Whilst designing an explosion-proof product you enter the world of regulations, safety requirements and protection principles. Initially, these products are not immediately associated with creativity, but it certainly takes a creative mind to make the design process a success.
A small spark can be enough to cause an explosion
A device that is intended for use in a hazardous environment must meet strict safety requirements. Which is a good thing, because in an explosive gas atmosphere, a small spark can be enough to cause an explosion. In addition, a new product often has to work within an existing plant. Designing explosion-proof instrument enclosures that work for green field ánd brown field requires a certain mindset. Finding a good balance between the hard requirements and ‘’the rest’’ is key.
''Designing explosion-proof products requires all the creativity of industrial design within the limits of explosion safety''
- Sander Havik, Business Director Industry at Spark
In Europe, explosion-proof “apparatus” fall under the ATEX Directive. Several protection concepts are available in the toolkit of the engineer. The ex-d principle for example, requires enclosures around the electronics that must be able to withstand an explosion from the inside.
To make an explosion-proof product, one can choose from a total of 12 protection concepts. Such as Ex-m, that involves potting to reduce spot temperatures. Or Ex-i, which ensures that the electronics are intrinsically safe. For Canada and the US, FM and CSA have issued similar, but not identical standards that allow for market introduction. By combining these in a clever way, valuable development lead time reduction can be achieved.
As oil and gas are often found in the remote and extreme locations, the product must be extremely robust, i.e. being able to withstand high impacts, corrosive environments and provide a very high ingress protection for heavy rains and hose-downs. A test to the Nema standards ensures this.
…Also other extreme conditions must be taken into account such as very low and high temperatures…
The technical part is challenging enough but the real added value comes in designing a product that is all that and on top of that a platform that can reduce SKU’s, empowers users by paying extra attention to UX/UI, has serviceability as a starting point and does great at fairs because it tells the story and simply looks good.
This results in a cost effective and robust product that can be safely installed by third parties, used on a daily basis by operators, and easily maintained by your service engineers.
Besides the product design, communication between the design company and the client plays a major role in the design process. Designing a product that is intended for use in explosive atmospheres is about small but significant changes, involving many stakeholders.
At Spark we know how to design an explosion-proof product and how to communicate with our clients. We've done it multiple times for the past 20 years. We know the safety requirements, how to properly document tests and how to streamline the design process to organize success.
We have developed explosion-proof products for various clients, such as Enraf, Honeywell process solutions and RMG.