The sun gives us the very basis of life on Earth. But, as anyone who’s ever gotten a bad sunburn can attest, there’s no doubt that the UV radiation in sunlight can be harmful in excessive amounts. Prolonged sunlight exposure is capable of damaging materials (such as paint, fabric or even hard polymer plastics) as it is organic matter. That also means that UV resistant plastic enclosures are a must-have for protecting sensitive electrical and electronic devices.
You’ll find UV resistant plastic enclosures deployed everywhere from outdoor security systems to the agriculture industry—anywhere that constant sunlight is a potential threat to an electronic device’s safety and integrity. Polycase’s outdoor enclosures made from UV resistant polycarbonate are a particularly durable and cost-effective solution, but before you buy, take a minute to learn about the fundamentals of UV resistant plastic.
How does UV radiation threaten electronic devices and electronics enclosures? Furthermore, what makes UV resistant plastic able to stand up to prolonged sunlight, and what options are available for UV resistant enclosures? Today, we’ll explore all of these topics in Polycase TechTalk.
First, let’s establish the basics of how UV radiation can damage a sensitive electronic device. Put simply, UV radiation is electromagnetic energy that is a higher frequency than visible light, but lower frequency than X-ray radiation. UV radiation can be produced by artificial means such as UV lamps, but in nature, it’s produced by sunlight. When you’re outside, UV radiation burns your skin just a little bit (to create a tan) or a lot (to create a sunburn).
UV light is not visible to the human eye, but it can damage many different materials, including everything from human skin to polymer plastics. The Earth’s atmosphere blocks the majority of UV radiation, but enough still gets through that it’s important to protect both organic matter (like your skin) and non-organic matter (like device components and electronics enclosures) from its harmful effects.
How does UV radiation inflict its damage onto various materials? UV rays have the ability to disrupt and damage the molecular chains in a material, breaking apart the molecules and destroying their structural integrity. When the molecules break apart, they produce highly reactive atoms with unpaired electrons known as free radicals. This process is called photodegradation, and it’s a major concern for plastic materials that must spend a lot of time outside.
You’ve probably heard about free radicals in the human body created by damage from radiation, smoking or other harmful factors. Free radicals are dangerous to plastics for similar reasons. Their unpaired electrons pair with all kinds of other atoms, creating unpredictable and often damaging reactions.
In the case of polymer plastics, it’s all about atoms and atom groups called chromophores. These molecules are responsible for giving plastics their colors, but the way they interact with light also makes them vulnerable to damage from UV radiation. The free radicals created by the degradation of the chromophore begin to wreak havoc on the molecular structure of the plastic.
Plastics that are undergoing photodegradation will begin to crack, discolor and lose their strength and flexibility. This can spell disaster for the sensitive components of electronic devices, many of which are made from plastic. Even an electronics enclosure itself can begin to degrade after spending enough time in direct sunlight, in turn making the components within more vulnerable as well.
Several types of plastics are either inherently resistant to UV radiation or can be chemically customized to provide UV protection. Materials such as acrylic are good for lighter applications that won’t get much physical stress, but for more demanding applications, UV stabilized polycarbonate provides an ideal balance of extreme durability and performance with affordable pricing.
UV resistant polycarbonate plastic is the preferred material for outdoor enclosures that will be exposed to prolonged sunlight. It’s one of the only materials designed and manufactured specifically for resistance to UV radiation, and it can provide better protection for the electronics enclosures used to shield sensitive devices.
Many polymer plastics, such as the polycarbonate used to mold weatherproof enclosures, can be customized by introducing additives into their mixture before they are heated and formed. In the case of UV stabilized polycarbonate, special UV resistant polymer stabilizers are added to the polymer blend during mixing to absorb UV radiation and prevent the reactions that create free radicals.
These polymer stabilizers can belong to any of several different types of UV resistant materials, including UV quenchers, UV absorbers and hindered amine light stabilizers (HALS). Polycarbonate enclosures, such as the outdoor enclosures offered by Polycase, use a blend of UV resistant additives to mitigate the effects of UV radiation and provide optimal material stability. These compounds interfere with the breakdown of chromophores and prevent the reactions that lead to cracking and discoloration of polycarbonate.
When these polymer blends are injection molded into their final forms, the ensuing product has much greater resistance to damage from UV radiation. Device designers and manufacturers can place their confidence in these UV stabilized enclosures, knowing that they’re designed to provide the best protection available against UV damage.
UV resistant polycarbonate has a wide variety of uses, including safety windows and personal protective equipment for outdoor workers. Electrical and electronics enclosures are another common use case for UV stabilized polycarbonate.
Does your enclosure need UV stabilized plastic? Consider these factors:
Some of the applications in which UV stabilized plastic enclosures are commonly used include:
If your application requires UV stabilization, there’s good news. Polycase offers high performance UV resistant plastic enclosures at affordable prices and with great features.
Electronics designers and builders will find that Polycase has outstanding options for UV stabilized plastic enclosures. Our most popular UV stabilized models include:
Polycase also offers custom CNC machining and digital printing for our UV stabilized polycarbonate enclosures. We’ve created a one-stop shop for our customers that makes it easy to get UV resistant plastic enclosures customized to your exact specifications, with a fast turnaround time and at a reasonable price.
More questions about how our UV resistant plastic enclosures stand up to sunlight? We’re happy to help. Just call us at 1-800-248-1233 or contact us online to learn more.