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The Basics of Control Panel Design

Mike Jeffries | October 5, 2020

The control panel is the point at which industrial motors and automated processes are controlled by humans. The control panel is where ideas are born out of necessity and new processes are implemented to optimize and increase efficiency. While they may look complicated, there is a method to the madness.

Here is a quick dive into the basics of what makes a control panel tick.

Related Blog: Industrial Control Panel Contactor FAQ's

Design Durability into Every Control Panel

The average industrial control panel has a lifespan of somewhere around 20 years give or take. A well-designed panel will operate as crisp and efficient on its last day of service as it did on the first. A good indicator of your design's longevity includes:

  • Heavy Duty Power Grid: Functionality begins at the main power supply, circuit breakers, fuses, connectors, grounding components, and contacting devices. This is where your control panel begins, so don't skimp on any hardware here.
  • Wiring Grid: Implementing a sound cabling management system here is money well spent. Neatly wired interfaces are much easier to perform maintenance and service repairs on.
  • Human-Machine Interfaces: The more advanced your interface is, the likelier your system will meet and exceed future requirements. This includes all the switches, lights, graphic displays, and gauges either analog or digital. 
  • Sensing and Command Controls: All the sensors, relays, transmitter assemblies, receiving assemblies, and any input/output (io) modules, and of course all of your hardwired logic assemblies.

There are many facets to a well-designed control panel, but these 4 issues listed here are some excellent building blocks for an efficiently operating and very durable control panel. 

Pay Attention to the Specifications

Depending on the specific application of the control panel, there will be a firm set of specifications to be followed. 

In addition to all the specific electrical codes that must be adhered to, here are some other specification requirements.

  • Safety Specifications: Depending upon the intended requirements of the control panel, worker safety is paramount in its design. Some control panels operate specific items such as blower motors and heating elements and, to ensure that the electrical requirements are not overloaded, these subsystems should be powered by their own separate electrical supply.
  • Construction Specifications: Having the ability to quickly troubleshoot and repair components in the control panel all depends upon how well the panel is constructed to allow quick and efficient access to the interior of the panel. The easier it is to diagnose and repair these issues results in far less down time of the control panel in the future.
  • Wiring Specifications: In today’s modern control panels, most if not all, utilize a very simple 'plug-and-play' technology. That is, the components can quickly be replaced by simply snapping a new one into place. This simplistic approach to control panel efficiency is only as good as the methodology of the actual wiring of the system. Properly routing, tagging, and terminating the control panel wiring is a good place to pay attention to detail.

These are just some overall basics of designing the control panel of any industrial application. Every control panel is specific to the machinery and processes they are intended to control. 

If you have any questions about control panels and need expert help, contact us today.

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Topics: electrical control, motor and control expert

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