Automating Enclosure Selection

Industrial automation systems are evolving; they are expected to be both smarter and smaller, making enclosure specification harder than ever before. Rittal’s planning software offers a solution

Driven by the growth of ‘smart’ technology, automation components for both centralised and decentralised applications are becoming more compact, despite delivering considerable computing power. Sensors and actuators are also getting more ‘intelligent.’

Packing components into an enclosure is therefore becoming more complex. The interior configuration must be planned to reduce wasted space, yet avoid issues such as over-heating or future restricted access to components.

To meet these requirements, Rittal offers a range of solutions to safely house sophisticated electronics systems, both centralised and decentralised. As well as a range of enclosures in varied sizes, materials and paint specs, the company’s Eplan software allows engineers to populate the panel in CAD format. This helps optimise the use of space, enabling changes to be made quickly and easily before applying them in a workshop.

Simplify thermal calculations

Component size is typically determined by the space needed for terminals, connectors and clamps, as well as their accessibility for commissioning, servicing and maintenance. As components get smaller, enclosure packing density is increasing. Furthermore, new functionality such as power management and networking, means that additional components are being put in all the time.

Rittal’s industrial and outdoor enclosures product manager, Paul Metcalfe, commented: “Reducing the size of individual components has not had a noticeable effect on the available space within enclosures, mainly because this is largely determined by the arrangement of the DIN rails, cable ducts and other components. Components are frequently installed in groups and space can only be marginally optimised by individual components.

“We would caution that where space is taken up by smaller components, users should review climate control because higher packing densities increase the overall risk of hotspots. The good news is, this doesn’t have to be laborious. Rittal’s Therm application performs the calculation of climate control in its entirety, providing users with appropriate and correctly dimensioned solutions.”

Cut distributed system costs

Distributed systems are commonly found in extreme industrial environments, such as the petro-chemical industry, and in conveyor systems. Housing control equipment in a separate room keeps it away from harsh conditions and makes it possible to specify less technically advanced enclosures. Unfortunately, however, the cost of cabling to connect to the machinery can be high.

Rittal’s solution is to offer a range of enclosure models with high IP ratings in sheet steel, stainless steel or plastic, designed to protect the equipment housed inside. This means that, rather than putting the control gear in a separate room, all the control gear can be next to the machine itself. Locally employed enclosure distribution offers cost savings around the amount of cabling required and can be more effective, thanks to the specialist protection it provides against dust and oil.

In other, highly-sensitised environments, such as the food industry, where hygiene standards are stringent, purchasers can specify both the materials and the enclosure design to prevent contaminants being deposited and to simplify cleaning.

Dealing with decentralisation

The focus of decentralisation is to make each machine as compact and centralised as possible to simplify commissioning. Machines can be assembled as complete transportable units, however, the control technology for these machines needs to be in the right place. This can be done either using machine-integrated standard enclosures, or through appropriate integration in the body of the machine.

Paul advised: “We have products, accessories and experts who can advise around protection category, heat dissipation, electro-magnetic compatibility and the corresponding installation regulations and requirements, which all have to be considered.”

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