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How Machine Designers and Manufacturers Can Streamline Enclosure Certification

How Machine Designers and Manufacturers Can Streamline Enclosure Certification

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is offering enclosure certification training and online resources that speed up the process, along with engineering tips on how to select and use pre-certified components when modifying enclosures to meet specific customer requirements.

The organization will hold a free webinar called Avoiding Common Design Pitfalls by Streamlining Enclosure Certification on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 11 am ET, to show how to avoid delays to market, reduce cost, streamline the design process, navigate design changes more easily, and ease traceability issues. John Kovacik, principal engineer for enclosures for industrial control panels at UL, will provide practical information to help avoid some of the common pitfalls encountered during enclosure certification.

Enclosure Certification Challenges

"One challenge for manufacturers trying to assemble a product is how to speed up the product certification process while controlling costs," Kovacik told Design News during a recent interview. "We're interested in helping manufacturers obtain UL certification by making the process easier, less costly, and more efficient."

In providing certification for enclosures over 100 years, UL says there are many different components that can be mounted on or through the walls of an enclosure. This includes devices such as latches, hinges, and handles. Electronic equipment, for example, often creates a lot of heat, which needs to be removed, so enclosures often need to be vented.

Typically, the manufacturer of the control panel will purchase an enclosure that doesn't have the venting provided, and will need to modify the enclosure by cutting holes to install the venting. The manufacturer has the burden of installing the component, but, if it hasn't been previously certified by UL, it also assumes responsibility of getting the component evaluated in that particular application.

Kovacik said that enclosures come with many different types of environmental ratings, depending on the location where the enclosure will be installed and the application. Once a manufacturer starts to modify an enclosure such as cutting openings in it, the modifications can jeopardize its environmental rating. The objective is generally to have the environmental rating supported by any modification.

There are many UL certified products that manufacturers can install in an enclosure, or through the walls of an enclosure, such as viewing windows. Cord grips are available that allow the manufacturer to bring various types of cords into a panel and provide proper sealing at the entry point. Drain holes are required in some enclosures to remove condensation, and sometimes the manufacturer needs to install a touch panel with an overlay that protects the screen. In that situation, there is a need to make sure that the overlay material is sufficient in its construction and ability to resist various types of contaminants. Modifying an enclosure is a very common occurrence for control panel manufacturers, and the modifications vary considerably based on customer needs.

Selecting Pre-Certified Components

"What we're doing with this program is to relieve the manufacturer of the control panel from having the burden of evaluating these components. Some of the components can be purchased from suppliers or vendors who already have certification but, in many cases, they are not available," Kovacik said.

Kovacik said that UL is providing a process by which components can be pre-certified, put into a repository, and made available to users such as those within the control panel industry. The idea is that users can easily go to the repository and find categories of products that have already been evaluated, so that if they are installed properly according to any instructions provided, no additional evaluation will be necessary for either the component itself or the end-product assembly as a result of the modification. The only burden on the control panel manufacturer is making certain that the product is installed properly.

In the free UL webinar, the first goal will be to review components that users would typically employ to modify an enclosure, tips on using those components properly, and how to select components from different UL product categories that are already available. A second goal is to review the process and a new category of products recently made available to offer significant assistance in the control panel manufacturer's ability to quickly build a panel that needs to have components mounted through the walls of the enclosure, and get it certified quickly and delivered to the panel shop's customer.

Kovacik said the presentation will explain the reasons why these steps can speed up the certification process. One example is if an engineer is attempting to install a specific gasket material, the characteristics of the gasket will need to be obtained from the manufacturer to ensure that the product will provide the intended sealing of the enclosure under all conditions of use. If the gasket has not been previously certified, this information may not be readily available without contacting the gasket manufacturer.

But users may be able to find all the information needed about the gasket's performance using UL's Online Certification Directory. Engineers find and review the characteristics of gaskets available from different manufacturers that would allow them to ultimately choose the manufacturer that meets all the application needs without requiring any further evaluation.

In the webinar, by talking about the steps of selecting gaskets so that an enclosure will be able to maintain its environmental rating and be sealed properly, attendees will be able to see quickly and easily how to speed up the certification process.

As part of the webinar, the goal is to show specific examples of how to use web resources to pull information from the Online Certification Directory. The purpose is to illustrate how easy it is to locate product information, and how to use the directory to find components that meet specific needs and/or how to find alternative products.

Also, here is a link to information for the control panel industry relative to UL's industrial control panel (ICP) custom builder program.

Al Presher is a veteran contributing writer for Design News, covering automation and control, motion control, power transmission, robotics, and fluid power.

[image via Control Craft LLC]

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