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An efficient and cost-optimised approach to electrical cabinet construction

02 September 2010

Weidmuller’s ‘RailDesigner’ software is designed to save both time and money for electrical cabinet designer and assembler customers through all stages of their projects from initial design, through component selection and ordering, to inventory control. Stuart Jaycocks reports

Planning and designing an electrical cabinet is a time-consuming process, and enclosure component supplier, Weidmuller is only too aware of this fact. Selecting components, managing the supply chain and getting down to the all-important configuration are tasks that require precise project management if they are to culminate in a profitable outcome for the panel builder.

With this in mind, Weidmuller has developed special software for its customers, which takes care of component ordering and configuration. RailDesigner simplifies the process of selection, helping designers to plan their projects in 2D and 3D and ultimately order pre-assembled mounting rails and a variety of components from opto-couplers and connector blocks to industrial Ethernet routers.

Weidmuller customers are able to plan their projects on the basis of product data provided by the company using their own CAE applications. Following a direct data export, RailDesigner then carries out the remaining configuration. Transferring data from the CAE system is fast and effortless thanks to integration of the relevant interface within RailDesigner. As soon as the user has completed detailed construction planning in RailDesigner, they will receive a full set of manufacturing documentation, including visual support that serves as a guide to the installation of components within the enclosure.

In addition to the RailDesigner planning and project engineering aid, online wizards are available to offer help in the selection of products. Wizards are available for a wide range of products, including surge protection modules, heavy-duty connectors and industrial Ethernet cables, and they are designed to help the user make an appropriate selection in just three steps, as follows:

Step 1 - the user enters the technical specifications, such as inserts or contacts, and in response the product wizard suggests a list of components that match the search criteria.
Step 2 – The product selection is either further defined or technical data obtained from the online catalogue, which is only a single click away.
Step 3 – The components are selected and the product wizard automatically suggests appropriate accessories in a selection window.

In order to make procurement and inventory control easier, Weidmuller has introduced a degree of standardisation in order to reduce the number of product variants. For example, there are just three P-series Push In terminals for wiring tasks up to 16mm2, whereas before, users would have required up to five terminal block variants.

Once the planning for the electrical cabinet has been completed and suitable components selected, Weidmuller suggests that the most time-saving opportunity for customers exists in simply sending their completed RailDesigner project applications directly to them. Assembled mounting rails can then be delivered, mounted, wired and tested – together with all of the additional services required for the project.

Fast and safe wiring
Wiring follows once the electrical cabinet components have been installed and marked, and this is where Weidmuller’s tools improve productivity, as several steps can be carried out in a single operation. The Push In connector system, for example, is claimed to save up to 80% wiring time compared with screw or tension clamp arrangements.

Following mounting, wiring and marking the next task is to test the installation. Final testing often proves awkward and time consuming, because widely different product variants and designs require a multitude of test plugs, adapters and measuring accessories. However, Weidmuller’s self-attaching PS ZQV test probe simplifies matters as it is compatible with all cross-connection channels in the company’s terminal block range and, in addition, can be utilised for relays and optocouplers as well as the industrial Ethernet components. Moreover, the test leads provided with this probe system enable connection to all standard measuring instruments.

Stuart Jaycocks is Weidmuller’s UK product manager

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