects it.

More often than not, OEM requirements are specific to purpose. Engineers can provide a set of needs that the enclosure has to fulfil but, often, wider considerations need to be taken into account, requiring the application experience of a capable enclosure manufacturer.

The application’s environmental setting is among the first considerations and protection against the elements can be crucial in an outdoor location, whether that’s on a ship at sea or enclosing switchgear at a solar panel farm. The ingress protection (IP) may need to reach the highest IP69 level even for indoor applications, such as the electrical distribution on milking parlour machinery, which must withstand high pressure water jets as part of a wash down.

Environmental conditions also take into account the internal area of the enclosure where high humidity and the potential for damaging condensation may require a counteractive specification. In addition to protection against liquid and physical particulates, fire resistance may be a requirement, most typically when used as part of fire detection and sprinkler systems. Resistance to impact, measured with the IK rating, is also a factor that determines not only the form and construction material of the enclosure, but also where it’s located on the machine.

Position of the enclosure onboard a machine is nearly always predetermined. And with the trend for reduced machinery footprints, it’s imperative that the enclosure is compact. At the same time, the enclosure has to be sufficiently spacious to accommodate the circuitry and its components with clearance to enable thermal cooling. Cabling, both inside the enclosure as well as its entry and exit points, must be well planned to allow for fast and easy installation, as well as simple future maintenance – especially if the enclosure is located in a cramped position. This can require enclosure walls with knock-outs to allow choice over entry and exit points or it can involve custom CNC machining to achieve the most effective cable routing.

Enclosure customisation

Customisation of the enclosure may also be required should the OEM’s design incorporate functionality such as displays, touchpads or emergency stop buttons. It’s not just the physical form of the enclosure that requires attention but also labelling and referencing, so a printing service provided by the enclosure manufacturer can be of importance. In addition to printing, enclosures may need to be signified by various colour codes, or they may even demand their own coating for specific purposes. An interesting example for Spelsberg UK included providing a military naval service with a ‘stealth’-coated enclosure for anti-radar purposes. This polymer coating is non-reflective of radar signals and is also self-extinguishing in the event of fire.

The crucial advantages of an enclosure manufacturer that can provide customisation services in-house include ensuring design integration, time saving and a single point of accountability. Working with a dedicated enclosure manufacturer that has a comprehensive range of products and services, rather than managing multiple outsourced service providers, the OEM has the confidence that the finished production integrates perfectly.

Let’s not forget, too, that testing is a crucial stage for an OEM and it’s important that the enclosure vendor can provide a sample at the earliest available opportunity in order to maintain project pace. It’s crucial that the prototype is a close design to the production enclosures that will follow, and this means that getting it right first time is key.

For the speed factor, it also makes sense if your sample is developed locally; a 3D printing service that creates close to production samples can be a preferable option for faster testing and approval of the most complex enclosure designs, which can be achieved within 24 hours.

 

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