How design software impacts development time, predictive modeling and thermal management

Our panel of industry veterans discusses shortened development times, predictive modeling, thermal management in the cabinet and how to select software based on the application.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

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Electrical design software has changed the way we build. Our panel of industry veterans discusses shortened development times, predictive modeling, thermal management in the cabinet and how to select software based on the application.

Meet the panel

Keith Marler

Keith Marler, design manager, Concept Systems, a system integrator with offices in Oregon, North Carolina, Colorado and Washington.

Pascal Flambard

Pascal Flambard, CEO of IGE+XAO North America.

Victor Alvarez

Victor Alvarez, senior manager, applications marketing, Bentley.

Thomas Yip

Thomas Yip, CEO, Radica Software.

Sean Patrick Mulherrin

Sean-Patrick Mulherrin, Electric P8 product manager, ePlan.

 Marcel Schulz  

Marcel Schulz, application consultant for control panel engineering and CAx data & tools, Siemens.

 Johannes Rumpler  

Johannes Rumpler, head of presales information, Siemens.

How is electrical design software reducing the time from machine concept to delivery?


Marler: Electrical design software now has the ability to automate the design-to-build process in several areas, ultimately reducing the time from concept to delivery.

First, some CAD packages are now database-driven. This means information can be entered once and is available across all users in the same platform in real time. This includes symbols, part models and other component information that need to be accessed each time a part is used in a new design. The up-front development cost can be heavy, but the information control and reusability is far superior to previous, manually managed methods.

Second, 3D layouts can be created directly from information obtained during the schematic design process. This eliminates some duplicate entries, reduces errors in design and opens the door to using time-saving features inherent to 3D design.

Third, control panels can be more efficiently manufactured with information that can now be exported directly from the design. Wire and device numbers can be exported directly to label machines. Drill patterns and hole cutouts, created from component information, can be ported directly from the 3D layouts to machine code, allowing control panels and enclosures to be machined instead of manually fabricated.

Mulherrin: One of the most critical aspects of electrical design is data consistency and data management from the concept of a machine until the commissioning, service and maintenance of that machine. Nowadays, companies use various software tools to capture the data during the engineering process. For historical, price or convenience reasons, CAD packages are often used to display the data graphically; however, all the engineering data is often captured in tables using Excel or basic database systems such as Access, for example. A constant synchronization between the graphical representation and the data representation of the engineering task is required. This synchronization is often a manual process. Any modifications need to be made in both environments and affect various disciplines. The modifications need to be made many times entering the same data.

Typically, the electrical design has implications in various disciplines such as process engineering, where electrical sensors and actuators are used to control processes and are represented in the process flow diagram (PFD) or process & instrumentation diagram (P&ID). Electrical design is also involved in fluid power engineering where controlling cylinders and valves are performed using electrical actuators and sensors.

Providing engineers and designers software to capture electrical design data early on in the engineering process is crucial. Using the design software, this data can then be made available throughout the engineering process to reduce data redundancy and minimize costly errors through multiple entry of the same data.

Also read: ECAD: simple or complex?

Electrical design software should also provide the infrastructure for standardization. Many engineering processes are based on copy-and-paste. Previous design are copied from various sources and used for new designs. These designs are manually adapted to the requirements and many errors are made during the process.

Standardization also provides the basis for repeatability and error-free and high-quality design. This is also a fundamental requirement for design automation, which will drastically reduce the design time and thereby the costs.

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