Technological advancement brought with it a new wave of efficient work processes in the industrial sector. Thanks to industrial automation, the labor cost has decreased, and the quantity and quality of production have drastically increased. This all became possible because of industrial control panels. A control panel is a systematic structure comprising of multiple mechanical components that eases the task of running equipment. Such types of control panels are designed and customized for every process based on the requirement of the industry.
While the design of every industrial control panel is customized based on the requirement of an industry, the main structure of the control panel and the key components remain the same. So if you plan to get a control panel designed for your processes, here are some key aspects that will be a part of your control panel design.
Before all the components of a control panel are gathered and set up, you need to have a logical structure ready to create the component groups. This logical structure is known as the control panel layout. It is the very aspect of a control panel design that gives the control panel mechanic an idea of how the design will come together. This layout creates a designated space for each component in a way that makes the control panel function efficiently. A majority of the control panels have a disconnecting switch for the main incoming power in the upper right side of the panel, and hence, the components with the highest voltage are placed in the top most part of the layout structure. Once the highest voltage components are placed, the power can be distributed downwards towards the lowest voltage components.
The power distributions of the control panel should start from the main breaker at the left and then get distributed to the other breakers, terminals, and fuse. While creating the layout, keep adequate space for further additions. Once the power distribution component is set up, the I/O terminals and PLC racks need to be placed below the power distribution. The field instrument I/O wiring should always be inserted from the bottom.
The Sizing and Spacing
The main control panel body needs to have enough space to accommodate each component without overcrowding. Horizontally, the control panel should have such a sizing and spacing that allows that additions and expansions in future as per the requirements. The space should be enough for a whole new power distribution, breaker or terminal component to be added. Also, there should be enough space for ventilation to avoid overheating. Vertically, the control panel sizing and spacing should have such a height that enables easy, neat and tidy wiring of each component. Extra space should be left below the control panel to store and coil extra wiring if any.
Labeling is an essential part of a control panel design that should not be ignored. Labeling the different components of a control panel makes it easy for not only the current user but also the future users to easily understand the control panel functioning. When labeling the control panel, care should be taken that each component has a clear and easy to understand label. A label should be added to the end of each wiring and every power distribution terminal. The labels on the wiring should have corresponding line number and syntax based on the schematics and PLC addresses. The labels on the breakers, terminals and other power supplies should have the abbreviation of the component along with the line number. When labeling the terminals, the number ‘1’ is the starting number for each group of terminal. Such kind of systematic labeling helps when the control panel faces issue and the same needs to be addressed.
The wiring of a control panel is what connects each component of a control panel together. The control panel design should be such that it should provide sufficient space for the wiring to connect the field I/O wiring to the I/O terminals. Also, the wiring should have a layout in such a way that the termination of internal wiring to internal components is easy. Extra wiring length should also be maintained in the panel to accommodate future additions if any. When choosing a wiring to convey the field I/O to the I/O terminal, the length should be long enough too as the field wiring will be terminated in every existing I/O.
Though maintenance is not a direct component of a control panel design, it is an important aspect of consideration when designing a control panel. For the basic maintenance when designing a control panel, you should consider the following factors.
- Industrial areas often suffer from pest infestation from rats and rodents. The rodents can get into the control panel and chew away the wires. To avoid this, traps should be set up, and the control room should be kept clean.
- Control panels are electronic devices that need proper insulation to avoid malfunctioning. To ensure that the control panel is well protected, an insulation resistance testing program is essential when designing a control panel.
- Steps should be taken to keep the control panel dust-free. The control room should be vacuum cleaned regularly, and careful cleaning of the control panel components should be practiced.
- When cleaning the terminals of a control panel, do not unscrew it directly as it can loosen the connection. Instead, use an infrared gun to check the resistance of the terminals and then disassemble and clean.
A control panel is an important part of the majority of industrial functions these days. From managing fire suppression systems to controlling production processes, control panels reduce the workload and make the task easy. If you plan to ease your industrial process and want a control panel design that lasts long, get in touch with our engineers today.