The Importance Of Using The Right Circuit Breakers

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Energy efficiency and reliability are some of the biggest issues facing industrial plants today. At the same time, the demand placed on DC voltage supply is continually increasing, which means that having the right circuit breakers is crucial.

Circuit breakers work as a fail-safe component of electrical structures, protecting them from the hazards of overloading, damage and other issues. They work by first detecting whether there is any faulty condition present in the system, and then interrupting the current if there are any signs of irregular flow. Circuit breakers contain an automatically operated switch, which facilitates a quick response to any threat.

Ironically, while circuit breakers are designed for safety, they are often used in the wrong way, putting a plant’s employees and equipment at risk. For example, plant designers are often unaware of the risks that come from using circuit breakers in a 24V DC network. Basically, circuit breakers are designed for 115 to 230V AC. The electromagnetic short-circuit quick-acting release is based on the technology of an armature coil, and due to the lower voltage the ohmic resistance has a higher effect in 24V DC networks.

Long story short, what can happen is that the short-circuit quick-acting release is unable to act, and only the considerably slower excessive current switch-off is active. During this delay time, the switched-mode power supply reduces the secondary voltage due to the overload, which means that sensitive plant parts such as the controller cannot operate reliably any longer, resulting in dangerous incidents such as arc flashes or complete loss of production.

When it comes to choosing the right circuit breakers, electronic circuit breakers (as opposed to traditional mechanical circuit breakers) are the best way to ensure safety in a plant. This is because they measure the actual current and monitor it, a function which is controlled through a microprocessor. If the current is found to be too high, the electronic circuit breakers are able to quickly and reliably switch off. Not to mention the fact that in standard high voltage circuit breakers, 44 per cent of main faults and 39 per cent of secondary faults are mechanical faults. This is far less of a problem with electronic circuit breakers, where faults are significantly reduced.

ifm has recently launched its range of electronic circuit breakers, which have a number of innovative custom safety features, as well as IO-Link capability for superior communication. The electronic circuit breakers are also available as part of an entire suite of ifm products, to ensure your plant has the latest technology, fully compatible and equipped for Industry 4.0.

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