Control Engineering

Industrial Control Panel Building Blocks

By Stacey Spicer

Through attention to detail and teamwork, the panel assembly team at CommTech Global has a proven track record of successfully completing control panels for a variety of clients in the industrial sector in North America. Aside from a reliable team and an engineer with a plan, what are the basic building blocks needed to assemble a control panel – and what is a control panel?

Simply put, an electrical control panel is a metal box that contains various components to control and monitor an automated system. While industrial control panels have multiple uses across multiple industries, they all share similarities. The basic starting blocks of a control panel include an enclosure, a back panel, DIN rail, and a wire duct. These four base items allow for mounting additional electrical control components and wiring that will power the automated system.

The enclosures and back panels are typically one of the following types of metal: aluminum, stainless steel, or carbon steel. Carbon steel enclosures must be galvanized or painted in order to resist corrosion. All enclosures are designed to protect the electrical components and equipment housed inside and are rated based on how well they withstand varying environmental elements. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) developed a rating to classify the level of protection each enclosure is capable of, and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) created an alternate rating system called the Ingress Protection (IP) standard. Both systems can be used to designate whether an enclosure is made for indoor or outdoor use if it is waterproof or water-resistant, suitable for hazardous conditions, dustproof, or explosion-proof.

Enclosures and back panels come in varying sizes and have a footprint anywhere from 6 inches to 6 feet tall, depending on the number of devices and equipment required for the system. They are also identified by the number of doors, from a single-door cabinet up to a three-door cabinet.

DIN rail is a standard-width aluminum rail used to mount components. Wire duct is a PVC product that is used to route and organize the wiring inside the panel. Both are mounted to the back panel by drilling holes and using various screws and nuts to ensure everything stays in place. Once the DIN rail and wire duct have been installed, the electrical components and wiring will be assembled by following a set of CAD drawings that have been designed by an engineer.

When assembled as a system, the electrical components will essentially control the sequence of events that determine the functionality of the completed control panel. These components need to include a power supply, motor controls, relays, switches, disconnects, circuit protection devices, and a variety of secondary components. Because both the DIN rail and components are manufactured to a standardized width, assembly becomes more straightforward.

Once the electrical components are mounted, a wiring diagram will be used to connect the system. This diagram is a visual representation of the physical layout required. A critical step during the wiring process is labeling each wire at both ends. This allows for clarification of connections and aids in troubleshooting should issues arise after installation.

Following assembly, our team at CommTech Global will inspect the panel, utilizing a quality control checklist, and will schedule a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT Test) with the client/engineer. This is the final functional test done prior to shipment of the completed control panel to the destination facility.

CommTech Global values transparency, confidentiality, and keeping our word. We’re available to assist with your questions or concerns at any time of day. Our services include control engineering, design and drafting, commissioning and startup, panel assembly, regulatory document control services, and field inspection.

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