Enclosure Flexibility is Essential for Control Panel Space Optimisation

Facility managers are under constant pressure to manage their space more efficiently to minimise capital and operational expenses. The need to fit more equipment into an existing space prompts machine designers to reduce the size and footprint of the machines, which in turn challenges the control engineers to design and build control panels within a smaller footprint or make more efficient use of the space.

When designing smaller control panels, control engineers need to consider several variables: cable segregation, thermal management, cable entry, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and cable bend radius, not to mention allowing extra space for future additions. A control engineer’s job is further complicated by safety considerations such as arc flash hazards, standards compliance, and minimum separation requirements for electronic components.

Start with Enclosure Flexibility

Choose an enclosure platform that allows full utilisation of the space between the enclosure door and components mounted to the sub-panel in the rear of the enclosure. To accomplish this, the enclosure must be designed to accept supporting structural members along the sides, top and/or bottom of the enclosure, and ideally, on the door as well.

This offers the designer full use of the interior for component mounting and cable and wire management, such as in (Figure 1). Here the enclosure includes a full side mount panel with additional wire duct, relays, and grounding provisions that traditionally would have been mounted on the rear sub-panel. This design reduces the wall or machine space needed by 20% compared to the same controls in a more common sub panel mounted design.

Optimising Interior Enclosure Space

There are several products available today designed to help control engineers better utilise this 3D space, as well as often underutilised corner space in control panels that use traditional side equipment mounting plates.

DIN rail wiring ducts with two separate wiring channels (Figure 2) enable the user to mount a DIN rail with components that would typically be installed directly to the sub-panel, thereby utilizing the 3D space, potentially saving up to 30% of the space on a sub-panel. (Figure3) shows how corner wiring ducts can provide good wiring transition from rear sub-panels to side sub-panels while reducing the amount of sub-panel space needed by up to 12%. Utilising this 3D space effectively provides easy access to install or service the equipment inside.

A fresh look at approaches to control panel layout can result in improved reliability and performance along with optimised usage of panel space.

Today’s EMI noise shielding technology allows designers to bring wiring that would normally require at least six inches of separation much closer together. (Figure 4) shows Panduit’s Panduct PanelMax Shielded Wiring Duct and Noise Shield separating noisy motors and drive cables from sensitive Ethernet or control cables while reducing the space between them.

Flexibility with the mounting of the control panel allows the designer to put the control panel anywhere in the design, making the control panel enclosure part of the integrated system solution.

Security Considerations

When the enclosure houses valuable mission-critical equipment and/or information, space optimisation may take a back seat to control panel security.

Access control and power distribution capabilities typically associated with building security can now be integrated directly into network enclosures. Innovations like electronic swing handles and built-in low frequency card readers can reduce risk by limiting access to critical IT equipment to authorised personnel. Intelligent power distribution units can enable remote monitoring capabilities and improve efficiency by continuously scanning for electrical circuit overloads and other conditions that place critical IT/OT equipment at risk.

Control engineers must overcome a tremendous amount of complexity when designing control panels in today’s industrial environments. Whether the application is in oil and gas, food and beverage, automotive, water treatment, or pharmaceutical, competing design criteria make decisions about optimizing the control panel critical to the success of the project. Space optimisation can provide more design flexibility both for the control panel itself and the plant floor and help facilitate integrated access control solutions.


Panduit EMEA – +44 (0)208 601 7200

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