August 16, 2023
By Simon Jackson, Area Sales Manager, EPLAN
Put an end to terminal tedium
If you build control panels, assembling terminal strips may well be your least favorite job. Even in a modestly sized panel, it’s not unusual to have dozens or even hundreds of terminal blocks for field connections. You have to mount those terminal blocks on DIN Rail, then label them. It sounds easy but it’s time consuming, mind-numbingly boring and there’s plenty of room for making mistakes!
Very often, for example, you’ll be using more than one type of terminal, so it’s not as simple as clipping a whole row of terminals onto the rail – you’ve got to make sure that you put the right kind of terminal in the right place. If you make a mistake, it can take a lot of work to put it right – most terminals won’t slide easily along the rail to make space for the one you’ve missed.
Then there are the accessories to think about. You don’t need to be a panel builder for very long to discover just how easy it is to forget to order those insignificant little terminal accessories like end barriers, insulating barriers and interconnecting links. At least they’re insignificant until you find you don’t have enough of them to complete the assembly of your terminal strip. Then they suddenly become very significant indeed!
And we haven’t even mentioned labelling the terminals. There is a wide choice of excellent terminal marking systems available these days but adding one or more markers to each and every terminal is tiresomely tedious and, once again, there’s plenty of room for error. Not to mention that if you drop a custom pre-printed marker and you can’t find it, you’ve got something of a problem on your hands!
All good stuff, but what panel builders really need are solutions, not problems. Fortunately, in this case, there is a solution that’s both convenient and cost effective: don’t build the terminal strips yourself, get your terminal supplier to do it for you! If you use EPLAN CAE software, this is quick and easy because the software will automatically generate terminal line-up diagrams for you, showing the exact terminal layout you need, the length of the mounting rail, and all the labelling information for the terminals.
Send this diagram to a terminal supplier, such as Weidmüller or Phoenix Contact (see below), and in return you’ll receive your fully assembled terminal strip, with all the terminals properly labelled, ready for you to install without further ado. You don’t even need to print the diagram out – the terminal supplier will be happy to accept it in electronic format. If you build a lot of terminal strips, there’s another option – invest in an RAS ATHEX machine from Rittal that will automatically assemble terminal bars in your own factory, working directly with data from your EPLAN CAE software.
How much will you save? Studies have shown that it takes around a minute to mount the terminal block on the mounting rail and add the label. So a terminal strip with 120 terminal blocks will take about two hours to assemble. On the other hand, with a pre-assembled strip supplied by manufacturers, this time is reduced to zero! How much does two hours of your shop floor time cost? You’re the best person to ask, but it’s a fair bet that it’s more than the extra cost of ordering your terminal strips already assembled. And don’t forget that your pre-assembled terminal strips will be right first time.
Assuming that you’re ready to put an end to terminal tedium – and which panel builder isn’t? – you’ll want to know more.