Ingress Protection and 3D Printing: How to Design IP Rated Parts

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3D printed mold making process

Ingress Protection: 3D Printing IP Rated Parts

Learn about IP ratings, what they mean and how to design for them. 

When designing enclosures for electronic devices or other products, it is important to consider the environment in which the product will be used. In many cases, the product may be exposed to dust, water, or other elements that could potentially damage the internal components. To ensure that the product can withstand these conditions and continue to function properly, it is important to design the enclosure with IP ratings in mind.

IP ratings, or Ingress Protection ratings, quantify how resilient a product is to intrusions such as dust and water. By designing an enclosure to meet a specific IP rating, you can ensure that the product will be able to withstand exposure to these elements and continue to function properly.

In this article, we will discuss what IP ratings are and how they work. We will also provide best practices for designing enclosures to meet specific IP ratings and discuss common challenges and pitfalls to avoid. By following these guidelines, you can design enclosures that are able to withstand exposure to dust and water and ensure that your product continues to function properly in a variety of environments.


Understanding IP Ratings

IP ratings, or Ingress Protection ratings, are a standardized system for quantifying how resilient a product is to intrusions such as dust and water. The rating consists of the letters IP followed by two digits. The first digit indicates the level of protection against solid foreign objects, while the second digit defines the protection against various forms of moisture.

For example, an IP rating of IP65 means that the product is completely protected against dust (the first digit is 6) and is protected against water projected from a nozzle (the second digit is 5). This means that the product can withstand exposure to dust and water spray without sustaining damage.

IP ratings are defined by the international standard IEC 60529. This standard provides detailed explanations of each level of protection and specifies the tests that must be performed to verify that a product meets a specific IP rating.

It is important to note that IP ratings only provide information about a product’s protection against dust and water. They do not provide information about other factors such as impact resistance or chemical resistance. Additionally, IP ratings do not guarantee that a product will be completely waterproof or dustproof in all situations. Instead, they provide a standardized way to compare the level of protection provided by different products.

3D printed master pattern

How IP ratings work


Best Practices for Designing Enclosures for IP Ratings

When designing enclosures to meet specific IP ratings, there are several best practices that you can follow to ensure that your product is able to withstand exposure to dust and water. These include:

Choosing the right materials: The materials used to construct the enclosure can have a significant impact on its ability to withstand exposure to dust and water. For example, some materials may be more resistant to water absorption or corrosion than others. Be sure to choose materials that are appropriate for the desired IP rating.

Ensure proper sealing: To prevent dust and water from entering the enclosure, it is important to ensure that all seams and openings are properly sealed. This can be achieved through the use of gaskets, sealants, or other sealing methods. Be sure to choose a sealing method that is appropriate for the desired IP rating.

Choose appropriate fasteners: The fasteners used to secure the enclosure can also impact its ability to withstand exposure to dust and water. Be sure to choose fasteners that are appropriate for the desired IP rating and that will not corrode or degrade over time.

Test and verify the enclosure’s IP rating: Once the enclosure has been designed and constructed, it is important to test and verify its IP rating. This can be done by performing the tests specified in the IEC 60529 standard. By verifying the enclosure’s IP rating, you can ensure that it meets the desired level of protection against dust and water.

By following these best practices, you can design enclosures that are able to meet specific IP ratings and provide protection against dust and water.

3D printed master mold

Gaskets are used to seal between two mating surfaces


Designing 3D printed parts for IP ratings

Most people don’t think of 3D printed parts when designing to meet IP ratings, but there are a variety of 3D printed materials and processes that can be used to produce watertight parts. 

Due to the nature of the technology, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) parts are not usually watertight right off the printer, since there are small gaps between the extruded layers of material, but it is possible to increase the number of perimeters (between 4 and 6) to improve watertightness. Using a higher print temperature can also help by increasing layer adhesion, closing gaps. In terms of post processing, FDM parts can be vapor smoothed, which is a process that involves bathing the parts in a solvent vapor, causing the material to soften and flow together, closing all gaps and producing a smooth glossy surface finish.

Parts made with Stereolithography (SLA) technology are isotropic and therefore watertight, which makes them excellent for not only IP rated enclosures, but even containers for holding liquids or fluid flow applications.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) parts are made with a fused powder process, and they are considered isotropic in the context of part strength, but they have inherent porosity. They are water resistant but won’t remain watertight over time. 

All of the above parts can be treated with an epoxy coating to make them watertight as well.

If you want to prototype an IP rated design that includes gaskets or overmolds, then we recommend Polyjet. It is not suitable for end use parts, but Polyjet parts can be printed in multiple durometers, which means you can simulate overmolds, gaskets and watertight buttons easily.

SLA mold

An SLS part before and after vapor smoothing. The finished part is watertight. 


Conclusion

Designing enclosures with IP ratings in mind is an important consideration for many products. By understanding how IP ratings work and following best practices for designing enclosures to meet specific IP ratings, you can ensure that your product is able to withstand exposure to dust and water and continue to function properly.

If you are interested in exploring our waterproof materials, take a look at our SLS, SLA, and FDM technologies or simply upload your parts and get a quote!