Industrial control panels: further considerations

In last months article we discussed various components that you should be taking into consideration when designing an industrial control panel, as well as the regulations and environment that the control panel will be situated. This month we’re discussing further considerations in the control panel design and manufacturing process, from simple must-haves like labelling to technical imperatives like supply conductors.

Make labelling a control panel priority

Whilst this may sound obvious, remembering to label the various components within a control panel can save both time and money down the line. All terminals, wires, electrical and physical components should be clearly labelled. This way, when routine maintenance, testing or even repairs need to be carried out, it can be done so without issue. It’s also important to consider what you’re labelling the components with, use appropriate materials that can cope with the environment within the control panel – they need to last.

Protecting the panel against overcurrent

Overcurrent protection is a device designed to prevent a surge in power reaching load-sensitive components, usually something like a circuit breaker, a bank of fuses or a relay. Rather than discuss the finer details of overcurrent protection, our focus in this article is the placement of the protective device in relation to the control panel. Whichever device you decide is suitable, the placement is equally important. There are two main positions for overcurrent protection:

  • Ahead or in front of the control panel
  • A primary protective device within the control panel itself

Both prevent any surge in power reaching any parts sensitive to higher loads, just bear in mind that by placing a protective device within the panel enclosure will mean opening the panel to reach the device. This might not be an issue, but in some applications the need to minimise entering and exiting the enclosure is a necessity.

Emergency stop buttons

Another safety feature that you must work into your design is an emergency stop button, it is a regulation requirement to include some form of dedicated cut-off switch. It must be a push-button type switch that is hard-wired into the safety circuit of the control panel and must not be part of a HMI. Finally, the placement of the emergency stop button should be below or to the immediate right of any start buttons or other physical switches.

Enclosure faceplates and front panels

Another aspect to a control panel that should really be governed by its application and environment, often overlooked or discounted as of lesser importance to the internal components – but without a proper enclosure, the control panel is open to the environment surrounding it, which in most scenarios is unacceptable. In an industrial setting, the panel may be exposed to varying weather conditions, unusually high temperatures or even harmful chemicals. As such, you will need to define in your design what material the faceplate is made from and how it is affixed to the control panel enclosure.

Designing and calculating for the highest possible load current

It is imperative that you work supply conductors into your design for an industrial panel, supply conductors are responsible for coping with highest possible load that may travel through the panel. Please see image below for the method of calculating the highest possible load current:

Assistance in industrial control panel design and manufacture

The sheer amount of components within a control panel are too many to mention within a written guide, across the last three posts we have aimed to give an overview of what should be considered when designing a panel for the industrial sector. The complexity needed for some control panels can be overwhelming to anyone other than an expert. With that in mind, if you require assistance in the design or indeed the manufacture of a control panel for your industry, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via our website, by email or you can contact us on 0153 5609 314.