Understanding IP Ratings in the Food and Drink Industry.

Supplying hardware to organisations in the food and drink sector? Or perhaps you’re part of a food and drink organisation yourself, deploying new hardware on your factory floor. Either way, you need to know about IP ratings. This blog, then, is a quick primer.

Ingress Protection or International Protection (IP) ratings are, essentially, an official measure of how tightly sealed and watertight an electrical device is. They provide guidance as to how much a piece of equipment can withstand intrusion from foreign bodies – whether that’s dust, dirt and other solid particles, or liquids.

Why IP ratings matter in the Food and Drink Industry
Why is this so relevant in food and drink processing environments? There are at least two main reasons. First, such environments are likely to feature lots of loose material being spilled, blown around, splashed and smeared. Think of an industrial bakery, for example, with its clouds of flour dust. Or a factory processing meat or fish, where waste material needs to be separated from the raw product, and the necessity for cold temperatures may lead to condensation on equipment. In these contexts, it is vital that the solids and liquids throughout the environment do not interfere with the performance of electrical equipment.

Second, food and drink processing environments are, of course, subject to strict hygiene, health and safety requirements. Solids and liquids getting inside electrical hardware could cause a hygiene fault directly, either by, say, disrupting the performance of key equipment such as refrigerators, or indirectly by being unable to be removed. The same strict hygiene requirements mean that electrical equipment in a food or drink environment also needs to withstand regular thorough cleaning, which could involve harsh chemicals or direct jets of high-pressure water.

With these environmental demands in mind, then, food and drink organisations need to be confident that all the electrical equipment deployed throughout their premises can suitably withstand the unique environmental pressures of those premises, and continue operating at optimal levels throughout. IP ratings provide a universal and measurable way of assessing those abilities.

Interpreting IP ratings
Every IP rating consists of the letters IP and then two digits. The first digit stipulates how resistant the hardware is to solids, from fine dust up to larger particles, whilst the second digit stipulates how resistant it is to liquids.

So at the bottom end of the scale, IP54 states that a piece of equipment is ‘protected from limited dust ingress’ and ‘protected from water spray from any direction, limited ingress protection’. At the upper end of the scale, the highest IP rating is IP69K – protected from steam-jet cleaning and total dust ingress. Between these extremes are a range of robustness levels.

Building a product to meet IP ratings requirements means using strong, robust and resilient materials – stainless steel is particularly prevalent in food and drink environments – and paying particular attention to the sealing processes which protect the inner workings of electrical kit. It also, of course, requires the product to undergo a robust set of tests in order to achieve its official IP rating.  Distec is proud to supply robust stainless steel, all-in-one touchscreen PCs, industrial monitors and HMIs touchscreens and computers with IP ratings which enable them to be deployed across a range of food and drink environments. In this way, our equipment can survive the various sanitation and washdown procedures, and normal operational environmental hazards of a wide variety of food and drink contexts.

Get in touch us today to find out more about IP ratings, and which will be suitable for your own needs.

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