In a fierce global economy, every industry is focusing on reducing CAPEX while simultaneously increasing plant efficiency and productivity. Though these two goals might seem contradictory, technologies are emerging that can help. A good example is the new generation of electronic motor controllers that are changing the way industry is using motors.
Save money by saving space
A simple way to reduce the cost of low voltage equipment is to use smaller electrical devices, which saves on the metal as well as the time to build it. New, more compact motor controllers allow for additional starters per column and less copper for the main power busbar, which is a key cost factor. With a trend toward compact electric devices, electrical panels now require less real estate.
Further space optimization can come from integrating thermal protection inside the circuit breaker. Unfortunately, there is a common belief that having a separate thermal relay is more reliable. However, motor circuit breakers with integrated thermal protection are in reliable use in millions of installations.
Reducing heat dissipation can further decrease space requirements. In the closed, confined space of a panel with airflow often limited by an IP54 rating, the sizing of the panel not only needs to accommodate the product but also its heat dissipation. A standard electromechanical thermal overload relay creates heat proportional to the current, while an electronic MC can cut that heat generation by half. Reduced heat means a more compact panel.
Increase productivity with advanced protection and control
For example, integrated over-current protection will help protect valuable mechanical parts such as the gearbox and long start protection will stop a motor if it takes too much time to start. Ground fault protection will anticipate a potential internal short circuit of the motor winding. As an added benefit, a smart MC supports faster diagnosis and predictive maintenance by giving the maintenance team information on the trip name and trip history.
If a motor suddenly stops in a continuous process it can cost thousands of dollars in wasted raw material. An advanced electronic circuit breaker now can create a “clean stop” by sending a pre-alarm to a PLC that can then put the process in a safe shutdown state.
When a breaker trip is unavoidable, a traditional breaker requires a manual reset on the lever to restart. For remote locations like a water treatment plant, it forces an operator to travel a large distance to access the panel. Smart circuit breakers let you remotely open the downstream contactor before the breaker trips, which allows an automatic reset or remote restart.