CAE – the key to speed, accuracy and flexibility in electrical design

The globalisation of design and automation has made it critical for companies to reduce costs and increase quality to stay competitive and ahead in the field. In the electrical engineering industry, many are turning to Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) software to strengthen their foothold in the marketplace. However, not all products are the same and care must be taken when choosing electrical design software.

CAE software is an essential tool for electrical engineers and designers alike, providing a ‘right first time’ approach at the planning stage. Users can use the technology to view a virtual design on screen which can reveal – and therefore avoid – issues that might otherwise prove to be not only costly, but time consuming as well, by eradicating any problems that might arise further down the line.

The latest generation of innovative CAE tools has been shown to deliver cost savings of up to 80% while offering significant improvements in productivity, design integrity and project turnaround.

In addition, the benefits associated with modern CAE software are clear: it significantly eliminates costly rework by enhancing quality, provides uniformity through standardisation, offers a high degree of flexibility and has the ability to interface with other enterprise systems.

It also goes beyond the design capability alone by generating important data for use in other functional business areas such as purchasing and manufacturing.

However, to realise these benefits, it is critical to choose the right solution.

Design Solutions

EPLAN, a subsidiary of Rittal within the Friedhelm Loh conglomerate, has a presence in over 50 countries and provides customers with electrical engineering solutions of the highest quality and efficiency, offering them a complete electrical design package. EPLAN currently has more than 40,000 customers ranging from international firms to sole traders throughout a range of industries.

With 30 exciting and innovative years under its belt, where methods in the design and engineering systems are subjected to constant change due to growing demands, EPLAN has continuously developed its platform with the aim of meeting the challenges of a changing world.

EPLAN’s goal is to implement higher efficiency in product development through high-quality documentation for production, assembly, test, commissioning and maintenance. As a result, several new functions on the EPLAN platform can provide help towards that goal.

The EPLAN platform

The EPLAN CAE system impresses users by providing additional opportunities to increase efficiency during engineering processes. The simplified representation of the PLC communication network makes the documentation and management of PLC structures clearer and also simpler. The sub-project management also enhances the overview. Specific sections can be extracted from a project, individually edited and merged back into a final project. As a result, complete and high-quality documentation is created and users can concentrate specifically on their required tasks.

The change protection for areas of the project which have already been approved is another helpful option: this means that any changes made to the objects in those areas are protected. This way, areas which have been fully planned or parts which have already been manufactured cannot be changed inadvertently.

Higher quality data

Accurate and predictable data entry can now be achieved throughout the entire platform with user-definable and configurable properties. Users can create default value selection lists for properties. These consistent inputs ensure correct results when filtering reports. Additional check runs have been implemented to confirm and validate the parts management database to ensure the managed data is accurate, thus enhancing the quality of the part data. This used to be an elaborate manual process but now the system performs the checks automatically, saving time, effort and money.

Better navigation for maintenance

Navigation through the project has become easier and faster as all displayed cross-references can now be access as a hyperlink. These hyperlinks also get exported to PDF, making the PDF a valuable reference for maintenance engineers. This makes it a lot easier for colleagues in maintenance to use the documentation.

A new report type for distributed devices will allow users to generate the project information into a much easier and simpler report for manufacturing and maintenance. A complete device report is generated where all its data can be displayed – for example placements, function texts or graphic symbols. Placed in the documentation as a report, this function helps in a number of ways, for example, during faults in order to identify and access a component faster.

Other standards supported
The EPLAN platform supports multiple standards, for instance the IEC 81346 which ultimately means it is possible to identify project pages according to IEC 61355. Using this type of identifier allows users to use an object designation when structuring the documentation. Users can also use this in conjunction with an interface connected to PLM/PDM or ERP systems.

Communication in bus structures

Intelligent components such as communicating sensors, configurable drives and programmable actuators with varied communication protocols require clear documentation in a bus structure.

Therefore, a new and easier way to manage PLC bus systems was needed and implemented on the basis of simple single line communication network designs. Users can now also integrate other devices such as converters, motors or valves with bus connections into bus systems. Devices with several bus systems are, as a result, better supported.

Additional PLC manufacturers were also added to the list of interface partners for bi-directional data exchange, such as ABB, Mitsubishi and 3S.

EPLAN Data Portal

The latest generation of CAE software also incorporates a powerful database that can support a suite of complementary products for engineers. With the unrivalled storage capabilities of a database – the scope of device data and components that can be accessed is extensive and includes macros of sub-circuits, assembly drawings, function templates for an intelligent device selection, international designations, preview images and entire manuals – vast amounts of recurrent content can be used again and again. This maximises productivity, ensures error-free projects and shortens turnaround times. The Data Portal provides users with access to over 517,000 component and device data that is controlled and managed by more than 70 leading industry manufacturers and is available in 80 countries and in 17 different languages.

Globalisation and the constant need to reduce cost are inevitable and CAE software can help companies save time and money. Of course, companies that aren’t utilising this powerful tool risk losing out to competitors who have already made the switch.

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For further information about EPLAN visit or call 01709 704100.

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