What to Know about Electrical Control Panels
Have you ever wondered how large manufacturing plants or factories operate without their own power plants? There’s a lot of electricity needed to make these facilities run smoothly. This is where electrical control panels come in. These control large and small mechanical processes when needed. We cover what to know about electrical control panels so you can better understand their function and role in today’s electric-fueled world.
Typing, Sizing, and Siting
Control panels send electricity to motors, conveyor lines, ovens, valves, chambers, robots, and other industrial machinery. In fact, any commercial machinery programmed to turn on and off uses this control system. Naturally, there are different types and sizes of industrial control panels to know of. Be sure to choose a large enough panel where you can account for the enclosure size, backplanes, termination strips, and major component locations. Each panel has its own power requirements depending on what it controls and what the facility can handle. There should also be enough space to install and wire items with proper routing and bend radii. An electrical control panel enclosure, or metal box, surround all these items and has multiple sections with access doors. This is because the National Electric Code (NEC) has requirements for proper wiring space and bending radii. With that, you can determine the right panel to install. Panels mounted to a machine, pedestal, or wall use a different enclosure than a free-standing panel. Further, you may need to install a ventilation fan or air conditioner if in an area with high ambient temperature.
Grounding refers to providing an incoming power feed with a grounding conductor. Control panels are either positively or negatively grounded to clean any electrical faults. The ground path resistance must be low to provide a low-impedance path for the resulting fault-current to safely conduct to ground. Grounding enclosures are often metal with an internal metal back panel to mount devices. Additionally, non-metallic enclosures usually have a metal back panel. This is to provide a consistent connection for electrical currents.
Each control panel consists of many different components to make it function. These key components are an integral part of any automated manufacturing process. Every part, from transformers to relays and motor drives, are responsible for a control panel’s functionality. For instance, transformers reduce or increase the AC voltage between circuits. Circuit breakers detect when there is an excess electrical current and open or break the circuit to stop the flow. These are just some examples of important parts of the panel, but there are many others that play an integral role in the control of electrical output for a manufacturer or industry.
Like any piece of equipment, always maintain your electrical panels. Many don’t realize that dust, bugs, and connection issues occur if you neglect a panel. Therefore, place pest control around the base of the enclosure and vacuum cabinet floors routinely. Be careful to avoid vacuuming near circuit boards to upkeep the electrostatic discharge rules. Also, do not overtighten screws as this can cause loose connections. Instead, disassemble, clean, and reassemble the terminals with the highest resistance.
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