Durable control panel design | machine design

In short :

  • When striving to achieve long-term sustainability, designers have full discretion in how complex a system they wish to design.

  • Build sustainability into every aspect of the control panel’s life: design, manufacture, installation and maintenance.

Sustainability should be of the utmost importance to all of us so that we can meet today’s needs without compromising tomorrow’s needs. In more succinct terms, we cannot continue to use resources at current levels without harming future generations. The world’s population, demand for resources and the cost of energy continue to grow, making sustainable systems not only better for the world, but also for businesses.

But what is the impact of sustainable design on a control panel? This can be equated to minimized equipment footprint, easy installation, low or no maintenance, and reduced installation time and cost.

It’s easy to think about going “green” with facility upgrades such as more efficient lighting, reduced water consumption and minimized emissions. However, the machine building industry does not usually think about the impact that control panels can have. Creating sustainable products is not just about tweaking a design here and there, but about taking a new approach to product design that integrates sustainability into all aspects of its life: design, manufacture, installation and maintenance.

Although the word “sustainable” may have different modern connotations, the main objective remains the same: to optimize resources. Specifically, the electrical systems that engineers design consume resources both during construction and throughout the life of the building. Although much of the design of these systems is governed by building codes, these codes also contain flexibility that allows designers to use fewer resources.

Let’s take a look at the control panels of today and tomorrow, as well as some of the key factors to consider when designing durable control panels.

Today’s control panel

An industrial control panel (ICP) is “an assembly of a systematic and standard arrangement of two or more components”. These components can be motor controllers, overload relays, fused disconnect switches and circuit breakers, and associated control devices including pushbutton stations, selectors, timers, switches and control relays, together with associated wiring, terminal blocks, indicator lights and similar components. Control panels are the brains of all automation projects and are essential for the optimal performance and reliability of connected systems.

However, these assemblies face new design challenges every day, including increased regularity requirements, advances in control system technology, and new design and manufacturing methods.

A typical ready-to-assemble control panel includes point-to-point wiring from the I/O devices and additional wiring to the driver devices on the door. But, as changes are made to the panels, the design becomes more complex, cumbersome and ultimately overloaded. The more changes are made, the more complex the panel becomes; in turn, the maintenance time is increased and the question of an applicable warranty arises. These factors combine to make it harder to incorporate changes and perform maintenance without disrupting the system and causing serious downtime.

Design for tomorrow

Even though there are many codes and standards that dictate how controls operate, designers have a great deal of latitude in how complex a system they wish to design when striving to ensure long-term durability. . The complexity of the system comes into play when thinking about the long-term environmental implications.

Tomorrow’s control panel design includes the usual considerations, panel depth and footprint, components to be installed, wiring, component sizes, and wiring. However, there are emerging trends in control panel design that may impact the future of the industry:

IoT/connectivity. A panel design that manages power distribution and enables equipment communications with the user

Sustainability. A design that would control costs: maintenance and operation, providing flexibility for system upgrades/enhancements, and compliant with NEC and UL508A standards

Footprint optimization. With the increase in population, the need for new and expanded infrastructure due to the limited availability of space increases. Designers are encouraged to create smaller products and systems. In the case of a panel design, the goal can be achieved by reducing panel depth with shallower doors and panel footprint with more efficient components

3D prototype. Using 3D printing to develop a prototype that will help eliminate errors and omissions for the panel design

Aesthetic. Improve aesthetics by designing a cleaner and more functional panel (for example, by reducing the amount of wiring)

By incorporating one or more of these trends, the design can be considered sustainable. But what does that actually mean? In a nutshell, this means that the system is now efficient and reliable. It will help reduce energy costs by easily identifying maintenance needs based on energy consumption, receiving notifications that can reduce costs, and reassigning machines based on energy profile.

  • Efficient system: manage and reduce energy costs by integrating IoT and sustainable design.
  • Easy Installation: Add “plug & play” components instead of cumbersome installation practices.
  • Reliable System: Peace of mind knowing the durable design can support the customer’s system for years.
  • Easy commissioning and start-up: The system is very easy to understand and commission with faster start-up and huge cost savings.
  • Low maintenance: With the ability to monitor the system in real time before costly repairs are needed and downtime is avoided.

In summary, a durable sign is designed with present and future needs in mind. Throughout the lifetime of the system, the durable design will control costs associated with maintenance and operation, while providing flexibility for system upgrades/enhancements while complying with regulations.

To achieve a sustainable design, decision makers must choose the right panel components that will significantly reduce overall cost and panel size in addition to minimizing increased labor costs. You can integrate pilot devices (including new fashionable push buttons) as an integral part of your smart, connected system for greater efficiency and reliability. Consider choosing smarter and faster solutions to reduce wiring time and costs for easy installation, commissioning and start-up. While saving material, time and labor costs, one can still have an aesthetically appealing panel.

Ceren Bacinoglu is Product Manager for Pilot Devices, Eaton. For more information on control panels, visit www.eaton.com/industrialcontrol.