18 May, 2024

Software solutions for panel builders

30 October, 2015

Panel builders and system integrators operate in an exceedingly tough competitive market, which means that reducing time spent on designs and excluding errors and reworks – in other words, keeping costs down – is of paramount importance. Ken Christie, director at Eplan UK, offers a comprehensive guide on how to select software solutions that make it easier to meet this challenge.

Modern CAE software systems enable manual, time-consuming engineering design functions to be performed automatically and instantaneously. By using a well-chosen system of this type, panel builders can, therefore, benefit from an increase in productivity, shorter project turnaround times and improvements in product quality.

The best CAE systems are those that continually evolve, improving usability, reducing the amount of manual data entry and error checking, and also facilitating adherence to corporate, national and international standards.

A prime requirement for a CAE solution for the engineering of control cabinets is that it should enable electrical and fluid engineering mounting layouts to be designed rapidly and easily in 3D. It should generate information relating to things like mounting holes and panel cut-outs automatically.

Intelligent placement tools that take into account components manufacturers’ specifications will guarantee planning reliability, optimum space utilisation and accurate production information.

Space utilisation

The functions for placing and editing components must be supplemented by dynamic collision checks and the online connection displays, allowing users to utilise the often limited available space within the control panel efficiently.

When all components, trunking and mounting rails are placed in the design, good CAE software will also automatically check whether the proposed placements meet design requirements such as minimum allowable spacing distances. This saves the engineer valuable time as the need for trial-and-error component positioning is eliminated.

With repetitive data entry and manual data conversion no longer needed, product development can be made more efficient. This frees up engineering time for further innovation. In addition, continual data exchange increases project quality and accelerates the entire engineering process on a sustainable basis.

The best CAE systems for panel building applications use 3D enclosure prototypes and connection information from the circuit diagram to determine optimum wiring distances and routes, as well as the required lengths for all wires and cables within the panel.

Virtual representation

Another invaluable feature that should be offered by a CAE solution for panels is the ability to design copper elements such as busbars and risers. This functionality, together with the 3D placement options already discussed, enables engineers to generate an accurate virtual representation of the panel, and to produce all of the manufacturing information needed for it to be built.

An important but easily overlooked feature is the ability to import comprehensive component information via an on-line data portal. The information accessible via a portal of this type is regularly updated by component manufacturers, so engineers can always be sure that it is accurate, complete and up to date.

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