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How full automation of control panel production has become a reality

Author : Paul Metcalfe is industrial & outdoor enclosures Product Manager for Rittal

07 October 2016

Sometimes an innovation comes along that transforms business practices, greatly enhances customer service, and significantly improves the working environment for employees.

The Assemblex and MH 500

Automation within panel building is one such advance and, thanks to it, mechanisation truly has become a ‘win, win’ for panel builders and their customers.  

All this is supported by feedback from companies now using Rittal’s Automation Systems for the manufacture of their control panels. Not only do the products within the range speed up the production process, the machining is highly accurate, the system frees up engineers to work on other projects, and the resulting working practices are safer for everyone. 

Rittal Perforex

The Rittal Perforex is a machining centre for the preparation of enclosures, mounting plates and doors. All the mechanical processing steps in the preparation of enclosures for population can be accomplished in a single work step. The accuracy and repeatability the machine attains delivers the final panel in a fraction of the time.

Programming a job into the machining centre takes just minutes, and is either on the basis of simple, component-oriented workshop programming, or using imported CAD data from Rittal’s software system Eplan. Furthermore, any program setting can be saved for future, identical jobs, speeding up work-flow even more.

What’s more, automation makes workshops safer, cleaner and quieter spaces to work in. The Perforex machining centre has its own integrated vacuum so there is no longer any swarf that needs to be cleared up and it is significantly quieter than using manual tools.

Handling and ergonomics

The Assemblex and MH 500 are automation tools which help with handling and ergonomics in the manufacture of mounting plates and panels.

The panels can be worked as if on a table top, with a fully adjustable height and tilt.   Once complete, they can then be slid fully populated into the enclosure.

The strain can also be taken out of lifting – the MH 500, for example, is a multifunctional lifting tool, which makes transportation and lifting operations in the workshop much easier. It allows ergonomic handling with one-person assembly - for example, when installing heavy mounting plates or equipment in the enclosure. 

The extensive range of accessories means that the MH 500 can be used for a variety of applications, including manoeuvring enclosures, fitting chiller units or fitting populated mounting plates.

Secarex

This cutting centre tool cuts cable ducts, cable duct covers and support rails to length quickly and with the minimum of fuss.

Gone is the need to spend time measuring and cutting, along with complicated handling – the Secarex is convenient to use and cuts to length quickly, precisely and reliably. 

Data can be inputted from various CAD systems or taken from the Perforex workshop programming. The cutting centre improves quality, minimises cutting waste, lowers costs and essentially accelerates the whole process.

Athex

The Athex terminal block assembly machine helps to improve efficiency in the enclosure manufacturing process. The time-consuming assembly of each individual terminal by hand is taken over by a precise component mounting-arm. By importing the relevant CAD data, you define which terminals are placed where, enabling the system to handle terminals from all manufacturers.

The Rittal Perforex

The machine’s high production speed, in conjunction with minimal downtime and maintenance thanks to its generous magazine capacity, ensures enhanced flexibility and productivity.

Automated wiring 

The Averex wiring centre automatically makes connections between devices while ensuring all standards and safety requirements are met. It’s a huge time-saving advance – potentially reducing the number of working hours per enclosure by 15 hours. 

Essentially, Averex has a huge role to play in wiring enclosure mounting plates. The system cuts the wires to the correct length before stripping and crimping them with wire ferrules. It then feeds the wires through the cable duct and attaches them to components such as terminal blocks, contactors and motor circuit breakers.

On average, it takes around 180 seconds to complete this wiring process manually – Averex finishes the same task in approximately 40 seconds. What’s more, the system uses laser technology to identify the parts and to check their dimensions against the assembly tolerances.  

Its patented machine head can be rotated 270° and includes cable routing, cutting, stripping and crimping units, torque-controlled screwing and a tool changer that can hold up to six tools. In addition to screw connections, terminal blocks with push-in connections can also be used with this system.

Data from Eplan, along with information on components and their respective locations on the mounting plate, is used to check the manually assembled mounting plate before the components are wired up automatically and autonomously. The result is a significantly faster system of wiring that would otherwise be performed by hand.

Additional features, such as push-in connections and automatic wire-changing and labelling further increase the degree of automation that can be achieved.

Southern panel building company employs Perforex

When a panel building company was considering how to improve efficiency and offer better production consistency for its switchgear construction, it turned to Rittal and its automation systems. 

One of the main issues the company faced was the underemployment of its highly skilled labour force that were tied-up doing basic tasks such as drilling holes.  

Following a detailed assessment, the decision was taken to install a Rittal Automation Perforex CNC machine. 

Since it was installed, the Perforex has demonstrably improved the quality, consistency and speed of the company’s output, with obvious knock-on benefits for both the company and its customers. For example, a project that had taken four hours can now be completed in 20 minutes to a consistently high standard of finish, whether the order was for one panel, or 100. 

Furthermore, the Perforex system has opened up a number of new routes to market for the company and looks set to go beyond the targets originally set. 


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