Does Your Product Have An “IP” Rating? Ingress Protection testing involves verifying the level of protection from ingress the product enclosure provides against solid objects and/or water. In the case of solid object ingress, the product’s IP rating identifies the size of the object from which the enclosure provides protection, with the highest ratings indicating dust protection. For ingress against water, the product’s IP rating identifies the degree of exposure to water - from a light rain, to highly jetted water, to immersion at varying depths. Examples of IP ratings include IP55, IP64, and IP67. The first number represents the protection level against solid objects and the second number represents the level of protection against water. For additional information on IP ratings, see whitepaper #1.
Repeatable & Reliable Testing: A common term used often with respect to certification testing is “repeatable & reliable” = is the testing performed repeatable and are the results reliable?
IP Type Testing: “Type Testing” by definition is the testing performed on a product to verify compliance with the test standard. When type testing is performed, it is often conducted on only one test sample. That is the case with most IP type testing = IP type testing is usually performed on a single test sample, and it’s usually a new test sample to ensure that the enclosure integrity remains as designed and has not been compromised by opening/closing the enclosure for other testing.
IP Test Sample: Because type testing is usually done on the initial design of a product, IP testing is frequently performed on a working prototype or pre-production unit = one that has not been subjected to any other use, misuse, or extensive handling. Is that wise?
IP Rating Reliability: All this leads to the topic of this whitepaper:
Controlling Product Construction: To have a consistent IP rating, we want to control the aspects of the product design that provides the ingress protection. For most safety testing, a US-UL or CAN-CSA certification report does a very good job of controlling the construction in a manner such that the product will continue to comply with the standard. However, that may not be the case with design elements that provide ingress protection.
Ingress protection design can be a very fickle process of test, modify, and retest. In some cases the critical features related to ingress protection are obvious. In other cases, there are many variables that contribute to keeping dust and moisture out. Adhesives and manual assembly are two variables that can be difficult to control without additional measures to verify compliance. Gasket thickness and retaining a consistent pressure along the length of a gasket are things that can become increasingly more difficult to consistently control the larger the product/gasket/seal. Some manufacturers have resorted to production IP testing to ensure that ingress protection integrity is maintained – especially for products that are anticipated to be regularly subjected to dust and moisture by the user.
IP Rating Considerations: It is important that all product manufacturers remain cognizant that their product safety certifications are not an insurance policy, and they certainly do not ensure that your product will live up to the warranty claims. It therefore behooves all product manufacturers to consider if they need to do anything extra to ensure that the products they sell do not fail in the field, during normal use, due to ingress of dust or water.
Insuring IP Rating Repeatability & Reliability: There are a few things that manufacturers can do to help ensure that their IP ratings are repeatable and reliable:
Conclusion: There is a lot more to IP testing that many product manufacturers are aware. Assuming that the initial type testing on the product is enough can be a very bad assumption to make. There are several companies who have had extremely large and damaging warranty return problems due to widespread IP failures. In most of those cases, they only tested 1 sample, a brand new sample, and never considered additional conditioning/testing before and during production to protect against warranty claims and damage to company reputation.
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