What Type of Industrial Computer Enclosure Is Right for Your Requirements?
As an industrial buyer or operations manager, you’re familiar with the problem of using IT equipment on the shop floor. Dust, water, grease and physical impact render your computers and printers inoperable, bringing production to a standstill and wasting money...
Computer enclosures solve this problem by housing your equipment in a robust, sealed environment.
The right enclosure for you depends on the demands of your facility. Industrial enclosures provide dust protection, waterproof enclosures withstand daily washdown and ATEX enclosures allow computer use in explosive environments.
With the right enclosures, you can achieve an optimised, reliable set up that boosts productivity and reduces downtime in industrial, washdown, sterile or refrigerated environments.
Here’s everything you need to know to choose the right enclosure from Armagard’s comprehensive range.
Industrial Computer Enclosures
If you need to protect a computer from dust, grease, splashes and physical impact, then an IP54 industrial computer enclosure is for you.
The IP (ingress protection) rating of an enclosure is a European standard that indicates the level of protection it offers against dust and water. IP54 means that no amount of dust can enter that will cause harm to the equipment and that liquid splashes and spills pose no threat.
Roughly equivalent to the NEMA 3 standard in the USA, an IP54 computer cabinet provides all the protection a computer needs in most manufacturing locations.
Computer Enclosures vs. Industrial Computers
Dedicated industrial computers, which incorporate a PC into a rugged, sealed body, provide similar levels of protection, but here are five reasons why you’re better off with an enclosure:
1. Use a PC of your choice
Industrial enclosures accommodate computers and monitors from almost all the major manufacturers. You save money by using a PC you already own, or you can source one to your exact specifications. Either way, you get to use an ordinary computer that you know will integrate with your existing systems. This is preferable to industrial computers, which limit your choices to whatever model has been built into the protective body.
2. Enjoy ease of maintenance
Because you’re using a standard PC, it’s easy to access, repair and update it whenever you need to. Industrial computers, on the other hand, are sealed units that require repair by the manufacturer. With an enclosure, you get repairs done faster, reducing downtime and maintaining productivity.
3. Use an enclosure for several years
If an industrial computer breaks beyond repair, then the whole thing has to be replaced. In contrast, industrial enclosures protect several generations of computer over a number of years, making them great value for money compared to purpose-built machines.
4. Benefit from greater security
While industrial computers withstand liquid and dust, they aren’t, necessarily, secure against theft. A lockable, steel enclosure, on the other hand, protects against vandalism and unauthorised access. Install computers in high-risk locations with confidence in the security of your investment.
5. Start Using it Straight Away
Armagard’s enclosures are delivered fully assembled. Simply position the enclosure and install your computer to begin using it straight away. No specialist engineers needed!
Computer Enclosures in Custom Options
Industrial computer enclosures are available with a range of custom options:
- Internal heating and air conditioning: Use a computer from -5°C to +40°C.
- A fixed or sliding keyboard tray: Use a waterproof keyboard with integrated mouse.
- Additional lock options: Protect the computer in high-risk locations.
- Wall or stand mounting: Position it in the most convenient location for your staff.
- A range of sizes: Accommodate screens from 17”, including widescreen monitors.
- Large, standard and slimline versions: Get the perfect fit for your computer and save space in tight locations.
With a range of bespoke options available, it’s easy to match your enclosure to the demands of your environment, even if it’s not industrial.
For example, a police force in the United Kingdom uses Armagard enclosures to protect the computers that display breathalyser results. The polycarbonate window and mild-steel body protect against the violent outbursts of guilty individuals that direct their anger at the computer, saving the force time and money.
In summary, computer enclosures prolong the life of your IT equipment in harsh environments, reducing repairs, boosting productivity and delivering maximum ROI.
Waterproof Computer Enclosures
Waterproof computer enclosures combine the benefits of industrial enclosures with greater protection from water.
With a higher IP rating, typically IP65, you can jet wash waterproof enclosures and deploy them with confidence in humid environments.
For added corrosion resistance, Armagard’s waterproof enclosures are made from food-grade (316) stainless steel, which is inherently anti-bacterial.
By being hygienic and washable, waterproof PC cabinets are ideal for:
- Sterile environments.
- Food and drink manufacturing.
- Pharmaceutical and medical applications.
- Washdown environments.
- Outdoor locations.
Armagard enclosures have been used by big-name food manufacturers, like Florette and Rungis Express, to prevent breakdowns, boost productivity and maintain hygiene standards.
Jörg Ziebell, Rungis Express IT manager, said:
"We have been using Armagard enclosures since 2007, and they are still fully waterproof and, most importantly, rust-free, despite being washed daily with a high-pressure hose ... The customer service is brilliant, and the quality of the products is superb."
Waterproof computer cabinets deliver productivity savings in conditions that would normally be fatal to IT equipment — no more leaving the shop floor to update stock or shipping information. Your employees enjoy an uninterrupted workflow, resulting in time and cost savings for your business.
Choose from custom lock options, fixed or sliding keyboard trays, versatile mounting options and internal heating or air conditioning to create waterproof enclosures that deliver reliable computing and a great ROI in any wet location.
Industrial Touch Screen Enclosures
In some environments, space limitations or harsh conditions mean that a mouse and keyboard aren’t practical.
Or, you may simply recognise the productivity benefits that touch screens could provide on the shop floor.
Either way, a touch screen enclosure provides the protection from water, dust and physical damage that interactive screens need, allowing you to enjoy all the benefits of industrial touch screens:
- Ease of use: Touch screens are intuitive to use and don’t require any keyboard skills. Ideal for improving the workflow of all your employees.
- Speed: Touch screens are quicker to use than a keyboard and mouse. Your staff save time that can be used for other tasks.
- Accessibility: A person without the capacity to use a keyboard and mouse may find a touch screen much more useable. You increase the accessibility of your business to people with physical impairments and broaden your employee base.
Choose the right touch screen enclosure for you depending on the environment you intend to install it in:
- For industrial locations, choose mild-steel enclosures with an IP54 rating that protects from dust and liquid splashes.
- For washdown, humid or sterile environments, choose an IP65 stainless steel enclosure that’s inherently anti-bacterial and corrosion resistant.
Specify further options to get an enclosure that suits any harsh environment: internal heating and air conditioning, wall or stand mounting, additional locks and a range of sizes.
But touch screens are no good for industries that require gloves, right?
Armagard’s touch screen cabinets deliver high-precision interaction even through gloved hands. Your employees enjoy an uninterrupted workflow that results in even greater manufacturing efficiency.
The days when wet conditions, gloved hands and strict hygiene standards excluded the use of touch screens are long gone. The right enclosure delivers the benefits of industrial touch screens in any harsh environment.
ATEX Approved, Intrinsically Safe Enclosures
Protecting a computer from dust, water and physical damage is one thing, but what about safe use in potentially explosive environments?
In these instances, you need an ATEX approved enclosure.
What is the ATEX Directive?
The ATEX directive applies to facilities with explosive atmospheres caused by the presence of combustible substances, such as gases, fumes, vapours and dusts. The directive is in place to ensure the safe use of electrical devices in these facilities, recognising that electrical equipment can be a source of ignition and pose a risk to life and property.
Compliance with the ATEX directive is a legal requirement in European Union Member States. It’s important to understand your obligations if you’re responsible for facilities such as:
- Petrol stations.
- Chemical plants.
- Paint factories.
ATEX Area and Equipment Classifications
Being compliant involves correctly classifying different areas of your facility. Each area is given a rating for the likelihood of explosion according to how often gases and dusts are present.
Zones in which gases, vapours and mists are present are classified as follows:
- Zone 0: A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air of dangerous substances in the form of gas, vapour or mist is present continuously or for long periods or frequently.
- Zone 1: A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air of dangerous substances in the form of gas, vapour or mist is likely to occur in normal operation occasionally.
- Zone 2: A place in which an explosive atmosphere consisting of a mixture with air of dangerous substances in the form of gas, vapour or mist is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period only.
Zones in which combustible dusts are present are also categorised in one of three ways:
- Zone 20: A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is present continuously, or for long periods or frequently
- Zone 21: A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is likely to occur in normal operation occasionally.
- Zone 22: A place in which an explosive atmosphere in the form of a cloud of combustible dust in air is not likely to occur in normal operation but, if it does occur, will persist for a short period only.
Having correctly classified these areas, you need to install and use equipment that conforms to the standards for each zone.
- Zone 0 or zone 20: Use category 1 equipment.
- Zone 1 or zone 21: Use category 2 equipment.
- Zone 2 or zone 22: Use category 3 equipment.
Be aware that the ATEX directive involves more than just these requirements, including clothing regulations and evacuation procedures. For comprehensive advice, get help from the relevant body in your industry.
ATEX Computer Enclosures vs. Air-Purged Computers
To safely use a computer in these environments, you need to isolate it from the surrounding atmosphere.
You've got two options: a purpose-built, air-purged computer system or an ATEX approved computer enclosure that houses an ordinary PC.
For several reasons, an ATEX approved enclosure is the much better choice:
- Enclosures are cost-effective: ATEX approved enclosures ensure compliance with the directive at far less cost than air-purged computer systems.
- Enclosures are flexible: Use a computer of your choice that’s compatible with your existing systems. Easily access and repair the computer without the need for a specialist engineer. Replace the computer whenever you want, using the same enclosure to house several generations of computer.
- Enclosures provide additional security: Enclosures provide better protection from the everyday hazards of manufacturing environments, such as accidental damage, water and even vandalism and theft. You can purchase ATEX enclosures made from food grade stainless steel, allowing you to satisfy the hygiene requirements of sterile and washdown environments, too.
In short, Armagard’s intrinsically safe computer enclosures provide the compliance of air-purged systems at less cost, with greater convenience and with additional protective features.
You not only make your business a safe place to work, but you provide your employees with IT equipment that has a long, trouble-free life, delivering the greatest productivity savings and returning maximum ROI.
For many manufacturing locations, protecting a computer is only half the battle. Printers must also operate reliably and conveniently so that labels, packing slips and stock reports can be produced as efficiently as possible.
Industrial printer enclosures are your route to trouble-free printing in wet, manufacturing and refrigerated environments.
All of Armagard’s printer enclosures share a number of great features:
- Clear front: Allows easy viewing of the printer and its screen.
- Front access flap: For easy retrieval of printed materials without exposing the printer to hazardous conditions.
- Generous capacity: Accommodates a range of printer types. Save money by using one you already own, or purchase and install the printer of your choice.
- Closed cell foam rubber gaskets: Seals on the door prevent the ingress of moisture and maintain a stable temperature, ensuring your printer has a long life.
- Internal cooling fan: Ensures a consistent temperature that reduces strain on components, prevents overheating and extends the printer’s life.
- Lockable: Prevents tampering, vandalism and theft, providing peace of mind in high-risk locations.
- Shipped fully assembled: Simply position the cabinet, install a printer and begin using it straight away.
Protective printer cabinets deliver productivity benefits while not compromising protection.
Staff no longer need to leave the shop floor to print a label, packing slip or stock report, saving them countless hours over the course of weeks and months.
When your printer does finally need replacing, use the same enclosure to protect the next one, ensuring you get maximum ROI from both printer and enclosure.
The Best Printer Enclosure for You
Industrial printer enclosures are available in a range of designs. Choose the best one for your workplace to enjoy the greatest benefits:
All in One or Standalone
To protect a printer and computer in the same unit, choose an all-in-one enclosure that houses a printer, monitor and PC tower in a mild-steel body.
Or, for complete flexibility, use a standalone printer enclosure that can be mounted in the most productive position for your employees.
Mild or Stainless Steel
For industrial environments, choose a mild steel printer cabinet that provides protection from accidental damage, dust ingress and liquid splashes.
For greater water protection, invest in a stainless steel enclosure rated up to IP65. The food-grade stainless steel body is corrosion resistant and naturally anti-bacterial. The IP65 rating allows jet washing, making it ideal for sterile environments and food manufacturing.
Floor Standing or Worktop Mounted
A floor standing enclosure is ideal when worktop space is limited or you need the greatest flexibility. Castor feet allow you to move it to the most productive location at any time.
Alternatively, choose a tabletop enclosure to position a printer on an existing surface where it will be needed most.
Heated printer enclosures
Even refrigerated environments aren’t a barrier to using a printer in the workplace.
By using an internal heater module, thermal insulation and thermostatic control, a heated printer enclosure enables the full functionality of a printer down to -30°C.
- Cold storage warehouses.
- Freezer units.
- Food manufacturing.
- Pharmaceutical applications.
Castor wheels make it easy to wheel the enclosure out of the cold environment to replace the ink, load more paper or repair a jam without exposing the printer to freezing temperatures.
Armagard’s heated printer enclosure was the first of its kind in the UK. Originally developed for Asda, it’s now in use by several of the UK’s major supermarket chains, enabling them to boost productivity, improve turnaround times and practice better stock control in chilled locations.
With the right enclosure, you can use a computer, touch screen and printer in any location.
Contact Armagard to discuss the best enclosure for your workplace. Call today: +44 (0)121 608 7226.
 Health and Safety Executive.
This post was written by Ben Telford
Ben joined Armagard as a copywriter in 2018. With previous experience of writing for a charity, he now assists in the production of Armagard articles, product pages and web copy. Ben Telford