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5 reasons system integrators should upgrade their motor starters

Motor starters play a key role in control panels. They turn motors on and off, as well as protect motors from overloading. System integrators often face specific project requirements that relate to the function or output of a motor starter. But system integrators also face challenges: They must meet completion deadlines. They face a labor shortage. Mistakes often take time to correct, which increases project time and costs, affecting profitability.

Fortunately, new innovations in motor starters are helping system integrators overcome these challenges and achieve better overall experiences. Here are five reasons system integrators should upgrade their motor starters with new innovations in mind:

1. Eliminate control wiring

Motor starters need control signals when motor operation is needed. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs typically determine this operation control. However, doing so isn’t as simple as wiring directly from a PLC output to the contactor coil. Often, an interposing relay is used to prevent damage to the PLC output that results from contactor coil operation. Thus, two sets of wiring are needed. Another approach uses additional devices such as surge suppressors, adding further cost.

It may also be necessary to inform the PLC device regarding the status of the contactor (OPEN or CLOSED), as well as the status of the overload relay (TRIPPED or NOT TRIPPED). This requires additional control wiring from the auxiliary contacts on the starter to PLC inputs. Occasionally, it may be necessary to enable a remote reset of the overload relay by signal from a PLC output.

As one can imagine, the control wires can become quite numerous. Now imagine a control panel with multiple starters. The complexity significantly increases.

Installing all this wiring can be involved. Each wire must be cut to length, stripped, labelled (not required, but a good and sometimes necessary practice), landed to the termination point, and tightened by the screw to the required torque specification. A single mistake can result in lost time spent troubleshooting and correcting.

New innovations change the approach of sending operation signals and receiving status signals. The TeSys island communicating motor starter system applies a bus coupler to manage the communication upstream to the PLC, and downstream to each starter connected to the bus coupler. A single communication cable connects to the PLC.

Connecting TeSys island devices to the bus coupler is also simple. Each device has an attached ribbon cable that easily connects to the port on the adjacent device, thus connecting the bus coupler to each device in an “island” of motor starters.

TeSys island significantly reduces wiring complexity and installation time. Eliminating the manual control wiring between PLC and multiple motor starters is a tremendous time-saver for system integrators. It also prevents wiring mistakes and troubleshooting.

2. Simplify PLC programming

The PLC is often used to write the logic of operation for a control panel. This is often developed by a programmer, applying the desired operation of each motor starter device based on the conditions that would dictate when the motor should turn on and off. Examples of such conditions could be the status of a float switch, the status of an external operator control, the operational status of other equipment, and more. Each input and output used in this ladder logic must be mapped to the PLC so that it knows to which device it is talking. The programmer can then build the operational program (often using ladder logic) that applies each input and output in a prescriptive manner to achieve the desired operation. This construction must be accomplished for each motor circuit in the PLC program.

However, the manner of operation of the starter itself is fairly consistent from one starter to the next. Each non-reversing starter tends to operate the same as other non-reversing starters, with the difference being the specific conditions that would dictate when the individual starter should operate.

Function blocks provide an alternate way to simplify the approach of developing the operational logic. Function blocks contain a packaged set of logic rules that define how an individual starter operates. The idea is akin to writing a macro that executes a set of prescribed logic when called to operate. In the case of TeSys island, these common starter operations are already defined for the programmer.

This approach means the programmer can forego writing the repetitive starter logic operations in the PLC program, and instead use simple functional commands, such as RUN or STOP. The packaged set of logic rules that govern how the starter operates reside in the bus coupler of the TeSys island system. Thus the designer can simply insert a simple function block command such as RUN when needed. That leaves more time to focus on prescribing the logical order of the conditions for operation. This not only saves programming time but also simplifies reading the PLC program.

3. Required to provide data? Got it covered

Traditional motor starters work well when data isn’t needed, but some projects require system integrators to provide status and performance data. The types of performance data that may be required could include motor current, voltage, power factor, power or energy consumption (for the entire system or by each load), and so on. One common approach is to replace the traditional thermal overload relay with a communicating electronic overload relay. In other cases, a voltage, power, or energy monitoring device may be necessary. Each device must be installed, wired, connected, configured.

Now that sourcing the required data has been solved, the next challenge is displaying it. Some electronic overload relays display data on their device face, but the amount of data that can be viewed at one time can be very limited. In other cases, data that’s communicated to the PLC could be mapped and displayed on an interface built by the system integrator. This gives the system integrator the opportunity to better organize and present the data, but it requires programming and validation time, which extends project time and costs.

TeSys island motor starters simplify projects that require data. It includes, as standard, a myriad of performance data and device statuses, not only for the entire island of devices, but also for each individual load. Performance data and status can be easily viewed using the web-based interface included in the bus coupler. This can be accessed using any browser-based device using the service port on the bus coupler.

Should the system integrator desire to present his or her own view of the data and status, he or she can easily access the data from the TeSys island starter system.

4. Test with ease

Once the control panel is wired and the PLC program is implemented, the control panel typically is tested to verify that the desired operation is achieved. This likely needs to be completed before the control panel leaves the panel shop to minimize additional costly time in the field during installation. Traditional approaches using standard motor starters would require simulating conditions to determine if the desired operation is achieved. However, this may not always be very practical to execute, such as in the case where float switches, emergency shut offs, or control signals from other systems are needed.

It’s also likely necessary to test the load operation once the system is installed in the field. In some cases, it may be necessary to adjust settings in the field to fine-tune the system’s, followed by an operational test to verify the desired outcome. However, it may not be easy to arrange the specific conditions needed to turn on a particular load for a brief test.

TeSys island communicating motor starters give system integrators a new way to solve this challenge easily. A web-based interface, provided with each TeSys island bus coupler, can be accessed easily with a laptop or web browser-based device using the service port on the bus coupler. This interface allows the user to view the configuration and adjust settings. The interface also allows for the operator to FORCE on or off specific motor starters (i.e., bypassing the PLC). Operators can also use the interface to validate PLC operation in a TEST mode, simulating operation of a motor load or input without operation physically occurring.

This enhanced flexibility during the testing and commissioning phase enables much more simulation ability, helping system integrators more efficiently verify the correct operation of their system.

5. Troubleshoot remotely

On the occasion when a system unexpectedly stops, system integrators are often tasked with identifying the issue(s) and resolving them in a timely manner. Similar to a pair of shoes, sometimes a new installation needs to be broken in. Sometimes the entire system of equipment needs some time to run and reach a normal running state before it can be tweaked and fine-tuned. Even the established systems are comparable to older shoes that may need some maintenance from time to time to maintain optimal performance.

Fine-tuning or troubleshooting often requires the system integrator to be on site. Sometimes it’s a simple job, other times not so much. The job site can sometimes be remote, adding travel time and cost.

TeSys island communicating motor starters not only provide access to performance data and statuses, but also provide fault history and event logs. This access to information and history gives valuable insight and makes troubleshooting much easier. Additionally, starter settings can be easily adjusted through the same bus coupler interface, without having to adjust PLC programming.

Now imagine it is 8PM, the project is two hours from your location, but you can access information from the office or from home. The ability to view and adjust remotely can have a significant benefit when project sites are farther away.

“Time is money”

For system integrators, the old adage “time is money” rings very true. The more time spent on a project, whether it be on design, programming, installation, testing, commissioning, or troubleshooting, the less profit is retained for a system integrator.

The new approach to motor starters offered through TeSys island can be a game-changer for system integrators. Not only can a solution like TeSys island help reduce costs and affect profitability, it can also shorten project lead times, reduce dependency on limited skilled labor, and help provide end customers with a quality system integrator experience.

CLICK HERE to learn more or contact your local Schneider Electric™ sales representative to discuss how you can improve motor control using TeSys island communicating motor starters.


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