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Mastering IP Ratings: Guide to Waterproof and Dustproof Designs

Chandler Jardin
Written by Chandler Jardin
Posted on April 16, 2024 at 9:33 AM

Ever wondered what magic formula keeps your phone safe from a poolside splash or your smartwatch ticking during a sweaty workout? The answer lies within the unassuming yet powerful IP rating. Don't let its technical-sounding name intimidate you – understanding IP ratings is like learning the language of your gadgets, empowering you to make informed choices and unleash their full potential.

So, what exactly does this rating entail, and how can you ensure your products stand the test of time and environment? This blog post will demystify IP Ratings, showcase products that exemplify these standards, and guide you through the process of achieving them in your designs.

Smartphones deal with splashes or pools or water

Smartphones deal with splashes or pools or water.

Understanding IP Ratings

Delving deeper into the realm of IP Ratings reveals a world where technology meets durability, ensuring devices are armored against the inevitable encounters with dust and water. The IP, or Ingress Protection, rating system, as outlined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), serves as a global benchmark for defining the levels of sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures. This meticulously structured system is designed to provide users, designers, and engineers with a clear, concise understanding of a product's resistance to environmental elements.

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The essence of the IP rating is defined by two critical digits that follow the IP prefix. Each digit is not just a number but a gateway to understanding the protective capabilities of a device. The first digit, ranging from 0 to 6, reveals the extent to which a product is safeguarded against the entry of solid particles. This scale begins at 0, indicating no special protection, and escalates to 6, symbolizing a dust-tight enclosure. It's a testament to a product's resilience against everything from large surfaces of the body, such as the back of a hand, to the finest dust particles that seek to infiltrate and compromise the device's integrity.

The narrative continues with the second digit, which spans from 0 to 9, each level ascending in its defense against liquids. Starting at 0 for no protection, it progresses to 9, representing the ability to withstand high-pressure, high-temperature water jets sprayed from various angles. This part of the rating speaks volumes about a product's design and its capability to endure splashes, jets, or even submersion, thereby safeguarding the internal components from moisture's potentially damaging effects.

Understanding IP ratings in their entirety involves appreciating the nuances between each level of protection. For instance, a product rated IP67 is not only completely dust-tight but also capable of temporary immersion in water, offering a high degree of flexibility for use in various environments. Conversely, an IP54-rated device provides a lesser degree of protection, being limited to dust resistance that prevents harmful deposits and protection against water splashes from all directions. Think about several of the devices you use every single day – your phone, earbuds, and even the key fob for your car. All of these have specific IP ratings that you may not be aware of. For example, the iPhone 15 possesses an IP68 rating, denoting its ability to withstand submersion in water at a depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes while remaining dust-tight. The average consumer is not going to be aware of what the IP rating of their phone is, nor will companies often advertise this. Instead, most companies will refer to their product as “water-resistant”, “splash-proof”, or any other assortment of terms related to that. All those terms are used to translate what IP rating their product has achieved and why it should matter to you.

Designing with an IP Rating in Mind

To design a product that meets specific IP standards, every potential point of ingress must be considered and protected. Here's how:

Accounting for All Possible Leak Areas

It's crucial to identify and seal every potential entry point for dust and water. This includes seams, joints, and any openings for buttons or ports. Any opening should be designed with either a gasket or the appropriate IP-rated component in mind.

If any undesired entry points do appear, such as along a seam or joint, it is vital to determine the cause of this leakage point. Was this opening created during the manufacturing process, did it suffer a crack while withstanding a specific amount of force, or did a tear start to form after repeated use?

To prevent any of these unforgiving scenarios from occurring, the product design and the material used must be heavily considered. If a product does experience any tears or cracks, a more durable material or added thickness may be necessary. While a 3D model on the computer may seem foolproof at first glance, new issues may arise once it faces the harsh environment of the real world.

Using Gaskets for IP Rating

Gaskets play a vital role in sealing enclosures and ensuring compliance with IP ratings. They can be made from various materials, including rubber, silicone, or foam, depending on the required resilience and flexibility.

Any time you have two conjoining parts to an assembly, a gasket should be used in between the two parts. Adding a gasket helps provide a complete seal against water, given that the gasket is properly seated, and the appropriate amount of force enacts on the gasket when interacting with it. When the two mating parts are assembled, enough force should be applied to the gasket to the point where this material expands in the channel between the two mating surfaces and tightly fills in any possible gap where water could enter.

Gaskets will come in various unique shapes and sizes, designed specifically with the parts they will mate with in mind. Depending on how much you need the gasket to deform and how much force will be applied to it, as well as what application and setting you are using it will help determine the right material for you.

Example of an IP67-rated enclosure with a gasket installed

Example of an IP67-rated enclosure with a gasket installed.

Choosing IP-Rated Components & Connectors

Every component, from USB ports to power connectors, must also comply with the desired IP rating. Selecting pre-rated components simplifies the design process and helps guarantee the overall integrity of the product's protection against the elements.

Similar components will often come with varying IP-rated designs that are sure to suit every engineer’s need. Although the higher IP-rated projects tend to veer on the more costly side, it is often due to added protection that makes it watertight or dust-tight. Even though your product may utilize these IP-rated components, your design must coexist with these components properly.

Correct hole dimensions with the appropriate diameter, chamfer, step, etc., must be implemented. These dimensions are often included in the data sheets of the components that are provided by the manufacturer for correct installation. If a hole is slightly too wide, or the gasket of the component isn’t properly seated against the mating wall, you run the risk of leakage occurring within your product.


In the journey from concept to consumer, ensuring your product can withstand the rigors of its intended environment is paramount. Understanding and implementing IP ratings not only elevates the durability and appeal of your offerings but also instills confidence in your customers that their investment is protected against dust and water ingress. Whether you're designing the next generation of smartphones, outdoor lighting, or wearable technology, keep these insights in mind to navigate the path to a truly resilient product.

By embracing the principles of IP rating from the outset, designers can unlock new realms of reliability and functionality, bringing to life products that aren't just built to last but are also built to excel, regardless of where they're used. Remember, in a world where the elements wait for no one, an IP rating isn't just a number—it's a badge of honor.

Topics: Product Design

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