EPLAN Software Improves Manufacturing Efficiency
For years, AutoCad has been the leading CAD software in the United States. AutoCad Electrical is more focused on the generation of electrical schematics. In Europe, however, EPLAN is the leader in electrical CAD. Its software suite includes Electric p8, Pro Panel and Harness ProD, all developed with a focus on electrical design. Design Ready Controls has been using EPLAN for the past 10 years. As an early adopter in this country, we get to shape and standardize some of the details before others even begin.
Two of our departments—electrical controls and mechanical engineering—are using the Pro Panel feature of EPLAN. We went from treating it as computer-aided design and drafting (CAD) software to more of a computer-aided engineering (CAE) one with a unified database, from which we can update all data and synchronize information and the engineering processes. This is similar in nature to our own Automated Panel Expert (APE®); it creates a source that can be updated if a problem arises so that the problem never occurs again. Because the database holds information at the component level, updates or changes made to that part apply to all future inquiries; users will always have the most up-to-date information. It’s a continually growing process, a constant evolution of the database.
Standardization involves a lot of front-end work in error checking, vetting component setup, and having subject matter experts verify data accuracy. As parts are added to the database, they are categorized by function (relay, protection device, switch, etc.). Physical information is added, including schematic symbols and 3D models that represent the component in both schematic and layout environments.
The ability to associate cut sheets and certification information (UL, CE) means engineers have more relevant data at their fingertips.
Everyone has access to the most current information, which saves time and guards against the introduction of errors. Now we have these programs together in one suite, where all that information is accurate and standardized when creating schematics and 3D models.
We also use EPLAN to optimize wire routing for material conservation, heat spacing, and component interference. We can run rules to see if a wiring duct is too full, and link accessories to see whether they are required for a component. The software lets us account for bending radiuses and component clearance before the files are released to the floor. Our initial estimates indicate a significant increase in our ability to generate documentation.
EPLAN works well with our advanced facilities. For example, Design Ready Controls was the first mechatronics manufacturer in the United States to use a Kiesling Perforex machine for drilling, milling, and tapping holes in enclosures. We now have four of them in our facilities, and can use Pro Panel to export native files directly to Kiesling software. We can also use EPLAN to send information to our automated wire processing machines, saving time and minimizing the risk of introducing errors.
Adopting any new process can be challenging. It requires everyone to follow new standards, and the learning curve can be steep. That includes understanding the differences between US and European approaches to control panel design. But we are confident that once implementation is complete, Pro Panel will reduce development time by as much as 50 percent while increasing the level of detail in the information provided to the production team.
The bottom line is simple: With better tools, we can make better products.