Business Benefits of Industrial and Laboratory Enclosures
Enclosures are used to house machinery, equipment, devices, or electronic components. Their purpose is to protect personnel from accidental injury while the equipment is in operation and prevent the ingress of environmental contaminants such as dust and water. Personnel safety in and of itself is a worthy benefit in its own right. Secondarily, they save the organization money in payments to injured employees, insurance premiums, and plant repair bills. Lastly, the benefit is reputational: a safe workplace tends to be a trustworthy one, with which clients and vendors are happy to do business.
By definition, an industrial or lab enclosure is designed to do one of two things:
- Keep something inside the enclosure; and/or
- Keep something outside the enclosure.
Typically, the “something” in #1 could be a dangerous substance, object, or process, such as flying chunks of metal or wood, boiling fluid, toxic chemicals, acid, arcing electricity, radioactivity, tools in motion, and so on. In short, whatever is hot, heavy, sharp, or poisonous would be kept within the enclosure in order to prevent injury or damage to whatever is located outside the enclosure. In the same way, the “something” in #2 would most likely be a person or animal that could be at risk of injury or death if they were to enter the enclosure. Federal (e.g., OSHA) and state regulations are often very specific about the construction and location requirements of such protective enclosures. For example, in its standard for machine guarding OSHA defines “Guarded” as follows:
" “Guarded” means shielded, fenced, or enclosed by covers, casings, shields, troughs, spillways or railings, or guarded by position or location. Examples of guarding methods are guarding by location (positioning hazards so they are inaccessible to employees) and point of operation guarding (using barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, or other such devices). "
And here are just a few of the safety requirements applicable to such enclosures:
- 1917.151(b)(1) - Danger zones on machines and equipment used by employees shall be guarded.
- 1917.151(b)(2) - Where chips and dust produced by machine operation may result in a hazard to the operator, the machinery shall be equipped with an effective exhaust system at the point of origin, or other equally effective means shall be provided to protect the operator.
Fixed machinery shall be secured to prevent shifting.
Depending on their purpose, our Framing Tech enclosures can be made to comply with any applicable rules and regulations.
Choosing the Right Industrial or Lab Enclosure
Potentially dozens (or more!) of different factors can go into the decision process when it comes to choosing an industrial or lab device enclosure. Avoid trying to consider every single one of them all at once—that could overwhelm anyone and likely would lead to mistakes. Rather, identify the most critical factors and weigh them one at a time. This selection guide will help you decide on the correct type of enclosure to purchase for your operation.
Pick a Size
Even if space is at a premium at your location, don’t skimp on the size of the enclosure. Space conservation is just one consideration; equally important, if not more so, are the needs for safety and ease of device or machine operation. Therefore, factor in the size of each machine component, including running wires and other peripherals; and make sure the enclosure itself (including swinging doors) will fit comfortably in the location chosen for the enclosure. If the device generates heat, make sure the enclosure is situated and configured in such a way that heat can be safely dissipated. If the machine must be assembled inside the enclosure after it has been installed, make sure there is enough space inside for the assembling crew to work comfortably.
Pick a Material
How well your enclosure does its job depends on what it is made of. Shielding the device inside the enclosure from the elements and protecting any sensitive components is just part of the equation. The primary structural material used in our enclosures is extruded aluminum, which possesses many useful attributes within an industrial or laboratory environment. Not only is aluminum attractive, strong, durable, and corrosion-resistant, but it also provides natural radio frequency shielding. The outside paneling—whether plastic paneling, metal mesh, aluminum composite, or other material—should be compatible with the process performed by the device inside the enclosure.
Pick a Mounting Method
Depending on the type and size of the device or machine inside the enclosure, you need to decide where and how to anchor it so it doesn’t shift in some undesirable way, and what kind of hardware to use. While rack, rail, or panel mounting is possible, typically, it may need to be attached permanently to the floor or securely to one of the walls of the enclosure.
Other Factors to Consider
If the device inside the enclosure generates significant heat or fumes, a system of cooling and/or ventilation may need to be incorporated into or near the enclosure. For certain applications, such as containment of electronics, the enclosure will likely need to comply with UL, NEMA, IP, or other rating systems.
Special Considerations for Laboratories
As with industrial enclosures, the lab enclosure must be compatible with the process that it will contain. Most important of all, assess the hazard of the material being used in that process. Whether a chemical or pharmaceutical, the material’s safety data sheet (SDS) and related documents can point you in the right direction. For the sake of employee and workplace safety, decide whether glove boxes, downdraft tables, ductless fume hoods, or other peripheral devices should be part of the enclosure.