Understanding IP Ratings: What They Mean and Why They Matter

Dice with IP ratings

When selecting the right machinery for your packaging needs, you might come across something called an IP rating. An IP rating lets you know how well an electronic component of machinery is protected from the entry foreign objects. This is important because this could let you know whether or not an expensive piece of equipment is suitable or not.

What Is An IP Rating?

An IP rating is a shortened version of ingress protection rating, but it may be referred to as international protection rating. This is a system created by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to determine the level of protection an electrical component has against solid or liquid intrusion.

How to Understand an IP Rating

An IP rating usually has four characters with the first two simply being “IP”. The third character would be a number and it represents the protection against solid objects, from fingers to dust particles. The fourth character represents the protection against water or liquids.

The IEC extended the IP rating system to include supplementary characters. These would be optional letters that give supplementary information like protection against low pressure.

The rating levels of protection for solids are:

  • 0: No protection
  • 1: Protection against a solid objects greater than 50mm in diameter (like a hand)
  • 2: Protection against a solid objects greater than 12.5mm in diameter (like a finger)
  • 3: Protection against a solid objects greater 2.5mm (like a wire)
  • 4: Protection against a solid objects greater than 1mm (like a thin strap)
  • 5: Protection against dust particles that can cause significant harm
  • 6: Protection that is completely dust tight

The rating levels of protection for liquids are:

  • 0: No protection
  • 1: Protection against water drops
  • 2: Protection against water drops at 15-degree angle
  • 3: Protection against water sprayed at a 60-degree angle
  • 4: Protection against splashing water
  • 5: Protection against water jets
  • 6: Protection against pressure water jets and high seas
  • 6k: Protection against high-pressure water jets
  • 7: Protection against temporary immersion in water
  • 8: Protection against permanent  immersion in water
  • 9k: Protection against powerful high-temperature water jets

The special supplementary letters used in IP ratings are:

  • A: Back of a hand
  • B: Finger
  • C: Tool
  • D: Wire
  • F: Oil resistant
  • H: High-voltage device
  • M: Device is in motion
  • S: Device is standing still
  • W: Weather conditions

For example, you might be wondering what is an IP66 rating? This is an IP rating that says an electrical enclosure is dust-resistant and has some water resistance.

What Is a Waterproof IP Rating?

Waterproofing and IP rating can be tricky for some since IP ratings are a scale. Generally, IP65, IP66 or IP67 would be considered waterproof, but IP44 is not a waterproof rating. An IP44 rating would be considered splash proof.

Why Are IP Ratings Important?

In manufacturing, you are working with machines that need to meet very strict guidelines for safety and health. You need to make sure machines can be cleaned to accommodate heath regulations. Additionally, if someone purchases machinery, they need to know if the machinery can accommodate the manufacturing environment for their products.

If you package milk powder, then you are likely working in a dusty environment. This means that the packaging equipment used must have an IP rating that is dust-resistant and won’t allow small particles to hamper the function and efficiency of machines.

Food packaging machines will also need to follow strong washdown procedures to ensure the highest hygienic standards for the industry. This means high-pressure water jets may be used and electrical enclosures may be immersed. A high IP rating is absolutely essential in these environments.

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