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Enclosure manufacturer completes ambitious type testing programme

07 February 2016

Adams Enclosures has completed an ambitious programme of type testing and certification for a total of 33 low voltage devices, including ABB’s new Emax 2 air circuit breakers.

Adams Enclosures creates sheet metal enclosures and busbar systems that house switchboards, power distribution boards, motor control centres, electrical control panels and data centre servers. Established in 2006, the company has grown fast, recently moving to new larger premises in Walsall and using the extra space to bring more manufacturing operations in-house, including powder coating.

In late 2013 the firm set about an ambitious programme to type test its enclosures to IEC 61439-2, which was introduced to cover low voltage switchboards and is a significant step forward from the previous IEC 60439 standard. The new standard covers low voltage switchgear and its enclosure as a package.

By completing a rigorous schedule of type testing, Adams is able to offer certified switchgear panels that meet the new standard for end customers - organisations that require a lot of power and automation, typically water companies, data centre operators, food processors and automotive manufacturers. Adams’ technical sales manager, Simon Banks, who led the testing programme takes up the story:

“ASTA type testing provides evidence to panel builders and end customers that our panels comply with current standards. It gives buyers the confidence in the design and construction of a panel, which, in turn, means that they can operate with confidence.

“As a relatively young company, we set about the testing programme to catch up with the capabilities of other enclosures manufactures and to establish ourselves as a manufacturer that can meet customer needs. Carrying out an in-depth testing programme at the same time that the old standard was superseded will make the most of our investment in the long term.

“The new standard called for a lot of testing to demonstrate that our enclosure and busbar systems meet the new standard’s requirements. This means that we can provide certified busbar systems that can withstand 50 or 80kA fault current and operate within temperature rise limits defined within the standard.

“Type testing is a major investment, both in time and materials as well as transportation between our facility and the testing sites. We’ve installed the panels in our workshop as a visible reminder of the scope of our type testing programme and are available for customers to come and view the products tested.

“We were keen to meet the changing demands of the market and take advantage of being one of the first enclosure manufacturers to offer certified panels fitted with ABB’s new Emax 2 low voltage circuit breaker. Although it’s ultimately up to the panel builder or client to prove the final certification for the board, having the testing of the circuit breaker and enclosure in place is a major step forward. Functional testing of the switchboard is down to them.”

Adams’ programme of short circuit testing was carried out at in Europe, whilst temperature rise testing was completed in the UK. The programme was ambitious and included a total of 33 devices from a number of manufacturers, including the full range of new Emax2 Air Circuit Breakers of ABB.

In total, the programme took ten months of effort led by Simon Banks, with input from Adam’s managing director, Wayne Adams, plus support from the firm’s engineers and fitter, as well as support from component manufacturers, including ABB, who supplied the Emax 2 units plus engineering advice free of charge for the testing programme.

To accommodate the devices, Simon oversaw the design and construction of four panels, which would be tested to their ultimate limits during the test process, when panel’s performance is repeatedly tested against the full fault current for one second. Although Adams has the capability to manufacture large bespoke panels, they have created standard designs so that they can produce popular panel designs as standard modules, freeing up its team of engineers to focus on the more specialist and unusual orders.

Temperature rise testing took more than a week for the most complex of the boards followed by short circuit testing. During the tests, panel assemblies comprising the enclosure, circuit breaker and busbar must work reliably; temperature rise must be limited to the values defined in the BSEN 61439 standard and the short circuit full fault currents withstood for one second. Short circuit withstand tests of 3 second duration have also been carried out on busbar systems. Simon Banks again:

“It was an unusually large testing programme and was hard work at the test facilities. The challenges in the test laboratories were on the temperature rise testing. This was because we had a total of 23 devices on the first panel, all with different current ratings, which made it difficult to balance the current flow through the board. However, we were pleased to complete the testing on schedule and Emax2 handled the temperatures with ease.

“While the preparation work and testing was a significant effort, it has put us in a good position with respect to the competition. It’s rare to have such a large test programme in a single year but it means that we are in a strong market position and have access to new markets. Overall, ABB has been very supportive and their technical assistance has been a cornerstone in our design and testing.”

Completing the testing in early 2015 means that Adams is now ready to fulfil customer orders from key industry segments such as water, solar, rail and building services, where it foresees robust demand for the new Emax2 switchgear.

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