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Finding the right enclosure for your needs

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article image Buying the right enclosure will reduce the risks of damaging expensive equipment and minimise downtime
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Access to technology and electricity are a given in today’s industrial environments. But sensitive electronics, ICT infrastructure and electrical equipment must be protected from the dust, heat, moisture, and shock which are part and parcel of Australia’s work places. Buying the right enclosure will reduce the risks of damaging expensive equipment and minimise downtime. 

Requirements for the enclosure

The number of choices available for enclosures can be mind-boggling, but a quick and easy way to narrow down your options when choosing an enclosure is to consider your application needs.

Firstly, where will the enclosure be located? If it is being mounted on machinery or in a vehicle, vibration damping mounting accessories will be important. Most shock-absorbent mount systems consist of a cradle or a sub-plate which sits on rubber shock mounts.

If the enclosure is being used on a mine site, consider a mining grade enclosure with a sloped roof and IP66 sealing against dust and water ingress.

Where the enclosure is being located outside or in warm environments, look for insulated units, or units with accessories which can provide a degree of shade from direct sunlight.

Where the enclosure will be subject to possible water immersion, look for industrial units sealed to IP68.

Secondly, consider the equipment to be housed within the enclosure.

If electronics or ICT equipment is being housed in the enclosure, you may need to look into heat management systems which provide the required degree of cooling, while still retaining the protective capabilities of the enclosures.

Will technicians or operators need to interact with the equipment inside the enclosure? Many off-the-shelf operation and display enclosures will provide the interfaces in the most cost-effective manner. If you need more customisation, have a look at enclosure keypads and switches.

While self-contained enclosures can be easily sealed, things can get complicated when the electronics, ICT and electrical systems inside require cabling to the outside world for power or data.

If you require holes in the enclosure for cable management, specifying the correct-sized cable glands of the same material as the enclosure will ensure a good environmental seal.

For enclosures that require connectors, look for connectors which are IP-sealed to minimise any weak points in protection.

Enclosure materials

Enclosures can come in a range of materials, and can vary according to the application. In gold mines, for example, there may be a focus on corrosion-resistive materials due to the harsh chemicals used in the extraction process.

While polyglass, aluminium and composites may be used for junction boxes, the mainstay for industry in Australia is 316 stainless steel, prized for its hard-wearing properties, and its ability to stand up to corrosion.

Enclosure types

General electrical enclosures – low cost, quickly installed and used for a variety of commercial, domestic and industrial applications, these enclosures come in a variety of materials such as plastic, coated steel, carbon steel and 316 stainless steel. These enclosures usually mount on walls and can be secured with locks. Accessories can be installed to provide additional protection against weather.

Mining and industrial enclosures – these enclosures are designed for specific applications, and special equipment. They can be supplied in 316 stainless steel with special finishes to combat corrosion, and come in various form factors according to the equipment to be installed inside. Mining varieties tend to have sloped roofs and sun shield to reduce debris build up, as well as sealing rated IP66 and up. They can be accessorised with shock mounting and thermal management systems.

Hazardous environment enclosures – Ex rated intrinsically safe enclosures for hazardous areas where there is the risk of combusting flammable liquids, dust and gases. These include flame-proof enclosures which protect equipment against fires, and most Ex rated enclosures control flame paths and arcs to manage the risk of ignition.

Enclosure customisation and installation services

While many enclosure vendors provide off-the-shelf units for cost-effective and quick installation, most suppliers have the experience and capabilities to also provide assistance with:

  • Assessing the application needs and advising on suitable enclosures
  • Enclosure installation
  • Enclosure servicing, repairs and replacement
  • Custom-designed enclosures with insulation, IP sealing and thermal management
  • Enclosure cable and user interface management
Be sure to discuss with them about specific application requirements as well as possible future changes to the environment and needs. As ingress protection is an important aspect of enclosures, it is a good idea to ensure your service provider has experience and comprehensive knowledge about the subject, and always ask about the warranty protection period.

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