Software with built-in prototype functionality speeds time
to market for control panel builders, system integrators, and original
equipment manufacturers through its ability to handle design, setup and testing
of control panel components prior to assembly. As a result, this capability enables
users of the software to improve quality, reduce risk, ease integration,
streamline commissioning, and better manage product lifecycles compared to
paper-based project documentation, which has a tendency to be difficult to find
when needed the most.
By running diagnostics prior to assembly, digital prototyping functionality allows for easier control panel upgrades, lowering costs over the lifecycle of the control cabinet or panel, and can be used to connect components beyond the control panel. Multiple entrants in Control Engineering's Control Panel Design Contest over the past two years cite the value of such software tools.
While software cannot do everything, and no software package provides all of the following functionality, control panel designers may use software for:
- Electrical design;
- 3-D prototyping for component selection and layout;
- Control panel compliance regulations, such as UL 508A, the Standard of Safety for Industrial Control Panels, ANSI/UL 347, "High Voltage Industrial Control Equipment," and ANSI/UL 508C, "Power Conversion Equipment," among other standards.
- Control software design, analysis and testing, and integration with human-machine interface and networks; and
- 3-D motion simulations for motion-related devices connected to the panel.
During control panel design, software can be used to caution the user about incompatibilities during design development. Product images and dimensions can be imported from libraries of components, and the software can suggest placeholders, links and missing components. Bills of material, incorporating and checking for compatibilities from multiple manufacturers, may be automatically generated. Built-in guides and wizards can also be used to automate many design steps, transferring input/output tags from design to runtime software, saving time and eliminating a source for errors.
Knowledge gained from prior projects, as well as other areas of an organization can be incorporated into design software, thereby allowing for on-the-fly collaboration over multiple locations on an ongoing, as-needed basis.
Many control component manufacturers offer advice, examples, videos and starter kits to help with initial design prototyping. If your new design idea may be the first design of many, these vendors may even offer incentives. For more about various prototyping, software tools, and control panel design, go to: