Simon Knibbs Simon Knibbs Simon has been working at EPLAN UK for 3 years as an EPLAN Applications Engineer. He started his career in building, services, and moved on to designing and programming early robotics. He then became involved in mechatronic design and PCB layout. Since joining the CAD industry he has always been at the forefront assisting customers. He is a great advocate of value for money and hates to see customers’ investments underutilised through lack of knowledge, configuration skills or investment. He is a firm believer that a consultant’s role is to aid the customer in doing things better, easier and faster. So automation, standardisation and integration into other workflows are his interests.

Automation Concern Four – 'Nobody makes automated machinery for building control panels'

Author: Simon Knibbs Time to read: minute minutes

A modern CAE system will provide a high degree of automation for the design process by enforcing design rules, flagging errors and carrying out tedious tasks like wire numbering and the generation of terminal schedules. It can then go further by automatically updating such information if there should be any design changes. Increasing efficiency in the design stage is great, but what about actually building the panels? Automating processes through engineering AND production is where you’ll see big gains.

In reality, there are machines out there that will do much of the grunt work, al­though, perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re only just starting to establish a foothold in the UK market. All of these machines take data directly from the CAE system, which brings two benefits to the panel builder: potential errors have already been eliminated and costly resources such as cable has already been carefully measured to reduce waste. Let’s take a look at some of these machines, which vary from semi-automated to fully automated, and how you could benefit from them.

Machines for wiring

Wiring a control cabinet can be a timely process, accounting for 50% of the overall production. However, automated wire processing machines can reduce this and also increase quality!

Semi-automated cutting machines can cut all wires needed for a complete control panel to precisely the right length. This is achieved by using software such as EPLAN Electric P8 to calculate the length and diameter of the wire, which data can then be imported into the machine. Stripping and crimping machines are also available by where boundary conditions are set, such as the length of the strip and the diameter of the wire to ensure the quality of the output is always consistent.

For those who wish to take the automation further, fully automated wire processing machines are also available and can make wire processing up to 8 times faster. Such machines automate the process of wiring including cutting, stripping and crimping, as well as, wire printing with no manual intervention. The machined wires are then put into an ordering system, ready to be put into the cabinet, sometimes using the EPLAN Smart Wiring tool.

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Machines for panel modification

There are other fully automated machines that will take an enclosure door or mounting plate and make all of the cut-outs and holes needed in it, quickly and accurately. This is much more efficient than the traditional way of machining by hand and can be approximately 8x faster with a CNC machine or 10x faster using a 3D laser machine. Check out the Man vs Machine video below.

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Other machines are available for ergonomic working that bend, cut and punch busbars. All of which ensure that the efficiencies in the engineering stage are carried out through to production.

While it is these automated machines that make a major contribution to the reduction in lead time, it’s worth remembering that the high quality, error-free data made in a modern CAE system also plays an important part in boosting productivity as the aforementioned data forms the foundation for automating processes. Automation across engineering and production is the winning combination!

Still not convinced? Why not download the free whitepaper ‘The Year of Automation?’ and discover more reasons why you should be automating your panel building, especially in uncertain times.

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