Electrical Control Panel Building and Assembly: A Comprehensive Guide

Electrical Control Panel Building and Assembly: A Comprehensive Guide

In the world of industrial manufacturing, electrical control panels are the vital nervous system of complex mechanical systems. They ensure that all electrical systems, devices, and machines are efficiently controlled, monitored, and protected. Without them, the manufacturing process can be chaotic and dangerous.

For these reasons, electrical control panel design, building and assembly can be a complex process that requires attention to detail, planning, and expertise. We will take you through the essential steps needed to build and assemble an electrical control panel to control your manufacturing process and ensure that it is safe and runs smoothly.

Planning and Designing

Before starting any electrical control panel project, you need to have a clear understanding of the manufacturing process requirements and safety standards. This knowledge enables you to design a set of electrical schematics and panel layouts that include all the necessary details such as power requirements, equipment specifications, signal types, and safety features. The design should be customized to your manufacturing process needs. The design should be reviewed by your technical team to ensure functionality, rating and safety requirements will be met. During the design review, it’s crucial to ensure that the control panel complies with all applicable Electrical Safety Standards, such as NFPA 70 (NEC), NFPA 79 or UL508A.

Assembling the Components

Once the design is finalized, the next step is to assemble all the necessary components of the control panel. Typically, control components are mounted on a sub panel that will be installed in an enclosure. The sub panel layout in the electrical schematic design package will detail what components are required and where they should be mounted on the sub panel. Many control components mount on a standard size DIN rail which speeds up installation. Wire duct is also installed on the sub panel to allow wiring between devices to be cleanly routed. Manufacturers’ spacing requirements should be followed to ensure the device has the proper air space around it for heat dissipation. In addition to mounting components on the sub panel, some components will also be mounted on the enclosure such as disconnect handles, air conditioners, push buttons or stack lights.

Installation and Wiring

After assembling all the components, the next step is to wire the control panel according to the electrical schematic package. The wiring in the schematics will call out what terminal on each control component a wire will be landed on as well as the required wire gauge. The color of the wire is also important as it signifies what voltage that wire carries such as 24VDC, 120VAC, or 480VAC. Wire color must follow applicable standards. In addition, each wire will be given a unique label. This label will help to ensure wires are landed properly and will aid maintenance to troubleshoot the system if a problem should occur once the control panel is in operation.

Testing and Quality Control

After component installation and wiring, the final step is to test and validate the electrical control panel. This step is vital as it tests the panel for any wiring errors, safety features, and functionality. The first step in this process is to test each wire for point-to-point continuity (“beep test”) against the electrical schematics to ensure everything is wired according to the design. This is a critical step prior to powering the panel on. Once the beep test is completed, the panel can be wired to power and be turned on to ensure that all components power up properly. When working with a live panel, always keep safety in mind and follow the standard safety procedures such as lock-out tag-out, wearing gloves and eye protection. After power-up, a final check list should be ran through to confirm the panel meets design criteria such as informational or warning labels are present, ground bars are bonded to the panel, etc.

Compliance and Certification

The last step is to make sure that your industrial control panel complies with Local and National Electrical Codes and Standards. If in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a certified electrical safety inspector. We recommend that you undergo the UL508A certification process to ensure your control panel meets all the safety standards and requirements.

Next Steps

Before choosing a panel shop, you’ll want to consider the following questions.

  • Does my control panel need to be UL listed?
  • Will I need detailed control panel documentation?
  • How will I ensure compliance with NEC (National Electrical Code)?
  • How will I ensure compliance with OSHA standards to enhance operator and equipment safety?
  • What are the proper spacing, safety and efficiency requirements for this build and how will I ensure they have been met?

Sure Controls has over four decades designing and building highly organized industrial control panels with built-in diagnostic capabilities that meet UL, CSA, or CE safety standards. If you want to learn more, reach out to us at [email protected]

We are happy to help answer any questions you might have.

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