Saturday , April 13 2024

Beginner’s Guide to Power Supplies for Industrial Applications

Electricity requirements in commercial and industrial settings differ greatly from what you’d find at home. Factories, mines, warehouses, construction sites and schools, hospitals, and businesses in general work under higher loads and current. In order to run heavy-duty machinery and equipment, these facilities may have their own substations which step down 275 kilovolts in transmission lines to the required voltages. Homes, however, use much lower voltage, at 230 volts. This brings us to monophase and polyphase electrical supply. Homes are supplied with monophase power, and industries and commercial premises are supplied with polyphase electricity. The latter provides for better consistency and higher efficiency.  

switchable sockets have lockable ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’Different gear is used to deliver electricity to power-hungry equipment working under heavy loads, and in exposed environments. These include heavy-duty plugs and sockets that are durable enough to maintain a constant industrial electrical supply in conditions far from ideal. Also, when changes in current can lead to expensive damage or delays, isolator switches and circuit breakers tailored specifically for higher power ratings will keep expensive machinery and equipment intact.  

Industrial Plugs  

Industrial plugs are built around extremely durable nylon outer housings, that are water, chemical and impact resistant. They can withstand high-temperature ranges, from well below freezing and remain unmoved when exposed to flames or explosions. Inside, the individual parts are made of high-conductive metals, like brass and copper to ensure that the industrial electrical supply remains constant at all times. This includes brass connecting pins, and stainless-steel terminal screws that are reinforced in multiple sections making for a consistent and safe cable connection. Heavy-duty plugs may consist of aluminium cladding for added protection. Many also have rotating collar sleeves that fit the corresponding socket and make for a sealed, watertight connection.  

Industrial plugs are polyphase, meaning they come in configurations of 3,4 or 5 pins and can easily handle voltages of 500V or more and currents of 100 Amps. This is the type of industrial electrical supply needed to power large conveyor belts, processing machines, overhead cranes, tunnelling machines and more. In terms of how they connect to sockets, there are straight plugs, wall plugs and angled industrial plugs.  

industrial socketIndustrial Sockets 

Industrial sockets are also built to the same standard. Reinforced plastics or metal cladding form the outer casings, and are further strengthened by rubber seals to wick away water and liquids. Most have an IP66 rating, meaning they’ll work without issue even when sprayed with a high-pressure water jet. Inside synthetic rubber adds more sealing, and contact points are made of brass.  

Sockets used for industrial purposes come in the corresponding pins for the plug. The grounding pin is in a different position, meaning you can’t connect a three-pin plug in a five-pin socket no matter how hard you try. This ensures that the right equipment is connected to the right socket via the corresponding plug. Like plugs, these handle much more power than your average socket with voltages up to 500V and amperages of 100 Amps.  

For areas where high currents pose risks, switchable sockets have lockable ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ positions with adjustable knobs for maximum safety and stable power delivery.  

Benefits of Industrial Plugs and Sockets 

Industrial plugs and sockets are not only used in industrial applications, but also in other demanding purposes. These are ideal for outdoor use, in the garage, workshop, shed or caravans and motorhomes. They’ll stand up to any weather, resist chemicals like oil and paint, and won’t deform or break even when run over by heavy vehicles. Their durable designs mean they’ll work in high heat or freezing cold temperatures, aren’t affected by dust and hold their own against high UV levels. They are a little pricier than your standard plugs and sockets, but the benefits and long warranties are well worth it.  

Isolator SwitchesIsolator Switches and Circuit Breakers 

Switchable sockets in effect work as isolators switches. Isolator switches isolate one electrical circuit from the rest of the electrical installation, and the grid. This allows maintenance to be carried out on any wiring or appliances connected within that circuit. Industrial isolator switches are built tough and can handle high voltages and amperage. The only drawback is that they are manually operated, with locking ‘On’ and ‘Off” positions to ensure safety from electrical shock.  

Separate machinery and equipment switches, known as pilot switches as installed to alert personnel that a device or electrical circuit is switched on or off. They are often operated manually, with push buttons that activate a green light to signal that the device is on and a red light to signal that it is off. These are installed on larger machines to ensure worker safety.  

To provide maintenance-free protection at all times, an automatic circuit breaker is installed. Because of the high working loads, the electrical supply for an industry often faces current surges that can lead to overloads, short circuits and earth fault currents. These are potentially high-risk situations that result in serious injuries and permanent equipment failure. Individual circuit breakers called residual current devices or RCDs provide the best protection in such cases, to rapidly disconnect the circuit when they sense imbalances in the electrical current.