One of the main decisions you have to make when purchasing an enclosure is what material the enclosure needs to be made of. For those applications needing a highly protective NEMA Rating such as NEMA 4 or NEMA 4X, most engineers choose Stainless Steel due to its corrosion preventative properties. However, NEMA 4 or NEMA 4X are not required to be made of out Stainless Steel or any other specific material. A NEMA Rating denotes a level of protection against ambient conditions, not a specific material. NEMA 4 & 4X enclosures can be made out of other materials such as aluminum, fiberglass and polycarbonate.
Polycarbonate enclosures are probably the most popular non-metallic alternative because they are:
- Typically 45% to 65% less expensive than a similar sized metallic enclosure.
- Weight much less than metallic enclosures so they can be used in a wider range of environments. This also means lower shipping cost for customers.
- Easier to modify & cut for customization than the metallic and other non-metallic alternatives.
- Far more resistant to impact than Fiberglass enclosures.
- Able to retain their original color longer than non-metallic enclosures.
The main drawback to polycarbonate enclosures is their size limitation. Stainless Steel enclosures can be customized to nearly any dimensions you need for your applications. Polycarbonate enclosures usually are no larger than 20” x 20” which limits their use in larger applications and each size must have an individual mold so the dimensions cannot be modified.