25 Jul 2024


New controlgear generation replaces 2,500 contactors by 250

ABB has developed a new generation of motor controlgear which, it says, will cut stocking, assembly and energy costs dramatically. The modular range, which has taken ten years to develop, includes contactors, starters, soft-starters, relays and accessories.

In the UK, ABB is hoping that the new range will help it to double its share of the motor control market to 20% within three years. At the moment, the company reckons that it has about 10% of the UK market for contactors from 4–18.5kW, with sales of 625,000 contactors over the past ten years.

A key feature of the new range (above) is its use of an electronic coil technology that can handle both AC (24–500V, 50/60Hz) and DC (20–500V) voltages, thus cutting the number of contactor types needed by 90%, from 2,500 to just 250, making them easier to specify and stock.

Another advance slashes the AC pull-in coil current consumption by 30–80% (depending on the model), cutting the losses per phase and generating less heat. This will allow users to improve the energy efficiency of their panel systems.

The new AF contactors have a standard 45mm housing – a third narrower than many rival products – helping to save space, and allowing smaller, cheaper panels to be used. ABB claims that because mounting plates are not needed, the time needed to install reversing or star-delta starters can be cut by more than 50%.

The contactors have been designed to cope with the effects of unstable voltage conditions caused by poor network conditions, motor inrush currents, or voltage drops in long cables. They have built-in surge protection, eliminating the need for separate surge suppressors and providing added reliability and safety when the voltage fluctuates.

To demonstrate the energy-saving potential of the range, ABB cites the example of the new AF09 4kW contactor, which has a holding power of 2.2VA. For a typical older 4kW device, the holding power would be 8VA. If both were used for 14 hours a day for a year, the new contactor would (in the UK) use 71p-worth of electricity (at 7p/kWh), compared to £2.58 for the older device.

Even bigger savings can be achieved by using the new AF-Z low-consumption coil contactor, designed for direct connection to PLC outputs. This device has a holding power of 1.7VA. Based on the above comparison, it would deliver an energy cost saving of around £2.04 per contactor. And by eliminating the need for an additional interface relay, it would cut the time, cost and space of connecting to a PLC.

The new range includes manual motor starters, rated from 0.1–32A, for controlling motors up to 15kW/400V. The MS132 starters offer fuse-less protection against short-circuits, overloads and phase failures. They are 34% lighter than their predecessors and 17% smaller (for 25A and 32A versions), as well as trimming losses per phase by 8%.

They are joined by the a series of softstarters for motor currents from 3.9–45A and motor voltages from 208–600V AC. The 45mm-wide softstarters (up to 15kW) can handle ten starts per hour – or 20 if a cooling fan is fitted.

Accessories available for the contactors, motor starters and softstarters include electronic overload relays for starters up to 15kW/400V. There are just seven options for currents from 0.10–45A, and a choice of trip classes.