Ingress protection is a critical part of product development particularly in the medical device assembly and electronics industries. Using IP Code is a standardized way to define just how leak proof a product is without using ambiguous terms such as waterproof. The issue with using the standard tests as laid out by the IP Code is the fact that these tests are very time consuming and destructive. Using pneumatic leak testing to validate IP ratings in place of physical water tests is time saving and non-destructive.

Leak Testing for Ingress

There are many reasons, from basic product functionality to marketing, that manufacturers test their parts for ingress. In design and development processes common terms such as dust tight or waterproof are used to describe a products level of protection against ingress, however these terms are rather vague. Considerations such as a part or product function, form and even environment need to be taken into consideration.

 

  • Function: Are you trying to keep particulates or liquid out or in?
  • Form: Does product have multiple parts; do they all need the same or varying levels of protection?
  • Environment: Is the product meant for indoor or outdoor use, will it be submitted to high pressure or low-pressure situations?

IP Standards and What They Mean

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has published its standard 60529, otherwise known as Ingress Protection Code (IP Code). This code is comprised of the letters IP followed by two digits (example: IPXX). The first digit of the IP Code corresponds with protection against solid ingress and ranges from 0, meaning no protection, to 6, meaning dust tight. The second digit refers to liquid ingress and ranges from 0, meaning no protection, to 9, meaning protected from powerful high temperature water jets. Either digit may be populated with an X which can mean the protection level is 0 or the protection rating is not applicable thus not tested.

1st Digit Effective Against Object Size 2nd Digit Protected Against
0 0 Not Protected
1 >50mm 1 Dripping Water
2 >12.5mm 2 Dripping Water when Tilted up to 15º
3 >2.5mm 3 Spraying Water
4 >1mm 4 Splashing Water
5 Dust Protected 5 Water Jets
6 Dust Tight 6 Powerful Water Jets
    7 Immersion up to 1m
    8 Immersion beyond 1m
    9 Steam Jet Cleaning

The most common IP rating in medical device assembly and electronics is IP67. This ensures the product is dust tight with no particulate ingress. IP67 also validates that the product can remain submerged under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes with no water ingress.

Challenges

The standard tests as laid out by the IP Code are very time consuming and destructive, particularly when testing for liquid ingress. IP Code testing for liquid is also incredibly expensive and not ideal for large scale manufacturing. These moisture tests require specific testing environments that include precisely oriented, often high pressure, spray nozzles with rotating platforms as well as water tanks that can hold a large amount of water. The apparatus must be able to spray water at a consistent specified pressure for an extended period of time to determine the item under test’s specific ingress protection level. The test is then validated through disassembly as the item under test is physically inspected for ingress of water.

Ambiguity

Every product is different so deciding what IP rating a particular product needs and how to test it is highly specialized. Form, Function and Environment not only helps a designer determine a correlating IP rating but also how to test.

 

Product Testing Considerations:
  • Is the product’s goal to keep things in or out?
  • What pressure will the product have to face?
  • Is the product in an enclosure or is it an external component?

Pneumatic Leak Testing

An alternative to the standard physical IP Code tests is pneumatic leak testing. Air molecules are smaller than water molecules, therefore testing for the ingress of air can determine the ingress of water without directly submitting the item under test to water. Pneumatic leak tests also negate the need to disassemble the item under test for validation.

Zaxis has been using pneumatic leak testers to validate ingress protection for many years. The term leak tight is a veritable spectrum and the engineering team at Zaxis have designed tests across the entire gamut. They can help product designers and developers understand the leak tight spectrum and develop custom tests to validate for IP rating.

In order to streamline IP rating validation through the entire product development process Zaxis has designed their family of leak testers to all use the same components.  This means the benchtop leak tester used by R&D during a products design stage has the same components as the leak testers on the production floor, making validation of IP ratings simple and consistent. Test validation is critical especially when dealing with regulated standards such as IP Code.

For more information about the International Electrotechnical Commission visit there website at https://www.iec.ch/. For more information about the Zaxis family of leak testers or how to create a pneumatic leak test to IP rate your products contact sales@zaxisinc.com or call 1 (801) 264-1000.

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