In Depth Guide to IP Ratings
IP ratings are given to any product that requires electricity or has moving parts or both. The IP rating contains a range of information within it, with each letter and number possessing its own meaning, and each refers to its ability to withstand the elements during "use". This is very important for some products in some applications. But not in all.
For many consumer products and industrial equipment types, encasements or enclosures that protect internal electrical parts and machinery are another consideration for their overall quality rating.
Specifically, electrical enclosures are rated using their own standard, known as the IP rating.
The IP rating contains a range of letters and numbers within it, with each letter and number possessing its own meaning listed below. You will be able to decipher what conditions a piece of equipment or object can withstand and what it cannot, how it has been tested, and whether it is reliable in dusty or moist environments. You will also learn if your person is safe from accidental contact with potentially hazardous equipment.
This powerful combination of letters and numbers are applied everywhere, from the laptop or phone you're reading off to the equipment that built your home. They are even applied to components within components such as actuators — the devices that help create movement powered by water, air or electricity.
Those devices — actuators — are found in even more items and equipment around you and the industries you work within than you could ever initially think.
If you're responsible for using actuators, understanding the IP rating is crucial in ensuring you select the appropriate actuator for an effective and efficient output, whether for a TV stand, Car trunk opener or yacht hatch lift.
This article will break down what the IP rating is, how to understand it, its comparison to alternate ratings, its applications, its relevance to actuators and the different testing methods. It also goes through common terms like "weatherproofing", "water-resistant" and "waterproof".
Read on for more.
What Is an IP rating?
The "IP" in IP rating stands for Ingress Protection. The letters IP are then followed by two numbers, such as IP67 or IP59k, etc.
The IP rating is a "standard" as defined by the international standard EN 60529, British BS EN 60529:1992 and European IEC 60509:1989 that indicates "degrees of protection provided by enclosures of electrical equipment." This protection refers to personal protection against accessing hazardous parts in the enclosure and protection of parts within the enclosure against the ingression (entry) of solid foreign objects and moisture.
The standard determines the protection level for a range of enclosures, including plastic packaging, iPhone cases and linear actuators. And the four to five alphanumeric combinations provide a great deal of information about the sealing effectiveness of those items.
How the IP number is broken down
Each number that follows "IP" has a specific meaning. The first digit indicates the protection from moving parts or solids like dust, tools, or debris. The number range is from 0 to 6, offering the least to most protection, respectively.
The second digit is indicative of the protection level from moisture/liquid, like spray, drips or full water submersion. This number ranges from 0 to 9k, symbolizing the least to most protection, respectively.
Sometimes IP numbers will contain an additional letter or X for missing or additional protection information. More about that later.
How do you get an IP rating?
Manufacturers cannot apply an IP number to their items without getting their goods tested first. An outside independent and certified company carries out this testing.
It is not necessary, however, to IP test all items. Ultimately, there is a cost to having products tested, which could inflate the base price of your item.
Why would you get an IP rating for your products?
An IP rating allows manufacturers to make claims about their products' protection information backed up by an independent and credible third party.
This assurance can go far for the consumer to trust the product or item and sway them to choose you as a supplier.
It also disentangles ambiguous or vague assertions like "dust-resistant" or "waterproof," which can be deployed as marketing language as the IP rating tells you exactly what level of protection or "proofing" you can expect.
In addition, informing the user of a product via the IP rating can be a helpful safety measure as it provides them with information about possible foreign intrusions, which in some cases can prevent damage to equipment or personal injury.
The IP Rating Table
So what does each number in the IP rating mean?
Here is the breakdown.
First digit - Solid particle protection
The first digit, as mentioned, indicates the level of protection against solids or moving parts, ranging 0-6.
0 - No special protection
1 - Protection from large body parts, e.g., a hand, unless deliberately accessed, and solids bigger than 50mm in diameter.
2 - Protection from fingers or solids up to 80mm long and 12mm in diameter.
3 - Protection from tools, wires, or objects larger than 2.5mm in diameter.
4 - Protection against 1mm wide solid objects, such as wires, nails, screws, larger insects or other items.
5 - Partial protection against dust, which may be harmful to equipment.
6 - Ful resistance to dust and other small particulates.
Second digit - Liquid ingress protection
The second digit defines the level of protection against liquid or moisture in the following way:
0 - No protection.
1 - Protection against dripping water onto item when mounted upright on a turntable and rotated at 1 rep per minute.
2 - Protection against vertically dripping water when the item is tilted at 15 degrees from its normal position.
3 - Protection against water spray at any angle up to 60 degrees from vertical, whether that spray is oscillating or has a counterbalanced shield.
4 - Protection against splashing water from any direction, from an oscillating fixture or one with a spray nozzle with no shield.
5 - Protection from water jets when water is projected by a 6.3 mm nozzles onto the enclosure from any direction.
6 - Protection from powerful water jets, i.e., with a 12.5 mm nozzle, projecting water from any direction.
6K - Protection from powerful water jets with increased pressure using a 6.3mm nozzle, projecting water from any direction or elevated pressure.
7 - Protection from ingress of water in an immersion of up to 1m depth.
8 - Protection from ingress of water when immersed depths are higher than 1m of water.
9k - Protection from powerful high-temperature water jets, at close range and at high temperatures.
From time to time, an X may be present in place of either the first or second digit, which means the information is not available, has not been supplied or has not been tested, e.g., IPX4 or IP5X.
Occasionally, manufacturers test for additional protection information, although this information is commonly omitted.
Some letters you may see include:
A - Back of hand
B - Finger
C - Tool
D - Wire
F - Oil resistant
H - High voltage device
M - Device monitoring during water test
S - Device standing still during water test
W - Weather conditions
Understanding IP Numbers and Additional Letters
So, now you know what each IP number means, what does this translate to in practice? What are the acceptable and common IP rating manufacturers adopt?
Typical IP ratings depend on the type of enclosure and purpose. Take the lightbulb market. IP44 is considered an adequate rating for lightbulbs as it provides personal protection and protection from water splashing, necessary for anything powered by electricity. However, you're unlikely and shouldn't hang one over your bathtub to risk water emersion.
That's not to say a higher rating like IP65 is not better for safety against dust particles and greater moisture protection.
Some enclosures, even electrical ones, need a wash down of sorts and to withstand this, look for an IP rating ending in 6: protection against direct high-pressure water jets, commonly, IP56 or IP66.
Those additional letters
Remember, occasionally, manufacturers add more letters to denote other protections. Let's elaborate.
The following letters are used to signal the protection of personnel against access to hazardous parts with body parts or tools as below:
A - Back of hand
B - Finger
C - Tool
D - Wire
Then there are letters that indicate additional information about what protection the item offers:
F - "Oil resistant" denotes a special type of fluid resistance and is usually applied in the case of rubber, which absorbs oil causing swelling and this can affect performance with regards its intended function. Oil resistant often means partial resistance and some absorption is still likely but with minimal impact on performance.
H - "High voltage device" indicates it could withstand voltage surges of over 50 kV. High voltage cables are a prime example of where you will find this rating.
M - "Device monitoring during water testing" means the device's functionality is monitored while being submerged or otherwise tested with water and is found to work still. Actuators commonly adopt this additional letter in their ratings.
S - "Device standing still during water test" indicates no movement during the test and could be found on various types of switches.
W - "Weather conditions" is an additional letter useful for indicating weatherproof items. Like waterproofing, weatherproofing is a commonly sought feature in products. It could be denoted by W, as items with lower IP ratings can also be weatherproof, if it offers protection against vertically dropping rain or spray or light wind that can blow debris onto an item.
While additional letters are rarely used in the broader field of IP ratings, they will from time to time be included, particularly in the case of actuators, which operate in all manner of environments including outdoor and water-based environments. They also involve movement and possibly high voltages, in the case of electricity-powered actuators, so these additional letter are a useful reference point.
Multiple and Alternative Ratings
Something to be aware of is the occurrence of multiple IP ratings or a different set of standards instead of an IP rating. There's no reason to feel confused, here's what is happening.
Multiple IP ratings
If you buy a cellular device and see two ratings, e.g., IP55/IP57, the thing to note is that the liquid ingress test for 6 does not apply and has not been proven to withstand powerful water jets, including at increased pressure. However, it has survived being immersed in water.
A singular IP rating implies all other tests have been passed up to and including that level.
The NEMA rating
There are actually two ratings in manufacturing when it comes to appraising the protection level of enclosures, the other being the NEMA rating.
The difference with the NEMA rating is that is uses alternative tests and parameters to define the enclosure and the NEMA 250 standard references these definitions.
NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association — a trade association for US-based electrical equipment manufacturers, which serves as an advocacy group and sets standards.
It has published over 600 such standards, including regarding electrical connections. The most familiar standard is probably the design standard of North America's two and three-pin plugs.
NEMA rating breakdown
The following is a breakdown of the NEMA rating and their possible IP equivalent:
1 [IP10] - Equipment enclosures for indoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with the equipment and protects the equipment against falling dirt.
2 [IP11] - Equipment enclosures for indoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with the equipment and protects the equipment to a degree from falling dirt, dripping and light splashing of liquids.
3 [IP54] - Equipment enclosures for indoor and outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with the enclosed equipment and protects the equipment, to a degree from falling dirt, rain, sleet, snow, and windblown dust and remains undamaged after ice formation on its exterior.
3R [IP14] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects equipment from falling dirt, rain, sleet, and snow, withstanding damage from ice formation on its exterior.
3S [IP54 ] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects equipment from falling dirt, rain, sleet, snow and windblown dust and withstands sustaining damage from ice formation on enclosure exteriors.
4 [IP66] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects equipment from falling dirt, rain, sleet, snow, windblown dust, splashing water, and hose-directed water and withstands sustaining damage from ice formation on enclosure exteriors.
4X [IP66] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects equipment from falling dirt, rain, sleet, snow, windblown dust, splashing water, hose-directed water and corrosion and withstands sustaining damage from ice formation on enclosure exteriors.
5 [IP52] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects equipment from falling dirt, settling airborne dust, lint, fibers, and flying particulates with some protection from dripping and light splashing of liquids.
6 [IP67] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects, to a degree, equipment from falling dirt, hose-directed water, and water ingression while submerged in water of limited depth and withstands sustaining damage from ice formation on enclosure exteriors.
6P [IP67] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects, to a degree, equipment from falling dirt, hose-directed water and from water ingression after prolonged submersion in water at a limited depth and withstands sustaining damage from ice formation on enclosure exteriors.
12 and 12K [IP52 ] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects, to a degree, equipment from falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, flying particulates, and dripping and light splashing of liquids.
13 [IP54] - Equipment enclosures for indoor or outdoor use provides some protection to personnel against incidental contact with equipment and protects, to a degree, equipment from falling dirt, circulating dust, lint, fibers, flying particulates, spraying, splashing, and seepage of water, oil, and noncorrosive coolants.
Mechanical impact classification
In some ways, considering the mechanical impact classification is a moot point because while it used to be included in the IP number, it now stands as a separate code beginning with IK.
Still, it's worth noting the standard should you see it alongside the IP rating:
[Read: IK number - Impact Energy (Joules) - Impact equivalent to]
00 - Unprotected - No test
01 - 0.15 - 200g dropped through 7.5cm space
02 - 0.2 - 200g dropped through 10cm space
03 - 0.35 - 200g dropped through 17.5cm space
04 - 0.5 - 200g dropped through 25cm space
05 - 0.7 - 200g dropped through 35cm space
06 - 1 - 500g dropped through 20cm space
07 - 2 - 500g dropped through 40cm space
08 - 5 - 1.7kg dropped through 29.5cm space
09 - 10 - 5kg dropped through 20cm space
10 - 20 - 5kg dropped through 40cm space
Acceptable and common IP ratings also vary by application. You might see the claim that an item is waterproof or water-resistant. But which level of protection is waterproof, and is this the same as being water-resistant?
Is it waterproof or water-resistant?
Generally, anything between IP65 to IP67 is commonly referred to as waterproof, which means it can at the least withstand water splashing and at most be immersed in water for some time.
Anything between IPX1-4 offers some form of water resistance.
IP67 ratings are often used in the connectivity market, so it has full protection against small particulates like dust and sand and can withstand being dropped in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes.
Maximum protection benefits
When would you ever need an IP69k rating for maximum dust and water protection at high temperatures?
These high ratings are generally required when the equipment requires heavy wash downs and where sanitization of equipment is important.
Prime examples of where this may occur include the food processing industries where water, chemicals and high pressure could deliver a detrimental combination to electrical equipment.
IP67 is also a decent rating for swimming goggles. It allows full immersion in water for a limited period of time and will remain dust and particle-free, which is important for visibility.
For diving, however, immersion for longer periods of time means that IP67 swimming goggles won't cut it or if you want to take underwater pictures, smartphones with a casing that is typically IP67 or IP68 should be left on land. Instead, IP69k is best for deep and high-pressured environments typical for these activities.
Manufacturers for all types of electrical devices need an IP rating to assure whoever is procuring them that their enclosure can offer adequate protection. Of course, that necessary protection differs depending on the purpose of the enclosure.
There are, however, some broad conclusions one can draw on the appropriate IP rating for actuators.
What are Linear actuators?
A linear actuator is a device that helps it achieve mobility by converting electrical, air or hydraulic energy into a mechanical force.
Actuators are used in applications that are used to make something move/lift/slide/drop, and basically create movement. Its this application that drives your need for certain IP ratings of an Actuator.
Actuators could quite easily be found in dusty environments, generated from any number of materials, whether textile, paper, or general manufacturing activity.
Actuators by design can still perform well in this environment, including rod-style and rod-less linear actuators. In addition, further design features like wipers and pressure ports can enhance the protection level against dust ingression on machinery.
Actuator IP ratings for dusty environments?
In the factory environment, indoor, a minimum IP rating of IP54 is appropriate so it is nearly dust-tight and can provide protection against splashing water.
Of course, the dustier the environment, the higher that numerical first digit should be. For instance, if there is woodwork taking place or in outdoor and possibly windy conditions. The outdoor environment should provide further protection from liquid ingressions, such as high powered jet spray in case of heavy rain.
Many actuators can be found around water and may project water onto other machinery or items. Even when the actuator is not fully immersed in liquid, it can still receive water vapor from any spray its projects, so it needs a level of protection from liquid according to the context and environment it is in.
Actuator IP ratings for liquid environments?
Actuators with a rating of IP65 would be sufficient for a minimal vapor contact but for actuators that carry water projectile devices.
Some actuators like those that move items could end up in the pathway of water projectile and spray. In that case, an IP66 or IP67 rating is appropriate.
In other cases, actuators could be found in equipment where frequent washdowns occur, particularly in food-handling environments where sanitation and cleanliness are of paramount importance. In that case, you are looking for the highest IP68 and IP69k ratings to prevent contact with aggressive chemicals causing ingressions to internal mechanical components.
Water Resistant Testing
The adverse effects of water on electrical items can include a deterioration in operability, if not complete non-operability. It can also cause corrosion, fogging, shock and fire hazards. In the case of items like goggles, there may be a reduction in visibility, and in machinery, lubricant effectiveness.
There are a number of products out there that consequently need to prove water-resistance protection at the least, if not full waterproofing.
Some common products that are marketed for being water-resistant include standard electronic devices like radios, laptops, phones and tablets. Automotive components must also withstand rain and washdowns, while clothing and accessories like gloves, bags and coats can benefit from varying degrees of water resistance.
Likewise, dust can cause jamming in electrical equipment and excessive dust can cause irreparable damage.
Typical dust resistance tests
Dust-resistant tests for higher IP ratings of IP5X/IP6X take place, by example, through chambers within which a dust-air mixture is circulated. The conditions in this chamber can be from ambient to high temperature — up to 100 degrees Celsius — and at high pressure.
These chambers will typically have a small opening, around 80 mm, to allow cables and hoses to connect to the test items.
Typical water resistance tests
As mentioned, a water-resistant quality suggests a material makes it difficult for water to penetrate it, but that does not mean it is completely impervious to water.
Water resistance can be reflected from IPX1 to IPX4, which indicates an item can withstand dripping water (IPX1, IPX2) or rain (IPX3, IPX4).
A typical water resistance test may involve a dripping water testing stand where water drips from a box containing nozzles around 0.4 mm in diameter. Testing can involve still standing items as well as those on tilting tables and oscillating tables.
Testing stands for protection against rain tend to include water propelling from a spray head with an oscillating movement at various ranges. The test object may also be rotated.
Waterproof ratings require more rigorous testing against water ingressions, including against high-powered water jets and total immersion, which can afford items, products and components the higher IP ratings — IPX7, IPX8, IPX9k.
Typical products that must pass an immersion test include scuba diving gear, specific clothing like Goretex jackets and industrial equipment used for a rugged activity like mining. Military equipment must also undergo rigorous immersion testing.
IPX7 immersion test example
An item rated IPX7 must withstand being immersed in up to 1 meter of water, with any ingression of water proving not to cause any harm to the product. Test details may vary in temperature, salinity, chemical addition or time immersed, but a typical timeframe is 30 minutes for this protection level.
IPX8 immersion test example
To achieve an IPX8 rating the item must prove to be able to withstand being immersed in water over 1 meter deep. Equipment designed for waterproofing tends to be sealed airtight, but that doesn't necessarily mean water might not seep through. However, the immersion test should also determine whether any seepage causes harmful effects.
Why immersion testing is important
While some equipment must be waterproof as a matter of functionality, waterproofing is an added feature for other items such as cell phones or cameras.
A waterproof stamp backed up by an IP rating is a powerful marketing tool that gives manufacturers a competitive edge and has pushed more manufacturers in different fields to push the envelope by designing more waterproof enclosures.
In conclusion, getting to grips with the IP rating is one thing. However, the key is to appreciate the IP rating you should adopt for any particular item or piece of equipment before jumping in and going for the highest rating. After all, a higher degree of protection is great, but you could be missing out on other benefits if you are holding out for a higher IP rating where one isn't necessary, and of course, there is a cost implication to doing so.
To get to grips with the IP rating you need, you must appreciate the context the item is being used. Factors to consider are how much dust or moving solids and water are present, how vulnerable the item or equipment is, the potential harm to it if exposed to these elements, and the potential harm to you should you incidentally make contact with it.
Also, remember that some companies will market their goods waterproof when it is a value-add rather than a necessity for your usability.
The IP rating is particularly important for actuators, but this is where there is also an especially high degree of variability.
Determine what your actuator is used for, whether it will be immersed in water or surrounded by flying wood, for example.
Therefore, determining what IP rating you need is your starting point to choosing a product and not something you necessarily need the manufacturer to guide you towards.
For further information on FIRGELLI® Linear Actuator please visit our main website here.