If you are a manager at any level of a manufacturing facility, I hope you are aware of the dangers of arc flash. For those who are not aware, “an arc flash, also called arc blast or arc fault is a type of electrical explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to ground or another voltage phase in an electrical system.” Typically this does not occur in 120V situations, but can occur in 480V+ installations if proper precautions are not taken. Employees can be severely injured or even killed when an accident occurs while working with these kinds of electrical systems. There are many standards like OSHA, IEEE and NFPA that regulate these types of situations to provide a safe working environment for the employee. In addition to those standards, I would propose two simple changes to controls architecture and design to help limit the exposure to working inside an electrical cabinet.
1) Use IP67 Machine Mount I/O
These types of products, typically called I/O blocks or I/O modules, allow for the controls to be diagnosed, troubleshoot, and replaced without ever needing to open an electrical cabinet. Utilizing an industrial network protocol like Ethernet/IP or Profinet, these devices can collect the I/O from the machine and then only a simple network cable is run to the controller, replacing the need for terminal strips and large electrical cabinets. This can reduce the number of times your maintenance crews have to enter an unsafe environment. Machine Mount I/O blocks in addition allow maintenance to quickly spot issues and get the equipment back up and running. Recently an article on Plant Engineering agreed with this philosophy.
2) Use IP67 Machine Mount Power
These types of products, typically called IP67 power supplies, allow for the 24vdc power required by most automation equipment to be generated on the machine. Using industry standard power connectors and 120AC supply, these power supplies allow for easy troubleshooting of power problems on the machine without ever entering an electrical cabinet. In addition, some versions report their status clearly to make for easy preventative maintenance planning and machine upkeep while keeping the exposure to arc flash situations minimal.
So if you are looking at a new equipment installation, retrofit of existing equipment, or are trying to figure out simple ways for your company to reduce exposure to arc flash, think about implementing machine mount products. To learn more about these technologies, click on the information on industrial network block I/O here, and information on IP67 power supplies here.