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From Dusty to Durable: How Do You Choose the Right Outdoor Enclosure for The Aggregates Industry

Control and automation equipment is everywhere, even if you don’t see it. In the aggregates industry that control and automation equipment often needs to be outside, so you need to use an outdoor enclosure that will suit the application you work in.

An outdoor enclosure needs to be durable, because it has to deal with so many different factors, not least the weather, and extremes of temperature in both summer and winter. If enclosures are placed in a public space then the inquisitive nature of people means they can become susceptible to vandalism, whilst at the same time the enclosure needs to protect the unsuspecting public from the electrical equipment they house inside. It needs to be fit for purpose for the application.

Outdoor Enclosures In The Aggregates Industry

Of course, the environment in the aggregates industry can be extremely harsh which piles extra pressure on your outdoor enclosures;

  • The enclosure must deal with the dusty environment
  • It needs to maintain its IP rating whilst sat outside in the sun and rain

Using an enclosure that has the relevant IP rating is essential but beware, opting for a completely dust tight enclosure could be futile if you're opening the enclosure for maintenance, or if your cable glands are fitted incorrectly. It would be wise to manage expectations on this. If the equipment inside is easily affected by ANY dust, then that equipment probably needs to be housed elsewhere, or in an enclosure that sits within a nearby building.

Enclosures With Dust Protection

Most equipment can withstand an amount of dust but manage your expectations; ensure the cable glands are fitted correctly and open the enclosure as little as possible.

Using an IP5X enclosure offers dust protection that is sufficient as to not interfere with the safe operation of the equipment. IP6X offers 'dust tight' protection but, as mentioned, if you open the enclosure doors then dust will inevitably enter, regardless of the IP rating. A higher IP rating can also mean unnecessary costs, longer lead times or even bespoke builds.

Is Stainless Steel The Best Material?

When working in any harsh environment, materials are an important consideration. Enclosures used within the aggregates industry will no doubt take a knock during their life and stainless steel is generally the 'go to' material because of this, leaving aluminium and plastic overlooked! It is often assumed that they are not strong enough for the tough environments they need to work in, but that is far from the truth.

Generally, stainless steel enclosures are single skinned and offer an impact rating of IK08, but did you know you can get double skinned aluminium and GRP enclosures? Not only do they offer higher impact ratings than stainless steel (IK09 and IK10) but with double skinned enclosures, if the outer skin is damaged it is possible that only the external skin will need to be replaced, rather than having to remove the full enclosure from service, causing downtime.

The impact rating for aluminium is higher due to the flexibility of the material; it will flex as opposed to cracking as easily as other steels. GRP (glass reinforced plastic) has a fibre within the material that gives it a higher degree of protection and is both fire and chemical resistant, making it ideal for demanding
industrial sites.

But Won't The Enclosure Rust?

There's a general misconception that stainless steel doesn't rust, however in the wrong environment it can, and will rust. Once rust is apparent on the surface, unless treated, it will spread. Eventually part, or all, of the material can disintegrate. Of course, this doesn't bode well for equipment that is fitted inside the enclosure.

Whilst untreated aluminium can also be affected by corrosion, when exposed to the elements, it doesn't act like stainless steel. When untreated aluminium comes into contact with oxygen and water, it forms a thin coat of aluminium oxide that chemically bonds itself to the surface of the metal. Unlike rust, this oxidisation appears as a white power on the surface of the enclosure, and does not start to flake, and will stay intact on the surface unless removed. It can also regenerate if oxygen is present, creating a protective layer over and over. This reactive nature can actually be seen as a great asset to the material, providing a little extra layer of protection for the equipment side.

So Many Factors To Consider - How Do I Choose?

There are several factors you need to consider when placing enclosures outdoors, especially in harsh aggregates environments. Look at the available options and think about what will be housed inside your enclosure. Rittal offer a vast range of enclosures suitable for indoor and outdoor use. We know choosing the right enclosure may seem like a daunting task, but we are here to help! Our LC Automation engineers are trained Rittal experts, on hand to advise you on any enclosure queries you might have. Contact us today on 01254 685900 and get your local Field Sales Engineer down to your site for some face-to-face advise.

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