Control Panel Design Basics

Where to start with control panel design

Good control panel design should be a methodical process that can be broken down into five consecutive stages. By following each stage with care and attention, the design will be succinct and result in a subsequent build that is both functional and efficient.

Begin with the physical appearance of the control panel

Quite often, the physical requirements of a control panel are overlooked at this early stage of the design process. Drawings of the physical layout of the control panel are equally as important as electrical/schematic drawings. By drawing out how the control panel will look, you will avoid otherwise unseen design flaws during the production or testing phase.

Things to consider during this part of the design process:

  • Leave adequate clearance for electricians to be able to make electrical connections to power source.
  • Leave adequate clearance for ventilation for those devices that produce heat, such as Variable Frequency Drives and Programmable Logic Controllers.

Pay especially close attention to the circuitry

Start by locating each circuit within the design. What is its function? Determine what size of wire and circuit protection that particular function and circuit will require. Proper implementation of the correct wire size will ensure delivery of the required current, whilst correct circuit protection or insulation will ensure the circuit doesn’t overheat and cause a fire. Then consider which type and what size of power component to use for the circuit.

Things to remember during this part of the process:

  • Wire size is dictated by overall load of the current
  • Level of circuit protection is dictated by the wire size
  • Type of power component is dictated by the required function
  • Size of power component is dictated by overall load of the current

Which control component is the best control component?

When it comes to control components, keep it simple. Over complicating a control panel needlessly only provides more room for error, faults or failures further down the line. Stick to simple relays or timers wherever possible and when simple won’t cut it, shift to something with a higher functionality like a PLC or PSA.

Things to remember about control components:

  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Best components with better functionality include Programmable Logic Controllers PLCs and Programmable Smart Relays PSRs.

Make life easy for the operator

Similarly to control components, you should attempt to use the simplest operator device that is appropriate for the application of the control panel. Keeping the controls of the device as simple as possible will help with functionality as well as future maintenance. Simplistic digital displays, pilot lights and push buttons are great examples of simple operator devices.

However sometimes simple functionality is not enough and a further control is necessary. Colour touch screen displays provide an effective solution for the human-machine interface, providing much more functionality but also requiring deeper knowledge from the user.

Things to remember about user interface and functionality:

  • Keep it as simple as possible
  • Deeper functionality will require knowledge of computers and programming on the part of the operator.

Use the best products you can get your hands on

This might sound obvious, but experienced control panel designers know of all the different brands, which ones are best for each function, which products offer best value for money or which can be trusted for reliability. The aim is to achieve the best balance in build cost, appearance and functionality. You will need to keep in mind your budget and work within that to create a succinct and attractive control panel.

Contact DualTEC for more information

Or, you could of course hire an experienced company who are used to working within a variety of budgets to create control panels of varying functions. If control panel design is something you would like assistance with, get in touch with one of our team on 01535 609314.