Industrial enclosures for computers, printers, and electronics come in a variety of colors, sizes, and materials. When searching for the best fitting enclosure for a specific environment, it is paramount to consider what material the enclosure will be fabricated out of and how it will perform under severe conditions. A buyer or end user should also analyze the enclosure’s NEMA rating because it will determine if the enclosure can withstand harsh circumstances, such as dust, dirt, grease, oil, hose directed fluids and corrosive materials.
3 Strong and Reliable Materials
Heavy-duty mild steel (low carbon steel) is commonly used for NEMA 12 and NEMA 4 computer, printer, and rack mount enclosures. The website, Fractory, describes the versatility of mild steel, “Due to its excellent properties, mild steel has become an in-demand material in various industries. It has unparalleled weldability and machinability, which has led to an exponential increase in its usage…. It is the most common type of metal used around us.” Most mild steel enclosures are produced from hot or cold rolled steel. Mild steel enclosures can be deployed both indoors and outdoors but will not withstand corrosive environments. A powder coated finish will improve the overall durability and longevity of an enclosure constructed out of mild steel.
Stainless steel computer, monitor, and printer enclosures are popular for corrosive industrial environments (pharmaceutical, food, and beverage industry). Type 304 stainless steel is the industry standard for NEMA 4X enclosures. However, Type 316 stainless steel may be desirable for its higher grade, which includes 10% nickel. Nickel provides increased corrosion resistance to chlorides and other commonly used harsh chemicals in washdown atmospheres. Super Steel Fabrication, out of Eugene, Oregon, breaks down the real advantage of stainless steel, “Stainless steel is a low carbon steel that must have a minimum of 10% chromium. The addition of chromium to the steel causes the formation of a chromium-oxide film which gives stainless steel its unique properties such as its resistance to corrosion and its ability to heal itself when in the presence of oxygen.” The one downside — stainless steel can cost upwards of 2-3 times as much as mild steel enclosures.
A non-metallic material is commonly used in junction boxes or electrical style enclosures. These enclosures are easily modified on job sites and weigh far less than carbon/mild and stainless steel enclosures. Non-metallic enclosures made of fiberglass are commonly used in various sectors of industry. According to Structural Fiberglass, Inc. in Bedford, Pennsylvania, fiberglass has many advantages, including: high impact strength, non-conducive, low maintenance, easy to assemble, corrosion resistant, chemical resistant, and fire resistant. It is often a more cost-effective solution compared to stainless steel enclosures in corrosive environments.
When deciding what enclosure will work best in a specific environment, one other important consideration is weight. Depending on the application, a lightweight enclosure may be preferable when mounting to a pole, ceiling, or wall. For example, an object that weighs around 2 pounds when made of aluminum can weigh 6.5 pounds if fabricated from steel.
The overall material of the enclosure should be one of the first factors to consider when finding a new enclosure solution. There are many design factors that arise when determining the type of enclosure material that is best for a project.
Once the enclosure material is decided upon, everything else should fall into place.
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