Standard-compliant panel building – no problem

New directives force rethink in panel building

Schaltschrankbau 06/2016, Author Carolin Meuschel

Since new EU directives became part of national legislation on April 20, 2016, panel builders are now faced with a whole range of changes. In particular the requirement for a comprehensive risk analysis – including detailed documentation – will present practically minded firms with a number of challenges. Equipment manufacturers will help to ensure that compliance with the new directives does not become an insurmountable problem.

April 20, 2016, heralded a wide range of changes in the day-to-day business of panel builders as well as that of machinery and equipment manufacturers. It was the day on which mandatory harmonization entered into effect across Europe in a number of European directives on the basis of the New Legislative Framework (NLF). In other words, eight EU directives were transposed into the national legislation of the EU countries. In particular the Low Voltage Directive (2014/35/EU) and the EMC Directive (2014/30/EU) are of key importance to the design of industrial control panels.

The most important change to the previous EU declaration of conformity and CE marking in this context affects risk analysis and risk evaluation, which now have to be carried out and documented for every product in the control panel in a clearly understandable manner. This point requires the support of equipment manufacturers if the task is to be performed reliably and in full. Industrial controls from Siemens already satisfy the requirements demanded by the new standards, with the manufacturer supplying the corresponding information, documents and certifications.

Saving time on risk analysis

However, in practice many standards do not state any precise rules regarding the performance of risk analyses. That is why Siemens recommends following the Cenelec Guide 32, which is available in English and French. The guide contains suggestions for systematic risk analysis. Annex D, for example, features a table listing the risks associated with manufacturing a control panel. This checklist can be used to assess what risks can arise with a specific control panel and what measures can be taken to counter such risks. Many risks are managed in advance during the configuration process by selecting and combining the right devices. With this in mind, Siemens has modified its product data to provide all necessary details for its products and thus reduce the documentation workload during the verification process.

A further radical change to the previous declaration of conformity and CE marking is that the documents – in particular the required safety information – is to be provided "in language that can be easily understood". Furthermore, panel builders have to ensure that, for each product, there is only one single declaration of conformity that satisfies all relevant directives.

Support from the electrical engineering partner

From the point of view of the panel builder, the risks that have to be considered include protection against electric shock, mechanical hazards, fire protection, as well as a number of other elements. Rises in temperature due to power dissipation and the influences of electromagnetic compatibility are examples of the extent to which the risk analysis has become a key aspect of standard-compliant control panel design. The critical point is compliance with the directives that have been in force in European countries since April 20, 2016.

Equipment manufacturers like Siemens are now supporting their customers to compensate the extra workload in product selection and documentation brought about by the new standards. Datasheets, software tools and technical support along with seminars and training courses boost the efficiency of the entire engineering process. As a result, it is easier to install standard-compliant control panels and less time is needed.

Convenient heat calculation for the control panel

Example – temperature rise: since the end of the transition period from IEC 60439 to IEC 61439-1, new provisions have applied to the temperature rise limits of switchgear and controlgear assemblies. Although it is possible to calculate thermal loads, the procedure involves a great deal of work and, due to practical and economic considerations, it is often only estimated. Siemens offers its customers a different way.

At Hannover Messe 2016, the electrical equipment manufacturer presented its free software tool, "Simaris therm", in which tested and maximal dissipatable power losses from over 25,000 products have been stored. The program allows the convenient calculation of the temperature rise in housings and equipment from Siemens as well as from other manufacturers. At the end of this procedure, a certificate is issued as verification of the temperature rise calculation in compliance with IEC?61439-1. Put briefly, the user receives the printouts required to satisfy the requirements of the risk analysis in just four steps.

The same applies to electromagnetic compatibility. A new EMC guide is currently being prepared in which Siemens has compiled practical tips and recommendations regarding the points to consider when assembling an EMC-compliant control panel. A lot of know-how is required to comply with the new EMC directive - but Siemens possesses the necessary expertise and is passing it on to its customers.

This is done in the form of seminars, such as the IEC seminar series. Whereas Part 1 focuses strongly on the content and application of current directives at European level, the second module concentrates on the practical implementation of IEC 60204-1 and IEC 61439-1/-2 for the control panel and for machinery manufacturing.

Software tool for simple, clearly-structured documentation

The last major step following the risk analysis and selection of standard-compliant products in the control panel is comprehensive documentation as demanded by the European Low Voltage Directive. The Siemens Industry Online Support Portal (SIOS) provides a web-based software tool for creating individual documentation that eases the workload of electrical engineering firms. Users can conveniently combine complete electronic documentation dossiers, single sections or specific text blocks and order them in a clear structure, thus gaining time and increasing reliability.

A job which previously, owing to paper-based documentation, involved a great deal of effort has now become easy to handle thanks to end-to-end electronic processing. Moreover, the new directives specify that documentation should be written in "language which can be easily understood" – no problem with electronic systems. One particularly practical aspect is that users can switch languages at the press of a button. Consequently, an individual manual including operating instructions, risk analysis and certifications can be put together with little effort in several languages for every machine, piece of plant equipment or control panel. A further benefit is that users are notified via an update service if a new version of the manual documentation they are currently using appears.

The technical information usually comes from the "CAx Download Manager", a tool that provides all technically relevant data on Siemens products. Put briefly, they receive the information required for design, operation and documentation in concentrated form. This not only includes dimensions, performance data, curves and certificates but also images, CAD drawings and a whole lot more. Users therefore save time in the design and verification processes.

Support for standard-compliant panel building

Since April 20, 2016, panel builders have been faced with fresh challenges. More than ever before, panels builders as well as manufacturers of machinery and plant equipment are benefiting from the support of their suppliers when it comes to reliable and cost-effective compliance with European directives.

The more exacting demands placed on the risk analysis are the most significant change compared to the previous EU declaration of conformity and CE marking. However, documentation has also taken on greater importance with the transposition of eight new EU directives into national legislation. The focus shifts depending on whether documents are intended for internal documentation (upon request by national authorities) or external documentation (documents required by the machine operator to ensure safe operation).

Whatever the case, one priority always applies: the applicable directives must be complied with and documented in a clearly understandable manner. Equipment and system manufacturers such as Siemens provide support in the form of expertise, the appropriate tools and additional services, so that the complex issue of standard-compliant panel building in Europe becomes relatively simple when it comes to the practical implementation.

Eight new CE directives entered into force on April 20, 2016, as part of the New Legislative Framework.

  • 2014/28/EU (Explosives for Civil Uses): previously 93/15/EC
  • 2014/29/EU (Simple Pressure Vessels): previously 2009/105/EC
  • 2014/30/EU (Electromagnetic Compatibility): previously 2004/108/EC
  • 2014/31/EU (Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments): previously 90/384/EC
  • 2014/32/EU (Measuring Instruments): previously 2004/22/EC
  • 2014/33/EU (Lifts): previously 95/16/EC
  • 2014/34/EU (ATEX): previously 94/9/EC
  • 2014/35/EU (Low Voltage Directive): previously 2006/95/EC