As our electronic devices continue to develop at a rapid pace, design engineers have a unique problem on their hands—namely, the interference of high-frequency waves and signals produced by the vast amount of electronics in the world.
Electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) pose a serious risk to electronic devices in every industry. Without proper protection, your equipment can potentially suffer from malfunctions and fail altogether.
Fortunately, there are electrical enclosures available that offer cost-effective shielding solutions. In this post, we’ll explain what RFI shielding is and why shielding an electronics enclosure might be an essential part of your prototyping process for developing durable electronic devices.
All electronics generate electromagnetic waves which can potentially interrupt the performance of another electronic product and result in equipment failure. These interferences can be caused by two circuits inside a single product, or externally from another product.
These disturbances are caused by electrical noise interferences known as EMI and RFI. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they have two different meanings. EMI refers to any frequency of electrical noise, while RFI is the term used to describe electrical noise in the radio frequency spectrum.
Design engineers must take care to ensure that their device doesn’t emit signals and that it meets various EMI-RFI shielding standards. If reducing RFI through design isn’t possible, engineers can use an RFI shielded enclosure as an effective solution.
RFI shielding can be applied to electronic enclosures internally in the form of a spray. This coating spray is often applied to plastic enclosures to reduce the effects of interference.
Another form of RFI shielding can be brushed on the exterior of the enclosure to eliminate interference. This shielding agent typically consists of pure elements such as silver, copper and nickel to reflect electromagnetic radiation.
Finally, one more of the many shielding materials available is copper wire mesh. Manufacturers often use this knitted wire mesh material to shield wires inside enclosures from RF interference. Sometimes manufacturers use soldering to attach the mesh, while other times it's secured using a conductive adhesive.
Thanks to these adaptable conductive shielding solutions, it’s possible to use plastic enclosures for electronics even when you need RFI-EMI shielding.
Enclosures manufactured from a highly conductive material such as silver, aluminum, steel or copper are most ideal for EMI-RFI shielding, as they provide a natural barrier. Aluminum enclosures, and steel enclosures are very common options when looking for the ultimate protection against RFI (or EMI) as they offer indoor and outdoor options as well as a higher heat tolerance.
Shielding spray on plastic enclosures can be used to enhance the electromagnetic compatibility of electronics. These shielded coatings reflect the interfering radiation and provide protection for your electronic products.
When properly prepared using coatings and other RFI shielding techniques, plastic enclosures for electronic devices can still be an effective choice for applications that require EMI-RFI shielding. Polycarbonate enclosures and ABS enclosures are highly versatile for customization or sizing, and available in a large range of special configurations such as enclosures with battery compartments and snap-together PCB enclosures.
The last thing anyone wants is to have their electronics malfunction or stop working when they’re most needed. However, some industries require RFI (or EMI) shielding more than others.
For example, EMI-RFI shielded enclosures play a critical role in the medical industry. Without proper shielding, medical devices can potentially malfunction due to interference and negatively impact the well-being of patients.
Similarly, electromagnetic waves can interfere with cell phones and communications for first responders. This could have devastating consequences for victims of disaster. Likewise, the aerospace industry often needs to use enclosures with RFI shielding materials to protect critical communications equipment.
Still, EMI-RFI shielding is needed across all industries. Whether it’s your bottom line at stake or something more important, a shielded enclosure can prevent electronic equipment failure and keep operations running at peak performance.
All electronics emit some small amount of signal, but some electronics don’t require a strong layer of protection. Key fob cases, for example, are usually made without RF shielding to allow the fob’s RF signals to transmit freely. On the other hand, some applications require significant protection against EMI-RFI and designers must take care to choose a high-quality enclosure with reliable protection.
Although shielding can be applied after the design of a product, it is generally more cost-effective for engineers to design shielding into the product in the beginning of the design process. It is also important to note that enclosures with apertures can use specialized gasketing made from durable elastomers to improve shielding effectiveness.
With the increase of electronics in recent years, reliable EMI-RFI shielding has become more important than ever. To protect your equipment from potential interference, it’s critical to consider an EMI-RFI shielded enclosure which can reliably house your sensitive electronics.
Our metal electronic enclosures protect your devices from RF interference and other types of high-frequency electromagnetic interference (EMI)