Advantages of Using Rugged Integrated IP67 Cameras in Industrial Applications

This white paper dives deep into the meaning behind the IP67 rating, different options available for achieving IP67 protection and the advantages of using an integrated IP67 solution in industrial applications which provides a lower cost of ownership, reduces the camera and lens failures which would otherwise typically occur in harsh environments, and increases long-term reliability when obtained from a quality camera manufacturer such as Imperx, Inc.

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Today, cameras are found almost everywhere, from the intrusive devices that we all carry around, to doorbell cameras, to backup and rear-view cameras in vehicles, to cameras and imaging systems used in industrial applications worldwide, and so on. However, not all these cameras operate in an office where the environment is pristine, and not all cameras can withstand exposure to common elements in our environment like water and dust.

Standard industrial cameras are not built to withstand severe environments with high shock and vibration, wide temperature specifications, high particulate content and water ingress. There are different approaches taken by industrial camera manufacturers to achieve this level of protection, which we will explore here. One choice is to take a camera and place it inside of an IP rated enclosure, which would likely increase the size, weight, and cost to the imaging system and require additional work, to say nothing of the work necessary to provide power to the camera, mount it in the enclosure and connect it to the computer. An alternative is an integrated IP67 solution, wherein the camera itself is designed and manufactured to be IP67 rated, eliminating the need for costly enclosures and additional equipment. An integrated IP67 camera solution greatly simplifies the protection of the camera with minimal impact to the size and cost.

Figure 1: International Electrotechnical Commission's (IEC) International Protection System Rating Scale.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) developed the “Ingress Protection” standard as a means to give a measurable way to define concepts such as “waterproof” or “dustproof”. There are two digits that define the IP for a device (Figure 1). The 1st digit, which relates to “Solid Ingress Protection”, defines the level of protection that the enclosure provides from contact with objects inside the enclosure and the ingress of solid foreign particles (dust) into the enclosure.

The rating scale starts at 1, meaning the enclosure provides protection from large objects. For example, a 1 means the enclosure protects a large surface from contact with presumably a hazard inside the enclosure. A large surface, for example, might be the back of your hand, but it does not protect against deliberate contact with the hazard. As the IP code value of the first digit increases, the enclosure offers increasing protection levels. When you get to “5” you have partial protection from harmful dust and “6” is full protection from harmful dust.

The second digit of IP relates to “Water Ingress Protection”. It defines how well an enclosure protects water from entering the enclosure. The range of water protection goes from 1, where there is protection against dripping water, while moving up the scale increases protection from water ingress at increasingly higher pressures. From water flowing down a grade and hitting the enclosure, to sprayed and splashed water, to protection from jet streams of water, finally “7” and “8” allows for the complete immersion of the enclosure or device in water.

The IP67 rating, as it pertains to cameras, means that the camera is protected from ingress of dust and the camera can be submerge to depths up to 1m for a period of up to 30 minutes without affecting the use of the camera.

To recap, an IP67 enclosure will seal and protect its contents from dust and water—submersion up to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes. In the imaging world, there are certainly applications where cameras

Figure 2: IP67 Rating Logo

can be exposed to the elements or are in environments where dust, debris, and water is present. In these situations, you must protect the camera, optics and electronics, from any or all of these elements or you run the risk of damaging your equipment.

There are actually two approaches to making a camera IP67 compliant. As discussed earlier, the first would be to just take the camera and put it into an IP67 rated enclosure. There are a number of drawbacks to this approach.

First, you must purchase components (camera and enclosure) from two different companies. Then, someone will need to figure out how put the camera inside the enclosure, adding cost and time. Also, some of the enclosures are quite large and quite heavy. If you have only a small space in which to install your camera, that might prevent the camera from fitting into the location where you get the best view of your process. The second approach is to have the camera manufacturer integrate the IP67 compliance into the camera itself. By effectively sealing the camera, you can save the space and weight of a separate enclosure, saving money, simplifying integration and purchasing. Customers can procure the IP67 rated camera from a single supplier.

Figure 3: Front and back views of Imperx’s integrated IP67 solution with protection built directly into the camera

Here you see one integrated IP67 solution (Figure 3). This is a ruggedized camera with wide temperature range and has its critical electronic components in a sealed housing, and there is a tube that surrounds and protects the lens from the contaminants as well. There are rubber O-Rings that are used to seal the length of the tube, with an oleophobic coating on the front glass to resist water and oils from sticking to it.

Figure 4: Some integrated IP67 cameras ship with two caps on connectors, with a warning label across them instructing the user to either have the cap in place or a cable connected to ensure the IP67 rating is maintained.

With an integrated solution, to ensure that the camera gets it power and outputs its data, IP67 rated M12 connectors should be utilized to interface to the camera (Figure 4). In this figure, there are two connectors on the back of the camera. The camera ships with two caps on the connectors, and there is a warning label across the caps indicating that the cap must remain in place or a cable must be connected to ensure that the IP67 rating is maintained.

The camera shown in Figure 4 is Power over Ethernet, so the user can power the camera and get data from it using only one connector. In this case, the user would leave the factory installed cap over the Power/IO port. If you need to utilize the camera’s Inputs or Output (I/O), such as an input signal to trigger the camera or an output to strobe a light source, or if you want to provide an external power source, you would use both connectors.

Here you can see a close up of one of the connectors that are well suited for use with an integrated IP67 solution (Figure 6), as well as a couple of sample cables (Figure 5). If you are using the PoE capability, you would just have an RJ45 connector on the opposite end of the cable, assuming that the computer that you are connecting to is in some kind of protected area and you would also have a POE power injector located next to the computer.

Along with considering the camera build, outputs, and connectors, it’s vital to touch on the importance of the enclosure surrounding and protecting the lens. This is called the “Lens Tube”. In some respects, this lens tube enclosure is even more important than the one protecting the camera and the data, because if this component is not properly selected, it could adversely affect the image.
Lenses come in all different form factors. They can be short or long, large diameter or small, wide angle or telephoto. You must know a lot about the lens properties when you get to the point of enclosing the lens.

Figure 7: Some integrated IP67 cameras are available with tube extenders for custom lens solutions.

First, the user must physically fit the lens inside the lens tube enclosure. Some lenses have thumbscrews that are used to secure the iris or focus settings, but once the lens is inside the enclosure the thumb screws are not required. To minimize the lens profile, it’s best to replace the thumb screw with a set screw that will be flush with the OD of the lens. You won’t have access to change the iris or focus, so why not just use the set screws to lock those down?

Figure 8: Imperx offers hermetically sealed IP67 C-mount lens tubes to protect your lens against the ingress of water, dust, sand and other contaminants. Easy-to clean front clear glass covered with oleophobic coating is resistant to fingerprints, smudges and scratches.

Next, and more important but less obvious, is the need to understand the way the lens will image and size the length of the enclosure properly. Because if you don’t, you could end up vignetting your image, and not getting the full resolution out of the camera.

I’d like to just say a few words on Vignetting, or “clipping.” The user would not want the enclosure to vignette, or “clip” the image. Normally, when people talk about vignetting, they will see dark spots in the corner of your picture. Another way to create what people might call vignetting is when there is a loss of illumination near the edges of the lens image circle that is a natural occurrence in lenses. The center of the lens is where your image quality is best, and as you move further away from the center, particularly on short focal length lenses, the amount of glass that the light is going through is less and you get more diffraction and thus the light loses its intensity. The vignetting referred to here is the condition where the lens tube enclosure can physically block light from entering the lens. When an enclosure is selected, which is a separate housing or integrated into the camera, you must be sure that the “Clear Aperture” of the front window is the right size and the right location. The enclosure must not only encompass the lens but it must be short enough, or close enough to the front of the lens, so as to not block out any light.

To illustrate, here we see a Shorter Focal Length lens on the left and a Longer Focal Length Lens on the right (Figure 9). The short focal length lenses will image a wider field of view than a long focal length lens. The shorter the focal length, the larger the Angle of View. And the longer the focal length, the smaller the Angle of View.

Figure 9: Wide Angle/Short Focal Length Lens vs. Narrow Angle/Long Focal Length Lens

For Longer Focal Length lenses, the enclosure is much easier to design. The Angle of View is small, so the chance of the enclosure blocking any light is small too. You don’t want to make the enclosure too long, but there is less concern.

You can see the impact of selecting an enclosure diameter that is too small for a Short Focal Length lens. Particularly for short lenses, focal lengths of 5-8mm or smaller, the angle of view is quite large.

By using some trigonometry, one can calculate the theoretical Angle of View of the lens. We use the term “theoretical” because sometimes the distortion of the lens will actually make the Angle of View even larger. But once you know the Angle of View, you can project how large a Clear Aperture—essentially the size of the window you will need on the lens tube—and select the length of the tube so that that Clear Aperture diameter is far enough from the front of the lens to allow all the light to enter.

Figure 10: IP67-rated cameras are an ideal fit for applications with high humidity levels.

Where might you want to consider using IP67 cameras? Some examples include in extreme environments—where there is high humidity, the camera is exposed to weather (rain, sleet, etc.) or where there is high dust levels. It might be important to note that the IP67 enclosure is dustproof, but it should not be used in environments where the camera needs to be explosion proof. That is entirely another spec and solution, and not part of the IP rating scale.

You might want also want to keep outside material from impacting the camera such as in cutting applications where there could be shavings in the air.

Some markets where you might consider an IP67 camera include Oil & Gas, Transportation, Automotive, and Toll Collecting/Enforcement, Aerospace, Manufacturing, Security, Military, and many more. Essentially any place that isn’t a pristine environment, like a laboratory, might be a good use. Even some labs might be candidates as well.

Figure 11: Industrial applications are frequently exposed to harsh elements such as water, vibration, chemicals and extreme temperatures.

In many Industrial Applications (Figure 11), there is a growing demand to automate the processes, and monitoring and controlling those processes are critical to success. Your process may be operating in wet conditions, under high vibration, near chemicals, or under extreme temperatures. This automation can lead to increased pressure on production and motion control systems, and the cameras that monitor these systems. An IP67 camera can help you overcome these harsh environment challenges. But beware if the enclosure needs to operate in extreme temperatures. The IP67 enclosure may not help, if the camera is not able to survive in those same temperatures. For example, if your camera only has an operating range from 0C to +30C, or if you don’t know what that camera’s operating temperature range might be, you cannot assume that the enclosure will provide any extra protection.

Here are just a few of the industrial applications where an IP67 camera could be beneficial.

Figure 12: Harsh conditions such as pressure, extreme temperatures, vibrations and shock are among some of the most common factors affecting the Oil and Gas industry.

The Oil and Gas Industry (Figure 12) faces challenges with increased demand for natural resources. These industries operate in harsh conditions—extreme temperatures, vibration, shock, etc. and an integrated ruggedized IP67 camera can withstand these harsh environments.

Some specific applications include inspecting pipes, security video, oil rig surveillance, etc.

Figure 13: IP67 cameras are also ideal for food and beverage applications, where there is intensive cleaning, splash and food zones, risk of dust ingress, areas with wash-down and disinfection processes, etc.

The Food and Beverage Industry is another area where IP67 cameras would be used (Figure 13). The Food industry has areas where there is extensive cleaning, whether by washing an area with disinfecting solutions, and some splash zones will exist.

The Machining and Metal Processing Industry is another possible market. There are sometimes oil and lubricants in the air, and an IP67 enclosure may be helpful. In addition, there can be debris, fumes, heat, and sparks where the enclosure can protect the camera system.

Figure 14: IP67 cameras provide special protection from fumes, gases, sparks, metal particles, dust, humidity, oil and solvent in Automotive and General Manufacturing applications.

Automotive and General Manufacturing Industries could benefit greatly with IP67 protection where gases, sparks, metal particles and dust, oil and solvents can be present (Figure 14).

High contaminate environments, where there is a lot of dust or particulates in the air, is another possible opportunity. For cameras installed in silos or grain elevators, or for live feedback of fill levels in tanks, keeping the debris away from the camera is important.

Figure 15: IP67 protection is also ideal for high contaminate environments such as monitoring of silos or grain elevators.

To review, an IP67 enclosure increases the survivability and durability of the camera — allowing the camera to be installed and operate in areas where a non-protected camera could not. It provides reliability of performance, ensuring that the electrical, mechanical, and optical components of the system remain contaminant free and stay operational. And it protects the camera and lens from the external harsh environment.

Integrated IP67 solutions can provide a cost savings when comparing it to the cost of purchasing a separate housing. It provides a controlled environment for the optics. And it can help to minimize the overall footprint of the camera when compared to using a camera with a separate housing.

When choosing a camera, particularly for environments where the environments are harsh, you want to be sure that your camera is protected but also that it will survive in whatever conditions you may have. You need to consider what type of contaminants the camera will need to endure, and choosing IP67-rated products will protect from dust and water ingress. Additionally, you may need to consider the operating temperature range. Your application may require a camera that can survive in high shock or vibration.

We hope that this white paper has helped you understand a little bit more about the IP67 rating, different options available to achieve IP67 protection, and the advantages of using a rugged integrated IP67 rated camera in industrial applications. The integrated IP67 camera provides a lower cost of ownership, eliminating the need for a separate housing, reduces the camera and lens failures that you would otherwise see in that environment, and increases your long-term reliability with a quality camera manufacturer.