Choosing the right material for protecting enclosures has become a complicated task with the development of several new materials in the period of the last five decades. The task before electrical panel builders and control designers is to ensure that the material they choose must not only be good for the safety of equipment but also adhere to the performance goals of the product.
Particularly, being exposed to harsh conditions of the environment like water, soot, dust, and dirt can harm the life of the product. It is not enough to just select a sealed box and mount the hardware inside it. Electric panel builders and control designers need to make sure that the enclosure they choose can protect the system against the elements.
Also, they have to evaluate cable management, connectivity from hardware, heat from hardware and clear space needs to ensure optimal performance of the product. Some plastic options include din rail enclosure and plastic housing.
Types of Materials
The first thing to consider is various kinds of materials, which can be used to make enclosures. Knowing this can help you select the materials for enclosures.
This refers to Glass-Reinforced Polyester. It is a composite material derived from compression of glass fibres in an epoxy resin. GRP has the tensile qualities of thin glass fibres. Besides being highly economical and versatile, this material provides a high strength to weight ratio as well as great impact resistance and dimensional stability.
This material is weather proof and non-corrosive. It offers high resistance to UV light, most chemicals like acids, extreme temperatures, air and salt. Thus it is suited for use in aggressive environments. Because the material is non-conductive and provides insulation against electro-magnetic fields, it is considered the best choice for the storage of electronic and electrical equipment like cabinets and enclosures.
Zinc Coated Mild Steel
It is a lower grade of steel compared to stainless steel and has high carbon content. It is susceptible to corrosive elements. To avoid this, mild steel is coated with zinc to resist corrosion. This improves the durability of the enclosure. Zinc plated mild steel can last up to 30 years in most hazardous conditions while ordinary steel can function properly only for 2 years. Zinc coated steel does not need any maintenance and thus saves on cost.
This steel provides strong corrosion and stain resistance because of the protective layer of Chromium Oxide. Thus stainless steel is a popular choice for places with a focus on hygiene like hospitals. It offers a substantial strength to weight advantage compared to other enclosure materials.
Stainless steel has the capacity to resist heat damage, chemical damage and corrosion. It offers a cost advantage over traditional grades of steel.
It is lightweight, easy to modify, and yet, strong enough for enclosures. Such enclosures are easy to mount but scratch easily. Some types have a high copper content. It is vital to consider the copper percentage in the aluminium, which impacts the corrosion properties. It enhances strength and hardness but reduces corrosion resistance.
This material is not suitable for high/ large current main switchboards because of structural strength and cost. But it is good for coastal applications and industrial automation which need some corrosion resistance and strong enclosure. It is costly to measure up for custom sizes and good for the hardware of enclosures of standard size.
These are all some important facts about selecting materials for enclosures.