How to Protect Linear Actuator: IP Rating and Advices

One of the most important factors to take into consideration when buying a linear actuator is the environment it will be used in; there are many contaminants, particularly in an industrial setting, which could be harmful to the proper functioning and the overall health of a 12v electric actuator.

The three most common problems which are faced when using electric actuators are dust, moisture, and corrosion. Dust and other contaminants like dust act to clog up the moving parts of the actuator, rendering it less functional and more liable to break or otherwise go wrong. Moisture and corrosion tend to go hand-in-hand when it comes to actuators because leaving an electric actuator exposed to moisture can have the effect of letting the metal rust, which then leads to equipment which does not function properly, and will most likely break. Another problem that is encountered with moisture is the effect it will have the electronics themselves – water and electricity don’t mix, and at best the water contamination will lead to equipment which no longer functions. At worst, the equipment will lead to whoever uses it to be hurt.

There are ways in which these contaminants can be avoided, such as the use of certain custom made equipment to keep dust from making its way into the moving parts of the actuator, and the use of stainless steel (non-corrosive) when making actuators which will be exposed to water or other forms of moisture. Similarly, the motor and electrical components can be encased in stainless steel for further protection.

These are just a few more the more common ways actuators can be affected by outside contaminants, and how they can be protected from those contaminants. It is always best to fully understand the workings of an actuator before you buy one, and to interact with the seller who will be able to point you in the direction of an actuator which will better fulfill your needs, or the means to customize one to do so.

Ingress Protection Rating (IP Rating): What Does IP Rating Mean. Definition

The Ingress Protection (IP) rating system was first designed by the European Committee for Electro-Technical Standardization. The two letters of the acronym are normally followed by two numbers – and it is usually two numbers, for example, an IP54 is not fifty four, but should be understood as five and four respectively. The IP rating is something used to show what types of protection the actuator has built in to prevent damage to the equipment or injury to the user – since the actuators themselves are made to be used in specific environments, paying attention to IP ratings is necessary for safety. In general terms, the higher the number of each IP rating, the higher the level of protection that that equipment has against the various contaminants in the atmosphere.

How to use IP Rating table

The IP rating was originally developed to allow for a more detailed explanation of how a piece of equipment could function without resorting to such vague terms as ‘waterproof’ or ‘dustproof’ The IP table was drawn up to give conformity to the numbers which were being used to describe the level of protection equipment could enjoy, with the letter X being substituted if there was no information available.

The first number on an IP rating specifically denotes the level of protection which it enjoys against solid objects, such as dust. The numbers available for the first number on an IP rating go from 0-6, with 0 meaning there is no protection available, while 6 is complete protection. It should be noted that if a linear actuator has level 2 protection, then that means that it covers level one as well. The IP Rating table below should show how the first number breaks down properly, from 0-6.

Meaning of the first number on an IP rating
0There is no protection
1Objects larger than 50 mm can’t penetrate (this includes any larger part of the body, though deliberate contact between an actuator and the body is still not recommended)
2Objects larger than 12.5 mm can’t penetrate
3Objects larger than 2.5 can’t penetrate
4Objects larger than 1 mm can’t penetrate
5Dust cannot harm the equipment
6Dust tight. Dust cannot get in

The second number is the number which shows the level of protection the equipment has against water and other forms of moisture, with the scale reaching from 0-8. The table below, again, will break down the numbers:

Meaning of the second number on an IP rating
0There is no protection
1The equipment can be dripped on
2The equipment can be dripped on when it is tilted up to almost fifteen degrees
3The equipment can be dripped on when it is tilted up to almost sixty degrees
4The equipment can be splashed by water
5The equipment can be under a jet of water (from a 6.3 mm nozzle)
6The equipment can be under a powerful jet of water (from a 12.5 mm nozzle)
7The equipment can be immersed up to one metre
8The equipment can be immersed for more than one metre

How IP Rating Applies to Linear Actuators

Automations systems sometimes have to work in quite adverse environments, and need to be able to withstand all kinds of contaminants such as dust, water, corrosive substances, and mud, among other things.

The best way to get the best performance out of equipment is to match it to the environment, and a good way to do this is to conform to the IP rating, as this will give you a better idea of what the device is capable of and designed for. For example:

  • home projects can most likely use a linear actuator which is IP20 or under, as it is unlikely to be exposed to water, and the environment will not be so dusty or hazardous as an industrial environment would be.
  • In the marine industry, actuators should be waterproof. If they are not fully waterproof (IP rating of 8 or 9), they should at least be able to withstand sudden jets of water, as they will be around bodies of water at all times.
  • In dusty environments, 12v linear actuator with IP ratings of at least 65 should be considered, as that will render them completely air-tight and resistant to dust.

Now a little example. Let’s take our 12v electric linear actuator with IP66 and define its IP rating.

6Dust tight. Dust cannot get in
6The equipment can be under a powerful jet of water (from a 12.5 mm nozzle)

What is Allowed and What is Not When Working with Electric Linear Actuators?

Connect the actuators output shaft to the moving parts, otherwise it won’t moveLet the output shaft move to the limit position if there is no limit switch
Make sure that the actuator has enough room to move, otherwise it may break upon impact with other objectsDon’t increase the loading – the given loading is how much it can take on!
Supply the motor with the correct voltage, otherwise it might overloadPay attention to the IP given, and don’t immerse the actuator if it isn’t waterproof
Take care to observe the proper cycle of the actuator – the percentage on the side shows how much it can be used, versus how much rest it should be given

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