How To Build Electrical Control Panels

In the realm of industrial manufacturing, electrical control panels serve as the critical neural hub of intricate mechanical systems. They play a pivotal role in efficiently managing, monitoring, and safeguarding electrical systems, devices, and machinery. The absence of these panels can lead to disorder and potential hazards within the manufacturing process.

Given these considerations, the design, construction, and assembly of electrical control panels can be a multifaceted endeavor that demands meticulous attention to detail, strategic planning, and specialized expertise. In this guide, we will walk you through the fundamental steps required to construct and assemble an electrical control panel, ensuring that your manufacturing operations are both secure and seamless.

  1. Planning and Design

Before embarking on any electrical control panel project, it is imperative to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the manufacturing process requirements and safety standards. This knowledge forms the foundation for designing a set of electrical schematics and panel layouts that encompass essential details, including power prerequisites, equipment specifications, signal types, and safety features. The design should be tailor-made to align with your specific manufacturing needs. Furthermore, a thorough design review by your technical team is essential to confirm that the control panel meets functionality, rating, and safety criteria. During this review, it is vital to ensure that the control panel adheres to all applicable Electrical Safety Standards, such as NFPA 70 (NEC), NFPA 79, or UL508A.

  1. Assembling the Components

Once the design is finalized, the next phase involves assembling all the requisite components of the control panel. Typically, control components are mounted on a sub-panel, which will later be installed in an enclosure. The sub-panel layout within the electrical schematic design package delineates the required components and their respective positions on the sub-panel. Many control components can be affixed to a standard DIN rail, expediting the installation process. Wire ducts are also incorporated on the sub-panel to facilitate the neat routing of wiring between devices. Manufacturers' spacing guidelines should be diligently followed to ensure that each device has sufficient airspace for heat dissipation. Additionally, some components may be attached directly to the enclosure, such as disconnect handles, air conditioners, push buttons, or stack lights.

  1. Installation and Wiring

After assembling all the components, the subsequent step involves wiring the control panel according to the electrical schematic package. The schematics specify which terminal on each control component receives a wire connection and the required wire gauge. Wire color coding is of utmost importance, as it denotes the voltage carried by each wire, such as 24VDC, 120VAC, or 480VAC. Adherence to applicable standards is essential in this regard. Furthermore, each wire should be labeled uniquely, facilitating accurate connection and aiding maintenance in troubleshooting the system if issues arise when the control panel is operational.

  1. Testing and Quality Control

Following component installation and wiring, the final phase entails testing and validating the electrical control panel. This step is critical as it checks for any wiring discrepancies, safety features, and overall functionality. The initial stage of this process involves a point-to-point continuity test (commonly known as the "beep test") on each wire, ensuring conformity to the electrical schematics. This test is crucial before energizing the panel. Once the beep test is successfully conducted, the panel can be powered on to verify that all components operate as intended. When dealing with a live panel, strict safety measures must be observed, including lock-out tag-out procedures, the use of gloves, and eye protection. Post power-up, a final checklist should be executed to confirm that the panel complies with the design specifications, including the presence of informational or warning labels, proper bonding of ground bars, and other essential factors.

  1. Compliance and Certification

The concluding step involves ensuring that your industrial control panel adheres to both Local and National Electrical Codes and Standards. In instances of uncertainty, it is advisable to consult with a certified electrical safety inspector. We strongly recommend undergoing the UL508A certification process to guarantee that your control panel aligns with all safety standards and requirements.

Next Steps

Prior to selecting a panel shop, it's imperative to address the following inquiries:

  • Is UL listing necessary for my control panel?
  • Do I require comprehensive control panel documentation?
  • How can I ensure compliance with the NEC (National Electrical Code)?
  • What measures can be taken to comply with OSHA standards and enhance operator and equipment safety?
  • What are the specific spacing, safety, and efficiency prerequisites for this project, and how can I ensure they are met?

Prasun Barua

Prasun Barua is an Engineer (Electrical & Electronic) and Member of the European Energy Centre (EEC). His first published book Green Planet is all about green technologies and science. His other published books are Solar PV System Design and Technology, Electricity from Renewable Energy, Tech Know Solar PV System, C Coding Practice, AI and Robotics Overview, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Know How Solar PV System, Know The Product, Solar PV Technology Overview, Home Appliances Overview, Tech Know Solar PV System, C Programming Practice, etc. These books are available at Google Books, Google Play, Amazon and other platforms.


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