If every application took place in a climate-controlled environment like a data center or hospital room, designing devices incorporating LED indication and illumination systems would be much simpler. The reality is that many applications take place outside or in dirty, wet locations like factories, warehouses, and even greenhouses. The secret to developing a lasting product is to take advantage of light pipes and mounting technologies with ingress protection (IP) ratings. When properly selected and installed, IP-rated devices allow LEDs to perform reliably in harsh environments, supporting devices like electric-vehicle charging stations, manufacturing control panels, wind turbines, and more.
When it comes to IP ratings, more isn’t necessarily more and it’s essential to read the fine print. Designing and building a robust but competitively priced system starts with understanding the ratings in order to specify the optimal device for the project at hand.
What is the IP rating system?
Although a number of enclosure standards exist, the one most commonly cited is the IP rating system established by the International Electrotechnical Commission’s IEC 60529. IEC 60529 is based on a two-digit code expressed as IPxy, where x defines the ability of an enclosure to prevent the entrance of particulates and objects (see table 1), and y defines its ability to protect against liquids (see table 2).
Table 1: Protection against particulates and objects
|1||Protected against solid objects > 50-mm (2-in.) diameter|
|2||Protected against solid objects > 12.5-mm (0.5-in.) diameter|
|3||Protected against solid objects > 2.5-mm (0.1-in.) diameter|
|4||Protected against solid objects > 1.0-mm (0.04-in.) diameter|
|5||Limited protection against dust (no harmful deposit)|
|6||Fully protected against dust (dust tight)|
Table 2. Protection against liquids
|1||Protected against vertically dripping water for 10 min.|
|2||Protected against vertically dripping water for 10 min. when tilted 15° from vertical|
|3||Protected against spraying water for 5 min. when tilted up to 60° from vertical|
|4||Protected against water splashed from any direction for 5 min.|
|5||Protected against low pressure water sprayed from all directions for 3 min.|
|6||Protected against high volume jets of water from all directions for 3 min.|
|7||Protected against 30 min. of immersion in water to a depth of 1 m (3.3 ft.)|
|8||Protected against immersion in water to manufacturer-specified pressure|
|9K*||Protected against high-pressure and high-temperature water jets|
*Defined by German standard DIN 40050-9
The ratings for protection can be nuanced, particularly for liquids. Note that the liquid protection levels correspond to specific conditions, from durations and depths to the velocity and volume of the water. An IP54 device, for example, specifies an enclosure that is dust resistant but not dustproof. It’s protected against splashing water, but not at high pressures and only for limited durations. It could handle the exposure to moisture found in commercial laundry equipment but not the type of high-pressure wash down used to clean industrial food prep equipment, for example. An IP67 device is completely dustproof and watertight at specified pressure for up to 30 minutes. It would be effective for a product exposed to the elements, like a control unit for a solar array.
These tables are just for quick reference – the actual standard specifies pressure, volume, direction, and temperature.
IP-rated light pipes
With the aid of sealing gaskets and threaded fixtures, panel-mounted light pipes can achieve IP-ratings as high as IP68. They’re most commonly front-mounted panel mounted light pipes but IP-rated rear-mount panel mount light pipes do exist. Below, find a list of Bivar’s most commonly used IP-rated light pipes.
Table 3. Bivar IP-rated products
|PLP5||Rear-mount 5mm lens size round shaped single-station short distance light pipe.||IP54||Limited exposure to splashing water, some dust ingress|
|PLTR||Rigid front mounting press fit light pipe with threaded retention||IP67||Full protection against dust, watertight for up to 30 minutes at 1 m|
|PLW5||Panel press-fit wide-capture lower body light pipe with micro-lens to maximize LED throughput||IP54||Limited exposure to splashing water, some dust ingress|
|RHD||Panel press-fit heavy-duty threaded retention||IP67||Full protection against dust, watertight for up to 30 minutes at 1 m|
|SGLC||Panel press-fit sealing gasket lens cap||IP68||Dust tight and watertight for up to 30 minutes at manufacturer-specified pressure|
|SMFLP||Board-mount adapter system for Bivar SMD LED and flexible light pipe||IP54||Limited exposure to splashing water, some dust ingress|
|SZ IP54||ZeroLightBleed™ Board-mount adapter system for Bivar SMD LED and flexible light pipe||IP54||Limited exposure to splashing water, some dust ingress|
|FLP||Board-mount adapter with built-in Bivar through-hole LED and flexible light pipe||IP67||Full protection against dust, watertight for up to 30 minutes at 1 m|
|ORFLP||Board-mount adapter system with built-in Bivar 4-pin through-hole Superflux LED and flexible light pipe||IP54||Limited exposure to splashing water, some dust ingress|
Specifying the optimal IP-rated device for an application requires a clear understanding of the various levels and the trade-offs involved. Over specifying can be just as problematic as under specifying. Obviously, under specifying protection could result in early failure of the device. Over specifying has its own pitfalls – the light pipe assembly doesn’t just cost more, it also takes more time and skill to install.
When ordering a light pipe, be prepared to describe the operating conditions of your application in detail. Work with a supplier to make your selection. The expert engineers at Bivar have years of experience and a deep understanding of the standards to help you choose the device best suited to your application. The protection provided by IP-rated light pipes and panel mounts enable LEDs to provide reliable operation even in the harshest conditions.
For more information about our IP-rated product line, contact our team of engineers now.