How Extreme Temperatures Can Threaten the Integrity of Your Design
Even enclosures that are otherwise durable can see their functionality and integrity compromised by dramatically high or low temperatures. Extreme cold can make your hardware more brittle or cause its moving parts to freeze, while high temperatures (and extremely hot contents) can make it melt. If your enclosure experiences drastic temperature fluctuations, the hardware you spec into your design can fail or cause alignment problems. Choosing the right materials and design for your hardware can ensure that your design remains reliable even in extreme or unpredictable environments.
Here’s why you should always consider temperature when designing a high-quality enclosure:
Extreme cold can make some metals and plastics brittle, putting them at risk for breakage. However, even if the materials you choose for your hardware are designed to maintain their durability as the temperature plummets, a container isn’t truly designed to endure freezing temperatures if it isn’t also designed to handle moisture. An effective design is easily accessible, and if condensation or precipitation accumulates in the nooks and crannies of your enclosure’s hardware, that accessibility could be compromised.
Assume, for instance, that your design is placed outdoors in the middle of a brutal winter. The same lock or locking system that keeps its contents safe could prevent you from opening the enclosure if moisture seeps in and then freezes the lock in place. If your design has moving parts, ensure that they’re designed to remain mobile if the enclosure will be facing freezing temperatures. And of course, choose materials that won’t break or be otherwise damaged in sub-zero temperatures.
THE MELTING POINT
Many industrial enclosures are forced to endure significant or even extreme heat, the sources of which can include:
- Constant and direct sunlight
Stainless steel and many high-performance plastics are heat-resistant to temperatures even above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you know your design will be exposed to extreme heat, however, pay extra care to ensure that you’re choosing the right materials. Many gaskets are specially certified to withstand fire, but if you trust a lesser quality or otherwise improper gasket to do the same job, the seal on your enclosure might melt right off.
Going from hot to cold and then hot again can put structural stress on your design and affect the way its parts interact with each other. Most materials contract in cold temperatures and expand in heat, which can lead to breakage or misalignment if you’ve chosen the wrong materials for your hardware.
This factor is especially important to consider if your design will frequently be moved from indoor to outdoor environments or spend most of its time in a space without climate control. For example, if you choose an improper hinges for your design and move your enclosure from a warm environment to a freezer, your hinges may contract. This could then change the alignment of your enclosure’s door, causing small openings that could affect the contents within.
Some plastics are particularly susceptible to the effects of temperature fluctuations, but others are designed to stay structurally consistent. Many metals, such as stainless steel, can also resist the negative impacts of large temperature changes.
HANDLING THE HIGHS AND LOWS
Temperature is one of the most important environmental factors to consider when choosing the hardware to spec into your design. Whether your enclosure will have to endure cold, heat, or dramatic fluctuations between the two, consider how extreme temperatures can impact your design’s ability to do its job.
Contact us today to learn more about how to design an enclosure that can withstand the elements.