How water-resistant does a product need to be before your company can call it “waterproof?”
Many industrial and consumer electronics require a more specific metric of waterproofing, and IP ratings gauge the different levels of waterproof and particle-protective capabilities.
IP ratings might look intimidating, but we’ve spent over three decades developing gaskets to fit custom applications at Strouse. We’ll help you break down IP ratings so you know which one to go with.
As you progress, learning the different IP ratings will give you a better idea of what to look for when searching for the right gasketing materials.
What are IP Ratings?
Ingress Protection (IP) ratings demonstrate how well an enclosure seals out particles and moisture. As the IP rating increases in number, so does its sealing capability.
IP ratings were invented by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) to grade resistance against dust and liquids in consumer and industrial electronics. They highlight the specific abilities of a seal to withstand dust, dripping, splashing, spraying, immersion, or hot water, while likewise demonstrating inabilities.
HOW DO I READ AN IP RATING?
Most confusion surrounding IP ratings originates from its code: the letters “IP,” followed by two digits.
The first number demonstrates a seal's protection against dirt and other contaminants. A low score indicates little protection against particles, while the highest score (6) represents full particle sealing capabilities.
In contrast, the second number indicates the ability to seal out moisture. Lower numbers demonstrate little protection against moisture, while the highest rating (9) means total protection from high temperature, high pressure jets of water from multiple directions, and total immersion underwater.
Note: For the first and second digits, getting an IP rating of 0 means no protection against dust or water, and an X means the tests are incomplete or irrelevant to the final product.
The initial letters “IP” could vary depending on the country you’re in, but the meaning of the numbers will remain relatively constant. However, one exception you should know is that the depth and length of immersion in an IP67 versus an IP68 object may depend on your location or company.
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF IP RATINGS?
IP ratings depend entirely on the object's purpose and the user's needs. For instance, your outdoor appliances might only need to withstand rain, but the seal for a waterproof camera must endure total submersion. IP ratings can define the large gap between mild and heavy-duty waterproofing.
Suppose you were designing a waterproof phone: what IP rating would you aim for?
According to Xfinity, an IP68 phone like the Galaxy S9 can be certified water-resistant because it can last in water up to 30 meters deep for half an hour, while the iPhone X is rated IP67 and can survive in 1-meter deep water for the same amount of time.
Yet, because neither rating is guaranteed to survive pressurized water, both phones suffer the possibility of underwater leakage. Waterproof phones have small gaskets around essential openings such as the charging hole, but these gaskets will inevitably wear down over time and lose any remaining water resistance.
WHAT IS MY IP RATING?
Even if you go into the design and manufacturing process with an idea of your desired IP rating, you’ll still have to test the actual component before it can be considered accurate.
Your IP rating depends on the sealing capabilities of your gasket, which you can determine through testing. IP testing consists of conducting experiments to expose the product to dust and water.
If you’ve reviewed the IP ratings and are still unsure what yours should be, try researching the IP rating of similar products for a frame of reference.
How Do IP Ratings Affect My Gasket?
The IP rating itself has little significance on production, but if you’re looking to meet a certain standard, you’ll need to inform your converter about the application before selecting materials. Otherwise, you’ll risk making expensive changes later in the manufacturing process.
For instance, will this gasket be submerged in water, or are you simply guarding outdoor electronics against light rain and humidity?
Certain materials will lend themselves to one application over another, and building seals depends on budget and usage rather than using the most specialized, strongest waterproofing material for every application.
Building a Strong IP Rating
IP ratings are the result of the entire project after production has already taken place. Therefore, building a strong IP rating is about keeping your design, material, and manufacturer aligned.
If you’re looking for a particular IP rating, you’ll want to pay attention to your material and the construction of your design.
Material selection is a primary component of gasket functionality, so you’ll want to ensure you choose the right gasket material to create the most effective seal.
Additionally, as you research gasket regulations, you’ll also want to understand the cost of custom gaskets to determine how much of your budget goes into material to meet your IP rating.
As long as you’re keeping your manufacturer informed about the application and your choices in material and design, you’ll have a far higher chance of effectively creating gaskets that can guarantee your ideal IP rating.