IP rating? Class? Division? N.I.? I-Safe?
These are all terms bandied about when talking about mobile devices, but what do they really mean? Let’s take a look at what each means and how they relate to the environment the mobile device needs to operate in.
IP(Ingress Protection) Ratings
IP Ratings are a measure of how sealed a device is against dirt and water. IP ratings are made up of two numbers. The first indicates how well the unit is sealed against dust, and the second is how well it is sealed against moisture. A higher number means better protection. The chart below should make it clear.
So, for example, if my barcode scanner is IP 54, then it is sealed against windblown dust and rain, perfect for use around an open dock door, not so good onboard fishing boat in the North Atlantic. IP 66 would be better for that particular environment.
North America Hazardous Region Categories
IP rating is similar to another safety rating, the North America Hazardous Region Categories, though instead of measuring how well protected a device is against the elements, this measures a device’s potential impact on a hazardous environment. Any electrical device has the potential of creating a spark. There are a wide range of environments where the slightest spark can set off a reaction that could damage equipment or be potentially life threatening. An environment inundated with gas fumes is an obvious example, but anyone who as sprinkled coffee creamer on a lighter can attest to the fact that there are many substances that react quite dramatically when sparked.
The North America Hazardous Region Categories measures how well an electrical device is sealed against hazardous gasses and dust. In essence, is it sealed well enough that it will not spark an explosion?
So by taking a look at this chart it becomes clear what they mean by Division 1, Class 1. The device is rated to be safe in an environment where the hazard is consistently present (Division 1) and sealed well enough to work safely around a wide range of hazardous gasses (Class 1.)
N.I.(Non-Incendive) and I-Safe(Intrinsically Safe)
Non-Incendive – Underwriters Laboratories defines Non-Incendive as: “A circuit in which any arc or thermal effect produced under intended operating conditions of the equipment is not capable, under the test conditions specified, of igniting the specified flammable gas- or vapor- air mixture.”(From UL1604)
Intrinsically Safe – Underwriters Laboratories defines Intrinsically Safe as: “…type of protection based on the restriction of electrical energy within apparatus and of interconnecting wiring exposed to the potentially explosive atmosphere to a level below that which can cause ignition by either sparking or heating effects.”(From IEC 60079-11)
Intrinsically Safe indicates a higher level of protection than Non-Incendive and can be used in applications that require Non-Incendive, though the reverse is not true. If you need Intrinsically Safe nothing else will do.
Keep in mind that opening up a device will nullify any safety rating it has. To maintain its safety rating any servicing/maintenance would need to be done by the manufacturer who can guarantee it is resealed correctly.
There is a wide range of other safety regulation, many of which are industry specific. For a more in depth look at safety requirements check out the Make The Safe Choice pdf, a great white paper Intermec has created to aid in your decision.
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