What's an IP rating, and why does it matter when choosing packaging equipment?
What do the words "water-resistant" or "dust-proof" mean to you?
Manufacturers of everything from cameras to packaging equipment use descriptive terms like these to market their products.
But confusion can arise when my definition of "water-resistant" differs from yours. To create conformity, Ingress Protection ratings (IP Ratings) were developed by the European Committee for Electro Technical Standardization (IEC 60529).
What is an IP Rating?
An IP Rating represents the level of protection provided by an enclosure against the intrusion of solid objects and liquids. An IP Rating usually has two numbers: The first number represents the level of protection from solid materials and the second number represents the level of protection from liquids. A third number representing protection against mechanical objects can be included but is commonly omitted.
Protection against solids
The first digit of an IP Rating describes the object's protection against solids, with 0 offering no protection and 6 offering the most protection.
Protection against liquids
The second digit of an IP rating describes the level of protection against liquids, with 0 offering no protection and 8 offering the most protection.
Why is an IP Rating important?
When a manufacturer desires an IP Rating for their product, they must have it tested by an independent and certified company. That company assigns a numerical IP Rating to the product to signify how well the item protects against intrusion of solids and liquids.
Having a certified IP Rating means manufacturers can confidently make product claims about the level of protection their product provides. It legitimizes the item, offering assurance to the customer that they can determine if a product meets their needs.
Additionally, a user of IP Rated equipment is fully aware of its protective measures (or lack of), so they can work more safely, with less risk of injury to themselves or damage to the equipment.
IP Rating reference chart
Below is an easy reference chart that can help you determine which IP rating is best for your needs:
|First number||Protects against||Second number||Protects against|
|0||No solid object protection||0||No liquid protection|
|1||Solid objects over 50mm (ex. hand)||1||Vertically falling water drops|
|2||Solid objects over 12mm (ex. fingers)||2||Direct sprays up to 15 degrees from the vertical|
|3||Solid objects over 2.5mm (ex. screwdriver)||3||Direct sprays up to 60 degrees from vertical|
|4||Solid objects over 1mm (ex. wires)||4||Sprays from all directions (limited ingress permitted)|
|5||Dust (limited ingress, not sufficient to cause harm)||5||Low-pressure jets of water from all directions|
|6||Dust-tight||6||Strong jets of water (limited ingress permitted)|
|7||Effects of temporary immersion between 15cm and 1m for 30 minutes|
|8||Long periods of immersion under pressure; duration determined by manufacturer|
What kinds of IP Ratings are found on packaging equipment?
On most packaging machines, electrical and pneumatic enclosures are IP Rated. These can be circuit boxes, cabinets, or any other enclosed structure that protects internal electrical and pneumatic components. These components can malfunction or even fail when exposed to solid objects or liquids.
For example, packaging machines require an electrical cabinet to house all the electronic components required to power and operate the packaging machine. These cabinets will often have one of the following IP Ratings:
- IP65: Dust-tight and protected against low-pressure water jets
- IP66: Dust-tight and protected against strong jets of water
- IP67: Dust-tight and protected against temporary, limited depth and duration immersion in water
- IP68: Dust-tight and protected against complete immersion in water
The type of IP Rating necessary for packaging equipment enclosures will be determined after the machine manufacturer carefully evaluates your packaging environment, the properties of the product you are packaging, and what your cleaning procedures are.
Why is an IP Rating important when choosing packaging equipment?
When it comes to choosing the right packaging machine for your needs, the IP Rating of an enclosure is extremely important, especially in the food industry.
Consider a dusty packaging environment for products like snacks or coffee. Particulates created when the product is in motion can wreak havoc on exposed electrical and pneumatic components on packaging machinery. Dust control options can help with decreasing the amount of particulate in the air, but dust will still be able to penetrate improperly sealed enclosures. A solid IP rating of 5 - 6 should be considered for dusty applications. For this type of environment, waterproof enclosures are not as vital, so the liquid IP rating does not have to be as high.
Protection from liquids like water and cleaning solutions is vitally important in many food packaging applications. Many packaging machines for food products like cheese, meat, or sticky candy will need to be cleaned regularly, and the packaging machinery must be rated to withstand whatever washdown process is required. For wet environments, a liquid IP rating of 5 - 8 should be considered. For this type of environment, the solid IP rating is not as important and does not have to be as high.
Both dusty and wet environments
If the packaging environment is both dusty and necessitates harsh washdown procedures, a total IP rating of 55 - 68 should be considered for a packaging machine. This covers environments in which dust protection is required as well as protection from water jets, up to environments in which enclosures must be dust-proof as well as able to withstand immersion in water.
Nail down the specs for your next packaging machine
When considering a packaging machine purchase, nailing down the specifications for ingress protection and washdown requirements is a key part of planning. Don't forget a single detail! Download our free Packaging Equipment Project Planning worksheet to get started:
Originally published 5/25/2016, updated 5/3/2018 and 10/24/2019.