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FEATURE CABLING & CABLE MANAGEMENT


Ingress Protection: Buyer beware


While most people believe that they understand Ingress Protection, there are common areas of misunderstanding that can lead to major problems, according to Tim Creedon, sales and marketing director, Flexicon


M


ost people probably assume that by looking at the relevant tables, they


can specify the IP rating they need to ensure protection against dust and water ingress. However, there are some common misunderstandings. For cable protection, ask yourself what


would happen if the Ingress Protection specified was to fail? In today’s interconnected world, both power and data is vital for efficient operation, and in some cases for safety critical operations. For some applications, the level and degree of hazards has increased. Take Flexicon’s weather system, for example, we are seeing a greater risk and occurrence of flooding, and therefore an increased possibility of cabling and/or equipment being immersed under water.


TESTING REALITY Whilst BS EN IEC 60529 specifies a series of tests for Ingress Protection, they are short and are conducted on samples that have been assembled under ideal conditions. Unfortunately, the reality of cable protection may demand installation and operational conditions that are not as ideal as the test. When water or dust ingress might occur, a flexible conduit system may need to bend or be subjected to continuous, or extreme movement, placing extra strain on the conduit. So, it is important to double-check how the flexible conduit system is tested. When testing, a manufacturer may assemble its flexible conduit system with no bend to maximise any claims for IP performance.


24 NOVEMBER 2016 | ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING


BIGGER IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER It is not enough to assume that you can specify the highest test and assume that this will cover all lower levels of IP. The standard states that equipment conforming to IP67 or IP68 cannot be assumed to meet IP66. When you look at each of the tests, you will see that each level is a different type of test with different conditions and environments. In reality, water ingress could come


from a variety of sources including rain, spray, wash-down, steam cleaning, shallow immersion, deep immersion, and capillary action and suction, caused by the rise and fall of temperature. This is why Flexicon declares that its LTP, FPAX and new Flexicon Ultra fittings are IP66, IP67, IP68 and IP69, to show that they meet each of these tests.


OPEN TO INTERPRETATION The point is that each of the tests should inform the specifier about how the equipment will perform when faced by real hazards. One area that deserves closer scrutiny is protecting both cabling and equipment from immersion under water. In practice, there are two tests that deal with immersion. IPx7 is perfectly transparent; it states: “30 minutes at one metre immersion under water.” However, IPx8 is open to interpretation - it states: “Immersion at a depth (pressure) and time stated by the manufacturer, but must be more onerous than IPx7.” This leads to huge discrepancies in performance. One


European manufacturer’s IPx8 test, for example, is at a depth of 1.2 metres under water for one hour. In contrast, Flexicon aims to mimic a worst case scenario. For IPx8, the test is conducted at one metre depth for 72 hours and also to two bar pressure (equivalent of 20 metres depth) for one hour. The flexible conduit and fitting are also bent round into a coil to simulate installations at maximum bend radius. It is also important that the flexible conduit and the fitting have been tested together. The fitting is integral to the system’s IP


performance and different flexible conduits are available to meet the needs of specific applications. Non-metallic conduits, for instance, could be fine or coarse pitch, be manufactured from different materials and could be lightweight, standard weight or heavy weight. You need to check that the fitting works with the type of flexible conduit selected, and maintains its IP performance claims. Modern fittings are designed to work


across different types of conduit. Flexicon Ultra uses integrated sealing technology to guarantee that it will work with all of Flexicon’s range of nylon conduits in both fine and coarse pitch derivatives.


LONG TERM For Ingress Protection, it is best to take a belt and braces approach since the consequences of water or dust ingress could be catastrophic in today’s interconnected world. Talk to the flexible conduit manufacturer on what you require, check what IP claims have been made and then consider if this meets the potential hazards of your installation.


Flexicon www.flexicon.uk.com


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