The importance of IP protection degree in the industrial automation

IP protection degrees; Everyone will have seen or heard of it once. Often with regard to the smartphone or a light in a bathroom. IP- protection degree can also be called the sealing class. But what is it? In this article is explained that these classes are, what they stand for and what the importance is for the industrial automation.

What is an IP class?

An IP- protection degree, also called Ingress Protection belong under the IP-norm EN60529. It is the level in which a device is sealed from fixed particles in the air (such as dust) and moist. Devices, such as sensors, are classified in a protection degree.

The sealing class offers the user with information about the utility of a device in a certain environment. In differential industrial environments it could be that the sensor has to deal with liquids which splash or drip on it, but also with dust particles in the air that could end up in the housing. Important for the user is therefore to know to which extent the electronics are resistent against this.

In short, the IP-sealing class offers the user insights in the judgement of the utility of a sensor in certain working environments.

Which types of IP protection degree are possible?

The IP protection degrees consist of (the letters) IP followed by two number telling both something about the level of protection. The first number (0 to 6) implies the protection rate for fixed particles. The second number (0 to 9) is the level of protection against liquids, also known as: the waterproof. These numbers could also be an X for both in case there is no information available about the protection. Finally there a selection of letters that could be added to the code coming after the numbers.

A frequent and very robust protection degree is IP69K. This means that a sensor in this class:

  • Is fully protected against dust;
  • Is moisture proof and even can be cleaned with a high-pressure washer;

Industrial applications where IP classes play a role

To explain the importance of these protection degrees for sensors and related components such as relais, mounting brackets and cable, a number of industrial applications are highlighted below.

Spray jet inspection with IP class against water

Sensors encounter water and detergents when cleaning a car - a water resistance is needed

Cars and other vehicles are provided with a lacquer layer by using industrial automated paint sprayers. The concentration of paint in a certain spot can result in a messed up paint job. To prevent this, the nebulization and distribution of the drips which come from the spray jet are monitored. The sensor can determine if the spray jets has been equally distributedby checking the disconnection of the interruped light (by the drips). In such an application it is important that the sensors do not let through the sprayed paint particles as well as the water they are cleaned with. A sensor that can be used here is the L-LAS-TB-100-T + R-CL from the L-Las-TB-CL series laser curtains from Sensor Instruments.

Resilience against weather conditions with an IP protection degree

Lam 50 laser distance sensor with higher IP class

Not every industrial application occur within a factory. There are also challenging outdoor applications such as the positioning of containers in transhipment terminalsIt is to be prevented that the containers of the crane which transports these do not collide with anything and the placement of these containers runs flawless. The challenge here is in the fact that on rainy days or other challenging weather conditions the sensor is expected to continuously working smoothly. The solution is the LAM 50- series distance lasers.

sawdust build-up in sawmills safe with IP class

Application in which dust can enter the air and sensor

In the wood industry different sensors can be applied: from positioning lasers for the positioning of the saw to measuring the wooden beams with an ultrasonic sensor. Think of the Z10M18B-F-638-lp60 from Z-Laser or the pico+35/F/A from microsonic. In these environments there constantly are saw dust particles in the air. To protect the sensors against this, the sensors are provided with a high(er) protection degree for dust (IP67). In this atmosphere there is also an explosion danger and therefore often also ATEX-certified photoelectric sensors are used such as the Ex-model of the SMRR 8500 MG 5 from Telco Sensors.

Object detection in hygienic environments

pms ultrasonic sensors can be exposed to water due to waterproof design with high IP class

In applications such as in the food & beverages or the pharmaceutical industry hygiene is very important. The sensors in these environments are regularly cleaned and often with a high-pressure washer. To resist the high amount of water, a sensor should be provided with the protection degree IP68 or IP69K. A good example of this is the pms-25/CF/A1 from the pms- series from microsonic with a full water proof washdown-design or the PFM1/BP-1H from the PFM- series from Micro Detectors with the high water proof degree and familiarity in the food and beverage industry


In an automated carwash a vehicle should be detected to determine its position. Here for example the SG25 light grids from Telco Sensors are used. By doing this positioning different processes can be ran through such as brushing and spraying of gloss cleaner. Due to the exposure to water which splashes on the light grids these are provided with an IP67 sealing class.

A carwash facility where water-resistant sensors with a high protection rating come in handy

Related application

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