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Protection against the Elements

Tue, 06/11/2013 - 3:23pm
Meaghan Ziemba, Editor, WDD

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GORE Protective Vents provide a barrier from dust, dirt, and water ingress while still allowing telecommunications equipment to breathe within changing environmental conditions.

This GORE Protective Vent was selected to maintain equalized pressure inside the router's enclosure without creating a path for water and other contaminants to enter. Photo Credit: GOREDemand for wireless communications has created an increase in telecommunications equipment, as well as a need for advanced, high-quality infrastructure to help prevent product failure, especially in hash environments.

Outdoor telecommunication devices experience severe weather and daily temperature fluctuations, causing strong pressure differentials inside the equipment, which can stress and damage housing seals, allowing leaks to occur. These leaks can result in equipment failure and costly repairs, making it crucial for telecommunications equipment to survive environmental exposure and maintain operational integrity.

Protective Venting

All electronics enclosures used outdoors for telecom infrastructure, such as base stations, small cells, and wireless routers, are subject to temperature fluctuations, wind, precipitation, and solar radiation, which can compromise device performance. W.L. Gore & Associates (Gore) offers a portfolio of protective venting products that equalize pressure in telecommunications equipment.

“Each of our protective vents consists of a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) membrane, which allows the exchange of air while blocking out liquid, dust, and dirt,” explains Jason Zambotti, product specialist for Gore.

Long-Term Reliability

A key contributor to a prolonged life and performance in wireless applications is maintaining equalized pressure. “Many engineers believe that a completely sealed outdoor enclosure with rugged gaskets and seals is the ideal solution for ensuring long-term reliability,” explains Zambotti. “The problem with well-sealed enclosures is an open-air volume inside, which expands or contracts based on the change in temperature, creating stress on the housing’s seals.”

With a vent solution that includes a hole in the outdoor enclosure, pressure is equalized, water intrusion is prevented, and dirt and dust contaminants are kept out, helping to maintain the integrity of the enclosure for a long time.

Zambotti explains how Gore prefers to collaborate with customers early in the design phase so they can help create the optimum venting solution that is guaranteed to provide long-term reliability. “We [like] to collaborate with our customers to understand the environment in which the device will be used. This includes the temperature cycles the device will experience, the outdoor environmental conditions the device will be subjected to, and the internal volume of the enclosure.”

Understanding the physical design of the outdoor enclosure also helps determine a particular vent type, size, and integration option, which the customer can test in their application, ensuring optimum life and performance.

Telecommunication Infrastructure

During its initial year of installation in a part of the Asia-Pacific egion where storms, high winds, and dramatic changes in temperature are common, this ruggedized wireless router was found to have water leaking into the enclosure, causing corrosion and performance issues with the electronic components inside. Photo Credit: GOREThe migration of networks to 4G technologies marks the most challenging and expensive upgrade in the telecommunication industry. The increased use of small cell technology means that telecommunication infrastructure and its electronics are becoming more sophisticated and complex. Components are being installed everywhere from telephone poles and building eaves in metropolitan areas to remote towers in the countryside.

“This is an exciting time for our outdoor telecommunication venting products,” says Zambotti. “Due to these trends, the physical amount of waterproof enclosures that are going to be deployed in the next three years will continue to grow at exponential rates. Our focus over the past couple of years, and our current focus, remains on helping manufacturers meet these market demands for reliable protection of telecommunication devices.”

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