22 Jul 2024


Key considerations when installing drives in panels

Users increasingly want their control panels to be as small as possible. But there are limits to how small an enclosure can be before it starts to compromise component performance and reliability. Liam Blackshaw, ABB’s UK product manager for LV drives, explains what to consider when designing control panels.

When designing a control panel, one of the most important considerations is airflow, as this will ultimately determine the size of enclosure that can be used. Drives generate heat, and this needs to be removed from the cabinet to ensure optimal performance and prevent damage to the drive and other components within the enclosure. Any reputable manufacturer will stipulate the minimum airflow or cooling data for a particular drive.

As well as exhausting hot air, there should also be provision for bringing cold air into the cabinet for ventilation. This is generally done using fans and filters. Best practice is to have a fan either at the top or the bottom of the panel, and a filter on the opposite end, depending on the desired airflow direction. In contaminated areas, you’ll want to divert dirty air and substances which can cause corrosion away from the drive.

Layout is also important. For instance, you need to accommodate cables coming in and out. These tend to be at the bottom but can also be at the top. They will rarely be at the side, particularly in the case of larger cables which don’t bend easily. The layout of components within the cabinet will therefore depend to some extent on where the cable entry and exit points are. If you have both AC and DC voltages going in, you will want to segregate these voltages, which means more cables and less available space. If you have power cables and control cables, you will also want to keep these separated to prevent the introduction of noise and EMC into the system.

Space is another key consideration. Many drive manufacturers will stipulate a minimum number of millimetres of clearance required between a drive and other components. In general, users want cabinets to be as small as possible, but there still needs to be enough space to ensure that the components are not so cramped that it affects performance. Everything you need to know about what you can and cannot do will be in the technical manual, and this will help to determine how large the enclosure needs to be to accommodate the components within it.

Using a smaller drive can help to free up valuable cabinet space, and potentially allow the use of a smaller cabinet. For instance, ABB’s ACS180 machinery drive is designed to be extremely compact and can operate at up to 50˚C without derating. Power and control are also separated for minimised airflow through the electronics, helping to allow greater flexibility in both the size and layout of cabinets.

For more information on the ACS180 drive, visit: https://campaign-mo.abb.com/l/961052/2023-09-05/5b7rk