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Testing Times for Industrial Enclosures

16 May 2021

TESTING AN industrial enclosure to recognised standards ensures that the enclosure specified will do the job in real world conditions. For product development or bespoke enclosures, though, testing can delay projects unless a fast turnaround – that still meets exacting standards – can be achieved. Chris Lloyd explains the benefits of in-house testing for enclosure specifiers.

Whether an industrial enclosure is protecting a fire safety circuit or maintaining production at a factory, its structural integrity is of paramount importance. Assurance that an enclosure can meet required performance comes down to testing. The most significant organisations that govern and issue standards for industrial enclosure safety and conformance are VDE and UL.

The German VDE organisation (combined with DIN, the German Institute for Standardisation) issues the German edition of the European standards. These are referenced as DIN EN. For its part, UL is an American-based safety standard that certifies products as being compliant to US standards with cUL covering Canadian testing. VDE and UL marking not only signifies a durable and reliable enclosure, but also means worldwide standards recognition.

All reputable industrial vendors attain internationally recognised standards for safety and conformance. However, we’re virtually unique among enclosure manufacturers by dint of hosting our own in-house approved test facility that’s authorised to certify enclosures to UL and VDE/DIN EN standards. To ensure that full compliance is maintained, the in-house testing laboratory is audited by both organisations on an annual basis.

Testing and certification

The in-house lab tests and certifies enclosures for all industrial ratings required for the most demanding of applications, from electrical insulation through to standards assuring protection against ingress, impact and temperature. Specific tests, such as fireproofing for the Lifeline WKE enclosures, are also carried out in-house.

While confirming that high levels of enclosure protection and safety are achieved, the advantage of the on-site VDE and UL-certified test laboratory is the speed of new product development that’s engendered. New products are created on a near continual cycle and very frequently based on specific customer requirements to meet the needs of a particular application.

Whether the new product is an update to an existing enclosure model, such as a new size or a housing with alternative pre-assembled fixtures, or a brand new model that delivers a new solution to a customer challenge, all enclosure variants have to be tested.

Sending the enclosures away for testing takes time. For the customer, this can mean a typical minimum wait of anything from several weeks up to several months for completion of the approval process, depending on the type of test. The benefit of in-house testing means that a new enclosure can be quickly brought to market to meet the project deadline, instead of having to specify a less suitable, but nonetheless available housing.

Tailor-made enclosures

For customers that require tailor-made enclosures, the need for a faster testing and approval process is even more important. Our combined knowledge of enclosure manufacture and testing means a bespoke design that will satisfy test requirements, meaning a greater likelihood of achieving certification at the first time of asking.

Together with the faster approval process provided by on-site testing and certification, this achieves a much quicker time to market. For high volume OEMs, this can make or break a commercial success by ensuring that a ‘market first’ is achieved. Likewise, for one-off, high value projects, quick delivery of the enclosure can mean the timely introduction or a delay of the whole project.

Of course, in-house testing also means a lower product price, whether for standard products or bespoke designs, as investment in the facility and high product throughput enables us to pass on the cost saving. Even if timescale isn’t a critical factor, the next time that you specify an enclosure, checking that the manufacturer provides on-site testing can help in reducing the project cost.

Chris Lloyd is Managing Director at Spelsberg UK