Electrical Control Panels for Automation: the Basic Elements of a Control Panel

Dualtec regularly build and install assembly line control panels. Put simply, a control panel controlling an automated assembly line will control and monitor the various processes electrically.

The control panel will have an enclosure, which is simply a metal box, often of aluminium or stainless steel construction, containing all of the electrical devices. It may come in sections and have more than one door, as sizes will vary depending on the processes to be automated.

Each enclosure will have its own IP rating. This rating shows the degree of protection (of people) from moving parts, as well as showing how protected the equipment inside the enclosure is from foreign bodies and contaminants. It also defines the protection level from moisture, like drips, sprays and submersion.

Most commonly, IP ratings will be 65, 66, 67 and 68, all of which are dust tight, and each of which varies in moisture protection, ranging from being able to withstand water projected from a nozzle, through to being able to withstand continuous complete submersion in water.

Inside the enclosure

Back Panel – Inside the enclosure is the back panel which may be drilled to mount electrical devices. There are also wiring ducts allowing wires to be organised efficiently, as well as keeping electrical noise between devices to a minimum.

The main electrical components of the control panel

Main Circuit breaker: where the power comes into the control panel for all devices. This will usually be fitted with a disconnect on the exterior of the enclosure, allowing users to shut the power off manually if required.

Surge Arrester: protecting all of the electrical equipment within the control panel enclosure, the surge arrester steps in when power surges or lightning strikes happen.

The Transformer: there to transform the power down in order to power smaller devices.

The Programmable Logic Controller (PLC): the PLC acts as the brain of the whole process, controlling many inputs and outputs which control and monitor the automated assembly line. Within the PLC is the Central Processing Unit (CPU) where the logic programme is stored. Along the assembly line will be field devices like proximity switches and photoelectric sensors allowing the feedback of assembly line information needed so the PLC can operate the line effectively.

Human Machine Interface (HMI) – whilst this isn’t always situated within the enclosure of the Control Panel, it can be situated on the panel door, or remotely so it is closer to the machinery. The HMI will allow the operator to control and monitor the assembly line machinery effectively.

The above are the main components of control panels for automated assembly lines, but designs vary. Dualtec will assess and partner with you from the initial concept through to the final commissioning of your automation control panel to ensure that you have the correct functionality and safety systems in place for your operational requirements.

Contact Dualtec on 01534 609314 for control panel help or advice.