Learn how emerging MCC developments will impact businesses.
- Key topics include intelligent MCCs, the integration of advanced communication protocols, and the adoption of digital twins
- These should all improve the efficiency and reliability of MCCs
- Accommodating innovative MCCs may need wider electrical upgrades
To say motor control centers (MCCs) are always moving is an understatement. In fact, they’re moving so fast into the future that it’s getting hard for businesses to keep track of the latest, game-changing advancements. And since the MCC is such an essential part in the automation of industrial processes, it’s equally essential for businesses to stay in step with MCC evolution.
The last few years have seen big technological changes which have led to innovative transformations in the way MCCs are designed, installed, and operated. Like all forms of progress, there are benefits and challenges associated with each new step. Let’s strap on our future goggles and discuss the potential of emerging trends like automation in motor control centers, and much more!
Two introductions to MCC function
When it comes to complex electrical systems, we like to give our readers the choice between the quick overview and the deep dive. The nutshell explanation of MCCs is:
- They have two classes – low voltage (around 230 V to under 1000 V) and maximum voltage (1000 V to 15,000 V)
- All MCCs control the speed, direction, and performance of multiple electrical motors
- These centrally located motors are key to the function of sitewide systems like HVAC and server rooms
- MCCs can be manually, semi, or fully automatically operated
There’s more to tell, so why not take a deep dive by reading our earlier blog about the moving parts of motor control centers? It’s a great primer for a better understanding of the latest motor control center technology trends. Speaking of those!
The latest motor control center technology trends
Automation in motor control centers starts with MCCs getting smart – really smart! The concept of self-aware motion control for MCCs is gaining traction and is rooted in artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. These data-rich sources will allow MCCs to observe themselves and record performance patterns for future reference. These patterns can be used to make rapid independent decisions on how the unit can function more efficiently and pre-empt potential performance issues before they appear.
Two upshots of smarter MCCs are a boost in productivity and a longer operational life for the unit and its component parts since all functions are optimized, and troubleshooting is part of the program. Other benefits include:
- Velocity tracking – An advanced kind of motor speed monitoring which is the next evolution of variable frequency and variable speed drives. Tracking motor speed prevents component damage and burnout.
- Precision current measurement – Overcurrent, and over/under voltage are leading causes of MCC problems. Improved real-time current sensing can identify and isolate power fluctuations more quickly to protect the MCC.
- Magnetic sensing – A more effective way to ensure the proper positioning of all internal MCC parts. Even the slightest misalignment of a servo motor or fuse can cause major performance problems.
There are two potential pitfalls of too much automation in motor control centers. The first is common to all AI-based solutions: a general lack of quality policing. AI must draw its decision-making power from algorithms and patterns which can involve reams of fast-moving data; too fast to be calculated by humans. Also, not all data will be actionably useful.
Secondly, every new technological addition to any piece of equipment is still prone to breakdown, so all these fancy new advancements must be regularly maintained and cared for by electrical professionals. There must still be an element of human supervision and filtering in MCC function – at least for now – to ensure the unit uses effective algorithms and stays in good working order, mechanically.
Digital twins and MCCs
A digital twin is like having another MCC, only an interactive virtual one in cyberspace. This helps the real-world MCC to simulate situations, observe potential outcomes, and use this data to create the algorithms which feed the AI. A perfect digital simulation of an MCC is also helpful to electrical teams who can use it for tests, gaining insight that’s just as valuable as from the physical source.
For example, running a high temperature test on a physical MCC involves actually subjecting the components to extreme heat. Creating a digital twin lets such rigorous testing be done with no wear and tear on actual components. Even more space age-y, simulations of a physical MCC that’s yet to be built could be a great way for future MCC manufacturers to simulate operating scenarios, pinpoint potential issues with a proposed design, then perfect it before production starts.
Advanced communication protocols
Tomorrow’s MCCs will be using industrial ethernet (IE) to complement real-time control functions and stay more efficiently connected to the wider systems which they serve, like HVAC and factory automated production. This will mean communication speeds of less than a millisecond (one one-thousandth of a second).
IE is also better at managing the harsh environments some MCCs must function in. This ethernet uses tougher cables and connectors to withstand rigorous conditions which better ensure that communications don’t falter under pressure. This will allow tomorrow’s MCCs to receive and send vital operating data, on time and to the right locations, avoiding interruptions in production processes and environmental systems more reliably.
Another benefit of ethernet connection could be effective remote MCC management over the local area network. This adds another layer of rapid response by allowing electrical teams to receive problem reports while elsewhere onsite and diagnose the cause, making it a quicker fix when they manually get there.
Motor control center technology trends will require MCC upgrades
Incorporating any innovative technology means one of two things for businesses: upgrading their existing tech or replacing it with something new. For example, tomorrow’s MCCs will need smaller, more advanced motors. They’ll need new modules and integrated circuits. Local area networks and internet infrastructure may also have to be upgraded to accommodate super-fast MCC communications.
This is when it’s essential to speak to experienced electrical professionals who can help you upgrade an existing MCC, or design one from scratch to meet your business needs. Just contact us with any motor control center questions, or to get a free quote on our many electrical services!