Finding the right electronics enclosure for an outdoor environment means weighing and accounting for a variety of factors. Selecting the best one for your needs can seem like a frustratingly complex process, particularly with the many options available on the market.
Polycase strives to make it easy for you. We have the widest variety of high-quality enclosures, at the best prices, with the best value-added services available. From NEMA and IP ratings to enclosure materials to custom cutouts and printing, our step-by-step guide will take you through the many choices and options available from Polycase. We’ll explore the range of what Polycase has to offer, and we think you’ll see for yourself why we’re an industry leader in custom enclosure solutions.
You can get started on your selection process for an outdoor NEMA enclosure by considering what conditions your device enclosure needs to withstand. Some of the most common hazards encountered by outdoor electronics include:
Once you’ve got a working idea of what hazards your electronic devices will potentially need to withstand, you can begin to narrow down your choices for an enclosure. Fortunately, there are some industry standards that you can use to easily understand what a certain enclosure will protect against.
Once you’ve identified the challenges your enclosure will need to withstand, it’s time to look at what ratings it will need. NEMA and IP ratings are industry standards for protective enclosures, and they’ll be some of your most important tools for selecting the right one.
NEMA ratings are the most common rating system for enclosures in the U.S. (IP is a roughly equivalent international standard.) The ratings don’t go strictly in ascending order, so don’t make the mistake of simply choosing the highest numerically rated because you think it provides the best protection. NEMA 12-rated enclosures, for example, are largely not recommended for outdoor enclosures because they actually offer a less stringent standard of protection than the NEMA 3-, 4- and 6-rating series.
The most common NEMA ratings for outdoor enclosures include:
Ingress Protection, or IP ratings, as previously mentioned, are an international rating system similar to NEMA ratings. While you can’t always correlate one rating directly with the other, you can make rough equivalencies using a conversion chart. If your application requires protection from special circumstances such as heavy impacts or open flames, you may need to look into other ratings such as IK impact ratings and UL flame ratings.
It’s also important to understand the difference between NEMA/IP ratings and UL ratings. NEMA has been established by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association as a voluntary standard, and the organization does not provide testing or validation. A UL rating, on the other hand, indicates that the enclosure has undergone a stringent series of tests from Underwriters’ Laboratories, an independent safety science authority.
Underwriters’ Laboratories uses the same rating scale and standards as NEMA. So, while a NEMA rating can still be a good indicator of how an enclosure will perform, it won’t necessarily tell you how much testing the enclosure has undergone. For the best-documented performance guarantee, a UL rating will provide you with the most peace of mind. At Polycase, we offer UL testing wherever possible, as well as additional UL flame ratings on many enclosures.
Polycase’s selection of outdoor enclosures includes a variety of manufacturing materials. We offer enclosures in five different material types: steel, stainless steel, aluminum, polycarbonate and ABS. Each has its own advantages that make it good for particular types of outdoor environments. (The exception to this is ABS, which we generally recommend only for indoor use.)
Which one is suited for your application needs? To help you find out, we’ve provided a quick breakdown of the advantages and caution points of each material type:
Take some time to weigh the pros and cons of each material, and check out our Tech Talk blog for more tips on material selection and choosing the right enclosure. Once you’ve decided on a material, it’s time to focus back in on conceptualizing your device as a whole.
Depending on your device applications, your enclosure may need additional features to achieve the performance you require. You might need to control airflow, attach an equipment cable to your enclosure or add an antenna for WiFi transmission.
Some of these common features our customers add to their enclosures include:
We offer cable glands, enclosures with knockout plates and much more. And while Polycase does not provide options such as antennas and cooling units, we can make it much faster and easier to add them. If you decide that your enclosure will need add-on features, consider our value-added services: customized CNC machining and custom digital printing.
When you’re designing an electronic device, you’ve got enough to deal with without having to reach out for quotes to machine shops and printers. That’s why we’re proud to offer a variety of enclosure customization services including custom printing and CNC machining. Polycase is committed to providing exceptional customer value at every turn, and we leverage our manufacturing infrastructure to introduce value-added services in a way that’s exceptionally convenient and cost-effective.
We offer these services as part of our complete end-to-end enclosure solutions:
Thanks to our state-of-the-art equipment, our processes produce almost no scrap, allowing us to pass the savings on to our customers. We can also offer exceptionally fast turnaround times (from one to three weeks) and assistance from our friendly staff of expert engineers. Our status as both a manufacturer and distributor enables us to offer superior convenience and value on these services. We have the capability to take an enclosure straight from production into the finishing stages of machining and printing for a fully integrated enclosure solution.
If you need customized features on your enclosure, your first step is to provide us with a drawing or design of what you want. We accept nearly all commonly used formats of drawings and designs for both our printing and our machining services. (You can view our list for machining here and our list for printing here.)
Once you’ve armed yourself with the right information, you can start considering which specific models of Polycase enclosures could be right for you. Start by using our handy product categories list and explore our bounty of options from there! You’ll find all of the superior materials and options we’ve discussed. From stainless steel to polycarbonate, Polycase provides the best selection of high-quality enclosures, all ready to be customized and shipped directly to your facility.
Outdoor electronic enclosures protect some of the most important equipment that powers our world, from junction boxes to communications equipment and beyond. It’s vital that electronics professionals choose the right enclosures to protect these devices, and Polycase is proud to provide true all-in-one solutions.
Do you or your team have more questions about making the right selection for an outdoor electrical enclosure? We’re here to help! Call us at 1-800-248-1233 or get a quote in minutes using our easy online quote generator. Polycase is looking forward to helping you create the outdoor electronic devices of the future.