What is IP testing?

At F2 Labs, our IP testing chambers are constantly filled with projects undergoing testing to IEC 60529. Since I work in the sales department at F2 Labs I field a lot of questions, every day, about IP testing, what it is, what we look for after the testing, and how the ratings work. This article will focus on these topics.

IP stands for ingress protection and tests the ability of your product to withstand everything from finger tips to a high pressure jet of high temperature water. The testing is by enclosure and your product does not have to be populated with the electronics in order to undergo the testing. However, it can be populated and we can test the functionality of the product, before and after the testing, by request.

You have probably noticed that there are two numbers usually displayed in an IP rating, for instance: IP65. The first number is for the ingress of solid foreign objects. This can be anything from finger tips to dust in a chamber. The second number is the water test.

The tests corresponding to the individual ratings for solid foreign objects are below.

Solid Foreign Objects

IP1X – objects ≥ 50mm
IP2X – objects ≥ 12mm
IP3X – objects ≥ 2.5mm
IP4X – objects ≥ 1mm
IP5X – dust protected
IP6X – dust tight

I walked out to our lab and took a photograph of our IP probes for the IP1X – IP4X tests.

Please see below, from left to right, IP4X, IP3X, IP2X, IP1X.

ip probes

IP5X and IP6X are different tests and require a higher degree of protection for your enclosure. Both ratings involve your product being placed in an airtight chamber and then subjected to circulating dust (talcum powder) blown over and on the product for hours. That is where the similarity stops.

The IP5X test may or may not require the installation of a vacuum barb. That is determined by the category in which your product falls. Category 1 enclosures do  require a barb while category 2 enclosures do not require an installed barb for the IP5X test. The purpose of the barb is for the lab technician to connect an air hose to your product. That air hose is connected to a vacuum pump on the other end, outside the chamber, and we will try to draw air into the enclosure, pulling dust with it. Dust may enter the enclosure during the IP5X test but in order to pass there may be no dust on any conductive surface.

How are the categories defined? Category 1 enclosures are enclosures which may heat up during operation (for example: if electronic components are inside). Category 2 enclosures do not experience a temperature change.

I mentioned above that the similarity between the IP 5X and IP6X testing stopped at the dust chamber. That is because the IP6X test requires a vacuum barb and makes no distinction between category 1 or 2. Most importantly, the IP6X test allows for no dust to enter the enclosure. Simply, if dust is visible anywhere in the enclosure at the conclusion of the testing the product fails.

Before we proceed I want to show a picture of a vacuum barb because while everyone knows what they are my experience is that people refer to them differently.

barb

Many times I will discuss the vacuum barb issue with the customer and the need to install it. The standard calls for it if your product is an IP5X category 1 enclosure and any time you want an IP6X test. We are an A2LA accredited lab and follow the standard, directly. The test sample must come to us with the barb installed unless previously agreed upon. We can install the barb in your product for an additional fee but it is best for the manufacturer to provide the test sample to us in a state that is ready to immediately undergo the testing.

The second part of the testing is for the intrusion of water. The passing criteria for the water test is the same for all nine water tests: broadly, no water can settle on any conductive surfaces. We carefully open the product following the testing and take clear photographs throughout. We will see if water has entered your enclosure and determine the impact to your product. Our techs are extremely careful when opening the product because water can settle at the bottom and unless there are live wires or boards at the bottom, in water, your product may still pass the testing.

Water

IPX1 – Vertically dripping water
IPX2 – 75° to 90° dripping water
IPX3 – Sprayed water
IPX4 – Splashed water
IPX5 – Water jets
IPX6 – Powerful water jets
IPX7 – Effects of immersion
IP8 – Immersion, by agreement, must be more strenuous than IPX7
IPX9 – Increasing high pressure, high temperature water jetting

The tests listed above are self-explanatory but the IPX7, IPX8, and IPX9 testing merit further discussion.

IPX7 calls for your product to be immersed in a water tank for 30 minutes. The depth depends upon the enclosure size. Enclosures with a height less than 850 mm must have the lowest point of the enclosure 1,000 mm below the surface. For enclosures with a height equal to or greater than 850 mm the top of the enclosure must be 150 mm below the water surface. Note that the enclosure is measured in its working position and is situated in the tank in its working position as well.

The IPX8 test is the same as the IPX7 test except the depth and or duration of the testing is by agreement between the manufacturer and the testing laboratory. The testing must be more severe than the IPX7 testing. For instance, an IPX8 test for an enclosure may be for 35 minutes instead of 30 minutes and the depth may be the same as is called for in the IPX7 test. Or, the testing may be for 30 minutes but the depth for a product that is less than 850 mm may be 1,050 mm during the testing. We have performed testing at greater depths and for much longer periods of time. Let us know what you want – we creatively determine solutions on a daily basis.

IPX9 testing is the most strenuous of all. It requires that your product is sprayed with a high pressure stream of water (8,000 to 10,000 kPa) heated to 80° C. This testing is done at multiple angles (30 second dwell per position) on a turn table in our water chamber.

One question which is frequently asked by new customers is whether or not each test must be passed in succession in order to achieve a rating. For instance, to attain IP65 status does the product need to pass IP1X, IP2X, IP3X, IP4X, IP5X, IPX1, IPX2, IPX3, IPX4? The answer is no. In fact, passing IP65 allows the claim of all IP ratings below IP65. This question then, many times, leads to a discussion regarding how to plan this testing, since the manufacturer may not be confident regarding the ability of the product to pass. Some manufacturers ask us to start with lower tests and work up to the desired rating while others work from the toughest test and down. This is the decision of the manufacturer.

I hope this article has been helpful and we are at your service if you have additional questions or want to schedule IEC 60529 IP testing for your products.

F2 Labs is here to help.

Have a question or a comment? We can be contacted via this link. We can be reached by phone at 855-652-7281 and are here to help you.

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