In my last blog, I gave the first five tips on how to best choose an electronic enclosure for a hazardous environment. As a quick recap, these were
- How harsh is harsh meaning be sure to select a protection level that meets the requirements of your installation and do not over or under protect
- Does the entire project need to be protected or only certain areas or components?
- Does the box need outdoor or UV protection so the proper material is selected
- How will heat dissipation be handled?
- Know the weight of the equipment being installed to insure that it can be secured in the selected electronics enclosure
I should point out that many of the tips above and those to follow are appropriate for non-hazardous locations as well. Let’s proceed with the next five tips for selecting an electronics enclosure for a hazardous location.
VERIFY HOW THE COMPONENTS WILL BE MOUNTED INSIDE YOUR ENCLOSURE
It is often overlooked that one must verify that the desired component mounting approach is available in the selected enclosure. This is especially important in an electronic enclosure that will be used in a hazardous situation. Drilling holes within the enclosure can impact its protection levels if they are not properly sealed. A much easier solution is to verify that the molded-in mounting bosses, for example, align with the mounting provisions of the components. Many components may require din rails for mounting. Ensuring that din rails can be secured within the enclosure is an important step. In larger products such as racks or cabinets, ensuring that the mounting rails will not only support the weight of the components but also can be adjusted as needed for proper fit is critical.
HOW IS THE ELECTRONICS ENCLOSURE ITSELF GOING TO BE MOUNTED
Many enclosures cannot do not sit on a shelf, especially smaller ones, so the approach to mounting the enclosure is important. For example, if the device is to be mounted on a pole such as for traffic monitoring, are there capabilities to so do? Also, does the manufacturer offer pole mounting brackets such as Bud does? If it is to be mounted on equipment, are there external brackets or flanges that facilitate that mounting? Once the enclosure is mounted, will it allow for access for repairs while providing security protection from tampering? For larger cabinets, do you need them to be able to be mounted off the floor on the wall? Does the cabinet come with that type of mounting brackets which won’t impact the required protection? Can they support the necessary weight?
ELECTRONICS ENCLOSURE AESTHETICS ARE ALSO IMPORTANT
Even in an industrial hazardous environment, aesthetics can be very important. An enclosure is still the visual representation of the product and may need to blend or complement its environment. For example, an enclosure that repeats wi-fi through a stadium would be situated in a public place, often under or near the seats and must be able to look appropriate for the stadium location. A submersible box that is used in a fountain should be able to meld with its location and not distract from the beauty of its site. As steps are taken to market the final product, ads and social media posts may be crucial for the final sale. A box that jars the potential customer may limit the appeal of the final product. Just because the location may be more challenging does not mean that customers still don’t value the exterior look of the product.
DON’T FORGET THAT THE PRICE OF YOUR ELECTRONICS ENCLOSURE IS CRITICAL
If only we lived in a world with limitless funds. Selecting an electronic enclosure that meets your budget is often not as easy as it sounds. Many designers are unaware of the difference that materials may make so they will select a stainless steel enclosure thinking that is the best material they can use outdoors and not recognizing that is costs many times what coated steel and especially plastic might cost. Further, even among plastics, pricing can vary greatly depending on the blend and characteristics chosen. Also, one more factor in issue of price is that the greater the aesthetics the more expensive the electronic enclosure is likely to be.
HOW WILL YOU NEED TO MODIFY AN ELECTRONICS ENCLOSURE FOR ITS USE?
Most enclosures need some sort of modification such as the drilling of holes or slots to allow for the proper installation of input and output-related components. These modifications are especially critical for a product used in a harsh environment where improper preparation or work can cause leakage and damage the internal components. Further, when using plastic, for example, careful attention must be paid to everything from drill bit size and speed to the liquids used to cool the bits. Often the choice of the wrong cooling approach can lead to gradual deterioration of the plastic and cracking. We suggest the designer keep the installation and modification needs in mind when not only selecting the enclosure but also the components that will need to be mounted through the box. The best solution is typically to have the enclosure manufacturer perform these modifications as they know the restrictions and parameters needed to insure continued protection.
These ten suggestions will ease the designer’s selection process and ensure that the electronic enclosure that is ultimately selected will provide the best protection for years to come.