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More to it than meets the IP



IP ratings can look a bit confusing initially but a few minutes studying could save you being left completely in the dark, as Gun Trade World finds out.

Most of us will have considered choosing a waterproof watch. If you’re a swimmer or possibly even a diver, then paying a bit more for the added 50m stamped on the face of your new timepiece will offer valuable peace of mind.

Now the world has gone gadget bonkers, more and more electrical devices have become available with levels of water resistance. ‘Waterproof’ phones have become a big thing recently, with manufacturers keen to boast their phone’s ability to weather an accidental dunking. In reality, the word ‘waterproof’ is something of a misnomer and there is much confusion as to what this actually means.

If you do your research, you may have seen references to IP ratings in product specifications but what does that mean?

WHY ARE IP RATINGS IMPORTANT?

Most outdoor speakers or sports headphones have at least an IPX4 rating and some might even have an IPX7 rating. This might look impressive but for most people that means very little.

The ‘IP’ stands for International or Ingress Protection and classifies and rates the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against intrusion of dust and water.

ANSI/PLATO FL1 STANDARD

Some of the top manufacturers who test IP ratings and other performance ratings, comply with conditions under the ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standard. Prior to its creation, there was no means of standardised testing or any uniform way of rating flashlight features. This led to confusion for consumers and frustration for those companies committed to manufacturing quality lights, as well as publishing accurate performance claims.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?

This standard provides a fairer playing field for many leading lighting manufacturers that voluntarily participate. Distributors are then better informed and the end-user can choose the best flashlight for their needs.

By reviewing the icons and ratings on the packages, everyone can compare claims for brightness, beam distance, impact resistance, run time and, of course, water resistance.

So, going back to IP ratings, the ‘X’ in IPX4 denotes that no rating is published for dust ingress. The ‘4’ denotes the level of resistance to moisture ingress at varying intensities, angles, depths and pressures of exposure or immersion. Ratings are allocated between 1-8 as shown in the table.

Water Resistance testing (IPX1-6)

All test samples need to function normally, immediately after the test and 30 minutes after the test. Water ingress is allowed as long as the above conditions are met.

Waterproof testing (IPX7-8)

It needs to be proved that “ingress of water in quantities causing harmful effects shall not be possible when the enclosure is temporarily immersed in water under standardised conditions of pressure and time.”

For many consumers, IP ratings and certainly ANSI/PLATO FL1 Standards are not going to leave them lying awake at night. For a police officer or member of the army, however, looking to invest in a flashlight for use in life or death situation, IP ratings can be critical.

For peace of mind, it also becomes very important to know whether IP testing is conducted under standardised conditions.

The reason for having a universal rating system is so that buyers and users can be confident of how safe it is to use goods in specific environments and applications.

When the thought of suddenly being thrown into pitch darkness in the line of duty is enough to make you shudder, then it’s worth studying the ratings. They’re there for good reason.

W: www.streamlight.com

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