The main role of any enclosure is simply to protect electronic equipment from the elements in plants and factories. For this reason, any good enclosure is made out of stainless steel because it is both strong and resistant to the elements.
Most enclosures these days aren’t made out of mild steel because it would have to be painted to resist rusting from washdown procedures, and the paint wears off and needs to be replaced as well. Stainless steel is always the best options because you can get it wet and never have to worry about rusting. However, just because a company promotes stainless steel doesn’t mean that they have the best handling practices with it.
A lot of people don’t realize that good stainless steel can become “contaminated” or mixed with other steels if they come into contact.
Basically, when you machine and polish mild steel, it tends to flake off and stay on whatever machines or tools you are working with. If you use those same machines to work with stainless, you could inadvertently push those flakes into the stainless steel with enough pressure. When mild steel impregnates stainless steel this way, it is nearly impossible to detect. Because of this, poorly-handled enclosures might be spotted with small areas of rust here and there, where the flakes are embedded.
There are many precautions that we take to avoid this happening with our enclosures and most of our other products as well. We make sure that any other metals are entirely separated from our stainless steel starting with incoming raw material until we actually have shipped the final products.
When being shipped in and out, the stainless steel sheets we use are usually covered in protective plastic to keep it from scratching up against any other metal. We make sure not to use the same machines or tools for each type of metal.
Without this sort of attention to detail, we wouldn’t be able to provide people with enclosures that can stand up to some of the harshest environments. If you have heavy washdown cycles in your plant, they would make a great addition.
Learn more about Stainless Steel Printer Enclosures
When it comes to looking for equipment that is wash down rated, you should probably draw the line when it comes to most labeling applications.
The main exception to the above statement might be jet spray applications designed to place limited amounts of information directly onto products, such as date information. Some companies say they have met NEMA 4X standards for that, but that is quite different from applying labels to the top or bottom of products. It is also completely different from weigh-price labeling and from applying fixed weight labels to boxes, as well as net weight labeling of boxes, cases, and combos.
We are frequently asked if that kind of labeling equipment can be washdown rated. Here are three reasons for why it is not and likely won’t be in the near future:
- The state of print engines
- Label dispensing mechanisms
- The lack of direct food contact
When we design labeling systems for our customers, whether manual or automatic, we can accommodate print engine brand preferences. The print engines that are the most popular by overwhelming percentages do not offer washdown options. Each of the major brands that supply print engines require customers to keep them away from water spray because water would corrode the components and would interfere with the clarity of the printing process.
The next item to consider is the mechanism that dispenses the labels. It is obvious that you need to keep your label stock dry. But, consider this as well: if there is an opening large enough for a label to get out, then there is an opening large enough for water to get in. Keeping label stock dry would represent a gigantic research and development investment for a washdown labeling system. That brings us to an even larger point about the lack of R & D that could lead to a washdown rated labeling system.
In order to have a NEMA-4X labeling system, everything from the control panel, to the electronics, to the label stock housing, to the print engines, to the label dispenser, would have to be able to prevent water ingress or function while wet. Since there is no direct food contact on any of those components or the overall system, there is no incentive for companies to commit the massive amounts of money that would be required. The solution is simple. If you need to label in a wash down environment, make sure you can enclose, cover, or move the labeling system. We have helped many customers do all three and achieved amazing results.
When building a quality enclosure to keep equipment safe from a plant environment, there are a lot of little details that get passed over by many companies. We have seen a lot of enclosures fail to do their job in certain conditions thanks to a few issues. Overwhelmingly, the best way to keep a seal doing its job is to divert or eliminate a direct stream of high pressure water from ever reaching the seal. We do this with our uniquely shaped rain-gutter and door design. This design removes the ability of a “direct shot” aim at the seal itself.
Another problem that might not be evident with an enclosure is the quality of its seal when the door is closed. With any enclosure worth its salt, there will be some sort of rubber or foam gasket around the edges to make sure that the enclosure has an appropriate seal. Most enclosures have something like this, but the gasket alone does not make the enclosure impervious to water.
With any sort of seal, you are going to need some sort of positive pressure to make sure that the door and the seal are fitting tightly enough. This is often done using some sort of locking handles. For example, we use cam-locking T-handles that lock the door in place, but they also pull the door inward from tabs in the door for positive pressure.
Even then, there are a handful of companies that use these sorts of handles and locking methods. We go the extra step by adding extra locking handles around the door. At the edge of the door, the cam locks will add a good amount of positive pressure on the seal, but the distribution of that pressure might not be ideal. This means that the door could be sealed very tightly by the edge and not as much the closer you get to the hinges.
By having multiple T-handle locks around the door, you distribute pressure more evenly around the door for a much better seal. This is especially necessary for enclosures with large doors as the door has to cover a much larger area so the pressure needs to be distributed over a larger gasket.
Enclosures all seem rather similar on the outside, but there are little things that count when picking an enclosure. Attention to detail is key in protecting against hazardous conditions for your vulnerable electronics.
Making a NEMA-4X rated enclosure might seem like an easy task to some. Most people assume that an enclosure should be impervious to moisture as long as it has a good sealant on the door, but that isn’t always enough to keep your equipment safe.
When we make enclosures, we make sure to use a durable, non-porous rubber sealant to keep airborne moisture out, but this is only really the first step in making a good enclosure. A bigger problem in modern day industrial facilities is the impact of high pressure water when equipment is being washed.
If the sealant has nothing to protect it, high pressure water can be pushed through cracks or actually damage the sealant if the washdown is done carelessly.
The second step in waterproofing an enclosure to survive in a washdown environment is some sort of protection for the sealant. For this, we use “rain gutters” where the enclosure contacts the door. These gutters are basically a curved lip that runs around the edge of the enclosure opening.
The purpose of the rain gutters is primarily to redirect incoming water away from the seal. When water hits the rain gutters, it hits the curved lip and is redirected in the opposite direction because of the angle of the lip. This takes a majority of the pressure away from the seal so that it can focus on keeping airborne moisture or particulates out.
The rain gutters and sealant are an important combination, but the last essential piece is a proper door latch. The seal doesn’t mean much without something to hold it in contact with the enclosure. To do this, you need a door latch that both keeps the door shut and applies pressure. The door latch we use turns to lock in place and the latch squeezes the door down as it enters the closed position.
These three parts function as a whole to make some of the best watertight enclosures you can find, and as long as you respect the enclosure when it comes to cleaning and maintenance, they should last a long time.
See our NEMA-4X Enclosures
Over the past 15 years we have seen and continue to see plants exposing their high dollar controllers to all of the elements within the plant.
Key pieces of equipment on the floor break down due to corrosion, moisture, damage and dropping of the high dollar equipment.
With the use of NEMA-4X stainless steel enclosures mounted on stainless steel stands or a stainless steel cart with castors, you can protect your valuable on floor equipment from all of the elements within the plant.
Enclosures can be made to meet the needs of your equipment. You can incorporate a window in the door, a pull out tray, heaters and/or coolers depending on the application needed.
Mount this enclosure on a stainless steel angle stand or removable cart and you are now providing protection to your valuable equipment. The stands and carts can be made to fit your exact application.
There is also the misconception that stands and carts with an enclosure are unaffordable.
This is not true, most of today’s on floor electronic equipment are expensive pieces of equipment, what would protection for that unit be worth?
What would it be worth to have less down time?
What is it worth to know that when you lock the enclosure down that no washdown person is going to flood the piece?
What is it worth to be able to remove that piece from the floor?
These questions and more can be answered by requesting pricing on a cart, stand or enclosure for your valuable controllers, pricing equipment, computers, printers and/or any other valuable on floor units you may have.