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All You Need to Know About Stainless Steel Enclosures

Electrical systems play a significant role in all automated systems. For processes to run smoothly, you need to protect both workers and sensitive components from potential electrical hazards. Stainless steel enclosures do a fantastic job of improving workplace safety.

Where are Stainless Steel Enclosures Used?

Most industrial settings operate under extreme conditions. Some might require high standards of cleanliness, while others might be required to withstand very high or low temperatures. Stainless steel enclosures protect sensitive electrical equipment from being exposed to such intensity. Some of the most popular settings for these enclosures are:

  • Food, beverage and packaging industries
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Pharmaceutical firms
  • Seafood processing companies
  • Waste and water treatment facilities
  • Desalination plants and other facilities in saline environments

Stainless steel can easily be fabricated depending on the custom demands of any industry.

Stainless Steel Grades

Stainless steel is a steel alloy that consists of at least 10.5% chromium. To a layperson it might sound like one type of metal, but it comes in over 50 variations. The two most common grades are:

304 Stainless Steel

It’s widely used in industrial processes. It gives excellent value for money because of its heavy-duty and affordable nature. This makes it a favorite with design engineers. 304 stainless steel contains 18% chromium and a nickel level of 8%. Although it doesn’t corrode under most conditions, it doesn’t fare very well in high saline environments.

One feature of this grade is the ability to bend without compromising its strength. Some of its most popular applications are in hospitals, transportation, kitchen appliances, and industrial waste treatment facilities.

316 Stainless Steel

This is higher grade stainless steel. It contains chromium (16%), nickel (10%) and molybdenum (2%). Due to its higher resistance to corrosion, it’s a good choice for applications involving chemicals or located in saline environments.

Both grade 304 and 316 are capable of making dependable stainless steel enclosures. The exact choice will depend on the specific application you need it for. Grade 304 is currently the most commonly used in industrial applications.

While deciding on which grade to use for manufacturing stainless steel enclosures, the following guidelines are considered: corrosion resistance, heat tolerance, strength, ease of fabrication, and affordability.

Although stainless steel is generally priced higher than other metals, you should consider its long term value. Overall, it offers better value for money because of its durability and low maintenance costs.

Advantages of Stainless Steel Enclosures

There are many benefits to using stainless steel enclosures, including:

Corrosion Resistance

Stainless steel’s most significant advantage is its ability to protect industrial equipment against rain, heat, and other weather elements. When it comes in contact with oxygen a layer of chromium oxide forms, which prevents corrosion. It also repairs the surface if it gets scratched or slightly damaged.

Easy to Sanitize

Stainless steel equipment is very popular with hospitals and food and beverage industries. Due to its non-porous surface, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms cannot easily penetrate. This also makes it easier to clean stainless steel enclosures.

Easy to Fabricate

Its versatile nature means it can be forged into any shape, depending on your needs. Because it can be bent without losing strength, it’s also easy to modify.

Resistance to Extreme Temperatures

High temperatures are an essential aspect of most industrial processes. Electrical components inside the enclosure produce heat, so it should be able to protect against internal and external heat.

Strength

Stainless steel has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. This makes it an excellent choice for enclosures.

Environmentally Friendly

It might come as a surprise that stainless steel is 100% recyclable. Even at the end of its long life, the metal is usually still in good condition. This means it can be easily re-fabricated into another product. You will rarely find stainless steel products in landfills.

Aesthetically Pleasing

Stainless steel enclosures seamlessly fit into any design considerations you might have. Although their main strength lies in their resistance to extreme conditions, they’re also easy on the eye.

Various design aspects determine the kind of stainless steel enclosures available in the market. The most important design specifications consider functionality first. Other considerations are:

Enclosure Height, Width, and Depth

These depend on whether the enclosure will be placed indoors or outdoors, and the kind of components it will protect.

Mount Type

It ensures the enclosure is installed in a way that makes it accessible for maintenance while maintaining performance standards.

NEMA Rating

It tells you exactly what kind of elements the enclosure is meant to protect against. These include dust, falling dirt, non-corrosive liquids, and gases.

Environment Rating

This tells you whether the stainless steel enclosure is meant for indoor or outdoor use.

Door, Latch, and Lock Type

It could be one or two-door enclosure. The latching is meant to make sure it’s properly sealed and only accessible to authorized personnel.

Steel Composition

The ideal material ensures a beautiful finish while preventing corrosion and harmful UV rays.

Proper ventilation

Makes sure components held in the enclosure maintain their durability.

Grounding

Prevents equipment and personnel from being adversely affected by electric shocks.

Design specifications are based on UL, NEMA, and IEC standards. Underwriter Laboratories (UL) is an independent safety certification organization. It has tested products and set safety standards for over 100 years. NEMA is based in America, but it promotes electrical standards worldwide. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) publishes global standards for electrical, electronic, and associated technology.

Of the three bodies, UL is the one that enforces standards through testing and inspections.

Why NEMA Ratings Matter

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has standards for testing for corrosion, icing, and other environmental conditions. Stainless steel enclosures should meet NEMA 1, 2, 4, 4X, 12, and 13 requirements.

NEMA 1

It covers enclosures meant for indoor use. This is designed to prevent solid objects from interfering with the sensitive electrical components in the enclosure.

NEMA 2

Other than solid objects, these ratings protect against the entry of falling water into indoor enclosures.

NEMA 3R

It protects from water, rain, dirt, dripping water, or snow, and it has a drainage provision for high humidity conditions.

NEMA 4

This rating covers both indoor and outdoor use. It’s meant to protect against hose-directed water, ice, windblown dust, rain, and other elements.

NEMA 4X

Ensures indoor and outdoor stainless steel enclosures are protected from corrosion, hose-directed water, as well as elements covered under NEMA 4.

NEMA 12

Protects indoor enclosures from the effects of external objects, as well as non-corrosive liquids.

NEMA 13

For indoor enclosures. This rating protects against external solids and oil. It also prevents non-corrosive coolants from breaching the enclosure.

There are many other NEMA ratings, depending on the type of elements you’re seeking to protect against. These include NEMA 3, 3S, 3X, 3RX, 3SX, 5, 6, 6P, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12K.

Final Thoughts

Are you looking for high-quality stainless steel enclosures? West Tool Enclosures is the authority on all aspects of electrical enclosures. Our convenient enclosure quoting application lets you build a virtual version of your product, after which we’ll tell you how much it costs. That way, we deliver exactly what you asked for.

With close to three decades of experience in the electronics industry, we’re more than qualified to build any size enclosure. We can also customize it to meet any design specification. Our experts are always ready to guide you through any regulatory or industry requirements you might not be familiar with. Contact us today for more information.