As most of our readers probably know, rugged enterprise devices are designed to endure rough handling and harsh environments. Lots of device manufacturers in our industry use so-called ‘IP ratings’ to show how strong their devices are. ‘IP’ is an acronym, standing for ‘Identification code for protection’. Normally after ‘IP’, there is a number following, like 67 or 68. That number defines which strength level the product is on. Specifically, which level of protection the enclosure provides against access to hazardous parts (like PCBs or moving parts) and the ingress of solid objects, such as dust or water. Besides the drop specification, the IP rating is another very important value to identify the ruggedness of a product.
First things first: What do the numbers mean?
In IP ratings, first number describes the protection level from solid objects, the second number (7) describes the protection level from water. The higher the number, the stronger. For the protection level from solid objects, 6 is the maximum, which means being perfectly protected against dust particles. For the protection level from water, 8 is the maximum. 7 means it is water proof up to 1m. It’s not maximum, but for normal industrial usage this is absolutely sufficient. For better understanding, take a look at the table below.
So why not IP68? And is there even IP69?
As mentioned before, rugged devices are designed to survive harsh work environments. That could be a warehouse with many forklifts potentially running over the device, or a construction side with heavy machinery that could smash it. Or simply a deep puddle your mobile computer could drop into. For those applications, IP67 has proven itself to be the allrounder of IP ratings. It covers a wide range of use cases and offers optimal protection. IP68 means a product or equipment will survive immersion of water under conditions “which shall be specified by the manufacturer”. Generally it means, that the test depth and duration is expected to be greater than the requirements for IP67, and other effects may be added as well, such as temperature cycling before the product is thrown in the water. So, since the requirement for the 7 in IP67 defines “immersion, up to 1m”, IP68 could survive depths of more than 1m (generally up to 3m).
As rugged mobile devices typically don’t fall into waters with a depth of more than 1m, IP67 became somewhat of the leading industry standard for most applications. Of course, there could be situations where an even higher IP rating is necessary. For those cases, there is something called IP69K: It gives protection against close-range high pressure and high temperature spray downs. This kind of protection is used for products that have to cleaned with a pressure washer for example. In the testing procedure, the product will be “attacked” by high pressure water with 1,450 psi (or 100 bar) from four specific angles ( (0°, 30°, 60°, 90°) for at least 30 seconds.
Almost all of our devices are IP67 certified, so they are specifically made to be used in rough environments without anxiety to break them. A while ago, we took one brand new PM90 (of course with IP67) out of the box and test how much it can really take. If it survived the test you’ll see in the video.
So, while there are higher IP ratings, they just don’t bring a whole lot more protection to the products used in our environments. Adding higher level of protection would only mean more complicated engineering and design, resulting in more expensive components and products.