An Introduction to Thyristors

 

Often confused with transistors and sometimes referred to as silicon coelectric-elements 2ntrolled rectifiers (SCRs), thyristors perform vital functions in AC and DC circuits and are used extensively in industry due to their robustness and reliability.

Thyristors were invented in 1957 but are still used today to switch electric currents ranging from a few milliamps at tens of volts to thousands of amps at thousands of volts.  At CD Automation, we supply a full range of thyristors for all kinds of applications.

What is a Thyristor?

Thyristors are made up of four layers of semiconductors, rather than three like a transistor, and the most common variety have three connectors like a transistor. Current is controlled by a gate between the positive and negative terminals. A small current at the gate triggers the larger current flowing between the terminals. The gate can be switched on and off very quickly and there are no moving parts involved which gives the thyristor its robust qualities. They can’t be used as amplifiers like transistors can but can control much higher electrical currents. As they conduct current in one direction only, two need to be used back to back to work in AC circuits.
Thyristor2

How can they be used?

In the industrial world, their uses include extruders, ovens, dryers, curing equipment, environmental chambers and electric furnaces. They are the preferred power control method for heating applications because of their high tolerances. In many of these applications, the switching frequency is so high that although electromechanical contactors can do the job, they wear out so quickly that a thyristor is a far better choice. Some applications, such as transformer loads, require phase angle control or delayed triggering so at CD Automation, we offer thyristors with a wide range of firing modes to match almost every electrical switching application.

What are the benefits of using them?

Accurate, reliable and long lasting power control is a must for many industries as it protects components, leads to the most efficient working and saves energy. Thyristors are particularly good for this as they come in such a variety of sizes, capacities and with different functions so are suitable for a wide range of applications. Their lack of moving parts and switching speed mean they are reliable as well as efficient with minimum power loss during switching. This also means less maintenance and a faster more dynamic response in the systems which use them. Size is also a bonus with thyristors as they are very small so don’t require much space, have low power ratings, fewer handling issues and lower transportation costs.

CD Automation have a great deal of experience in supplying thyristors so can advise on exactly the right one for your operation as well as providing fast and reliable support to help you install them and use them in the best way possible. Call 01323 811100 to speak to one of our team about the most effective thyristor for your operation.

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What are the benefits of using a motor soft starter?


AC motors play a large part in producing pretty much everything. Starting them up is as easy as flicking a switch but what is the cost?

Motor Soft starters

Running these machines can be expensive in a variety of ways including the electricity bill, the maintenance and the production time lost due to downtime. Fortunately, using a motor soft starter can reduce these expenses by limiting the amount of energy expended when the machines start, lessening the stress on the mechanisms as they start up and reducing the strain on the electrics. AC Motor Soft starters provide all these benefits and cost around a quarter to a third less than a variable frequency drive.

Energy Reduction

Did you know that most of the electric motors used in manufacturing are fixed speed, fixed voltage AC induction motors and these consume up to two thirds of the total electricity used in industry? One of the reasons they use up so much energy is because they draw additional current at start up and, not only does the sudden influx of power put strain on the machine, much of the power is wasted. Using a soft starter prevents the motors from drawing excessive power at start up so reduces the overall amount of energy used, thus reducing companies’ energy bills.

Less Wear and Tear

It’s no exaggeration that start up is a stressful time for AC induction motors. The surge of energy and extra torque applied to get everything moving puts extra force through all moving parts, joints and contactors. By using an AC starter for electric motor control, you will reduce the need to keep replacing contactors and incur less start up stress. Users of soft starters report less vibration, less belt squeal and less pressure at start up due to reduced torque. This means lower maintenance costs and fewer hours lost to machine downtime.

Avoiding Power Surges

Another potential cause of expensive downtime and repairs is the effect AC motors starting up can have on the electrics. Power surges can be significant enough to affect the power going to other areas of the business and even risk serious damage to delicate electrical systems. Soft starters allow a slow build-up of power to avoid sudden high power demands when machines start up. This protects the electrical system, prevents other machines being affected by a loss of power and avoids costly downtime and/or electrical repairs or upgrades.

CD Automation provide a wide range of motor soft starters to suit any application.  They are quick and easy to install and we can give you all the expert advice you need to ensure you have the right solution for your business.  Our soft start controllers come with standard 12-months warranty plus 3 or 5 year options and, if you need any help, we respond very quickly to your queries.  To speak to someone about how our soft starters can benefit your business, call 01323 811100.

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Thyristor Controllers Speed Up Production for McLaren


Improved controls for paint drying system drives sports car production forward

Thyristor power controllers from CD Automation have been instrumental in significantly improving production efficiencies for Woking-based luxury sports car maker McLaren Automotive. From modest beginnings the organisation has grown into a world renowned and respected brand and a byword for advanced technological excellence, intelligence and attention to detail. Drawing on 50 years of racing success McLaren has created some of the most iconic and exhilarating high performance road cars the world has ever seen.

Not surprising then that in the manufacture of its sports cars McLaren demands the very highest quality and reliability from every inch of its production line. When it experienced problems in the paint finishing section with a specific colour that was proving increasingly popular with customers, the company explored solutions that could be implemented in the shortest timeframe possible while providing longevity and consistency.

McLaren’s 200mph British supercar dubbed 'an F1 car for the road'

McLaren’s supercar dubbed ‘an F1 car for the road’

The paint in question was taking much longer to dry than other shades and hence holding up the entire production line. When you are manufacturing cars that will set the customer back hundreds of thousands of pounds, this is a situation that demands immediate attention.

Furthermore, the paint is very much part of the overall package and an integral part of the build and assembly process of the chassis. So while it may be the last procedure to be applied after months of design, development, construction and assembly it is an extremely important element of the finished car.

Customers can choose bespoke paint, trim and colour options – McLaren’s team will match anything they want and advise on combinations, producing flawless work 100% of the time to each specification and turning projects around within sometimes very tight deadlines.

A long-standing customer of Panther Engineering, McLaren approached the company for a solution to accelerate the drying time, confident in their knowledge and expertise in the design and build of control systems. They designed a bespoke package that provided additional heating and force drying applications using Thyristor controllers supplied by CD Automation. This comprised 3 units of the Three Phase REVO S Thyristor (SCR) Power Controller each suitable to switch 210 Amps at 480Vac, resistance type load and utilizing Burst Firing technique; all protected by extra-rapid quick-blow semi-conductor fuses. A compact and self-contained unit, the REVO-S offers exceptional reliability and low maintenance, meeting the high spec required by the end customer.

“Thyristor control is the most economic and reliable means of controlling large amounts of electrical power,” explains CD Automation’s Jez Watson. “It results in reduced waste and energy consumption but more importantly, improves process consistency and reliability in extremely harsh environments such as McLaren’s paintshop.”

Production facility at McLaren's Woking site

McLaren’s Woking production facility 

Temperature control was a crucial factor in the drying of this special paint finish; requiring accuracy to within
+/-1 degree to produce the desired result and the REVO-S has successfully eliminated the problem, speeding up production and improving efficiencies for McLaren.

CD Automation has supplied Panther Engineering with three similar units for previous projects.

“We have worked with CD Automation for several years and were more than happy to recommend their products to our customer,” explains managing director Duncan Roberts. “Maintaining productivity throughout the installation was vital for McLaren and as such we needed to be 100% confident of quality and reliability.”

In addition, retrofitting McLaren’s paint drying system without holding up production presented a challenge for Panther with a window of just 1 week scheduled to make the final changeover.

Panther Engineering received positive feedback from McLaren as the company quickly experienced significant improvement in their daily production runs which far exceeded expectations – keeping their sports cars and their business well on track for success and ensuring each customer gets the finished result they rightly expect.

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Electrical Noise – Something You Will NOT Want To Hear


Electrical interference is a common issue in almost all industry applications. It is made from very high and very low frequencies that enter devices making them perform abnormally.  This article looks at the common symptoms that your processes might be presenting and also the solution to eliminating electrical noise.

Electrical Interference Example

Electrical noise can plague your processes without you even realising it. This cloak and dagger mischief is created from harmful frequencies that can be produced from almost anything electrical, with most common sources being:  inverter motors, phase angle firing thyristor power controllers or by more everyday items like mobile phones or wireless communications. This production of interference can then be absorbed, radiated or conducted, then fed into electrical instruments.

Some of the common symptoms you may notice in your process may be faulty sensor readings, flickering control screens, random system lock outs and alarms being suppressed. The worrying thing is some devices may not show visual signs of interference affecting them but inside they can be degrading and unproductive.

Electrical interference effectively erodes the internal circuits and components of your electrical device that in turn can reduce efficiency and productivity. In time these devices may not function at all. With ambiguous results and no clear way to rectify the situation, many people ignore the inconveniences and some may even turn a blind eye. This however can become an expensive exercise with higher maintenance costs to replace faulty devices and possible long periods of downtime while repairs are being made.

But there are ways and means of ensuring your processes are protected so you don’t face that scenario.

The solution comes in the form of a range of high quality power filters designed to drastically reduce interference so that your electronics run flawlessly. Our EMI & RFI single & three phase power filters are not just a cost effective solution but with their compact design, take up the minimum amount of space possible. Add an array of connection styles to reduce the hassle of installation and you have the perfect solution to improve your electrical performance.

These Filters are suitable for both immunity filtering (protection from interference entering devices) and emission filtering (preventing emissions being released).

You can save yourself long-term aggravation and maintenance costs by taking the quick and easy solution that is guaranteed to produce results, meaning you can enjoy long-term savings and reliability.

If you would like more information on electrical noise why not request our free special report, simply send an email with ‘Special Report on Noise’ as a header and we will do the rest.  Alternatively see our power filter product range here

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Solving The Thyristor Puzzle


After analysing the questions our clients ask most frequently, we decided to put together a range of comprehensive graphics that explain the applications, features and benefits of some of our most popular products. The first on our list is the thyristor. To make the technology more accessible, we’ve created a friendly infographic. We’re also preparing  a start-up cheat sheet for commissioning and installing thyristors.

The UK manufacturing sector employs 2.6 million people and accounts for almost 50 per cent of the country’s exports. The complexity of manufacturing processes has significantly increased over the last decade, with technologies like intelligent automation, robotics and 3D printing putting extra pressure on manufacturers everywhere. Although new technologies have the potential to make manufacturing more lucrative and energy-efficient, older generations of electrical equipment are still at the very heart of the process and essential for those new concepts to operate effectively. One such example is thyristor power controller.

“A thyristor is the most reliable control method when it comes to applications that use large amounts of electrical power,” explains Jez Watson, managing director of CD Automation UK. “The benefits of using a thyristor power controller go beyond reducing waste and energy usage. The equipment allows users to improve process consistency and reliability in very harsh environments.

“CD Automation wants to help its clients make informed purchasing decisions. Our new infographic allows customers to quickly identify the applications and benefits of suitable products.”

Thyristor power controllers can be used in any process using electric heat, including welding, ovens, kilns, boilers, furnaces or environmental chambers. Designed to handle loads of up to 3 Mega Watts , thyristors are highly reliable and only require very low levels of maintenance.

Thyristor applications

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De-geeking The Gobbledegook of Thyristor Control

There may not seem to be much to associate the Teutonic deity Wotan with our experts here at CD Automation, but like Wotan’s ability to summon up a magic ring of fire, we’re experts on thyristor firing methods.

To the uninitiated, these methods may seem like magical spells, but CD Automation has mastered them all, from zero crossing and phase angle to soft start with burst firing. We do our best de-geeking the entire gobbledegook of thyristor control for our customers world-wide.

“CD Automation has been dealing with thyristor applications for 27 years, and in this time we’ve learnt how to tame the fire in this magical electronic device,” explains Jez Watson, managing director of CD Automation UK.

“If you have peak current in the mains supply, you generate flicker depending on how strong the supply is. This manifests itself in both domestic and industrial applications as flickering lights.

“If you start a large industrial motor, the lights will dim briefly because of the large peak inrush current. Preventing peaks on the mains supply can be achieved by using phase angle as a firing method for example.”

Thyristor dimmers switch on at an adjustable time (phase angle) after the start of each alternating current half-cycle, thereby altering the voltage waveform supplied to light and changing its RMS (Root Means Square) effective value.

The advantage of phase angle mode is that its continuous – it does not generate peak current, continually reducing true and RMS voltage to control an electric load from zero to 100 percent without interruption.

The resistance of the tungsten element in a lamp when cold can be as low as one twentieth of its nominal operating load, which translates to 20 times the nominal current when it is first switched on.

With industrial tungsten heating elements and other heating elements made of carbon and molybdenum, the resulting mains flicker is something electrical grid suppliers very much frown upon. In fact, European directives have banned equipment that produces such flicker. Phase angle is a soft starting method similar to that used on electric motors to avoid current peaks.

Every advantage has a disadvantage, however. In this case, phase angle generates harmonic disturbances and reduces power factor – something else grid suppliers dislike equally, especially in hospitals and chemical processing facilities where sensitive instruments can be affected.

To prevent such disturbances you need to use large, heavy and expensive electric filters in the 150-550Hz harmonic range. At such low frequency you need large wound component ferrite inductors.

For example, a filter for a 75kW phase angle load will weigh about 55kg. Otherwise you can only use phase angle for a short period to prevent inrush current, and then switch to burst modulated firing mode.

This is used for infrared lamps between 500W and 1kW, the tungsten elements of which are typically heated from 500-700 degrees centigrade and used for heating glue, drying paint or blowing a bottle using a small lump of plastic.

When a bank of eight infrared lamps for example need to be modulated from 50% of full load power, then a load manager may be needed to avoid all lamps coming on at the same time and causing electrical disturbances. CD Automation’s REVO PC provides effective power control of inrush current to minimise load current taken from the mains supply.

The advantage of burst firing is that it doesn’t generate harmonics. Starting at zero voltage, it ends at zero current crossing, so if current is not synchronised with voltage and goes to zero, burst firing stops.

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Storms Whip Up Safety Concerns

‘They’ say that lightning never strikes twice. However, by the time you finish reading this sentence, the combined product of some 2000 storms raging at any given time around the world, will have produced in excess of 400 lightning flashes on planet Earth. 

It seems that ‘they’ didn’t live in the information age. The global population is now over seven billion, and the improving demographic transition of less economically developed countries, means that this is rapidly increasing, expected to reach eleven billion by the end of the century.

This population growth has highlighted the fundamental economic problem; of having seemingly unlimited human wants and needs, in a world of limited resources. This scarcity is becoming increasingly evident in traditionally prosperous countries, prompting people to search out and inhabit more geographically remote regions of the world.

Over the last few decades, this economic boom has fuelled the growth, development and industrialisation of previously unstable and climatically challenged regions.

And therein is the problem. Although industrialisation has changed, product design and development, as well as the associated legislation and control, is still playing catch-up.

Products and electrical components designed for use in western countries have been traditionally optimised for moderate weather conditions. This is reflected in the narrow operating temperatures, minimal voltage fluctuation protection and low thermal shock tolerance.

As organisations internationalise, they are beginning to build manufacturing facilities in previously uninhabitable regions, which exhibit severe meteorological and geological activity, meaning modern components are required to face often harsh environments.

Here at CDA we have addressed this problem in-keeping with our mission to go above and beyond customer expectations. We have recently launched a new range of Lumel certified products, tested to EN61010 international standards.

EN61010 is broken down into four categories. CAT (I) looks at electronics such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. CAT (II) includes household and workshop equipment such as refrigerators and drills. CATIII is what we’re interested in and CAT (IV) refers to utility level devices used on the mains power supply.

Under CAT III, customers can dabble in all industrial electrical equipment, from meters and analysers to transducers and controllers, resting assured that it has been tested to the highest standards.

Current industry practices are often risky, with CAT II rated devices being used in applications designed for CAT III ratings. This is often dangerous as under rated equipment may combust in application.

The legislation ensures that the equipment design and methods of construction provide adequate protection to the operator and the surrounding area against electrical shocks and burns, which can result from lightening strikes and surges, as well as protecting against mechanical hazards, excessive temperature and the spread of fire from the equipment.

The standards ensure that equipment is safe to be used both indoor and outdoor, at altitudes up to 2000m, and at temperatures between minus five and forty degrees. In addition to this, equipment must operate in humidity of 80% at 31 degrees and 50% at 40 degrees.

The most significant protection offered for bad weather regions is the ability to tolerate mains supply voltage fluctuations of plus or minus 10% of nominal voltage, as well as minimising the effects of radiation from laser and ultrasonic pressure sources.

So the next time you’re caught up in a storm and you witness the dramatic effect of a lightning strike, it’s probably best that you don’t stick around to find out whether it strikes twice. As long as your equipment is certified you don’t need to worry!

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Dual Loop Controller Makes Difficult Demands History

CD Automation, the supplier of industrial controllers, drives and automation products now distributes Lumel’s RE92 temperature and process controller. The advanced dual loop controller is particularly reliable for the most demanding industrial control applications and can independently control two loads, or two physical values on one load.

Lumel RE92

Proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controllers examine feedback signals in a process and calculate how much the power level needs to be adjusted in order to achieve accurate control. They automatically manage process variables like temperature, pressure, flow and any other physical variable that can be represented as an analogue signal.

The RE92 is a 1/4 DIN (96x96mm) controller with two channels. This means it virtually provides two PID controllers in one space-saving package. As a standard, Lumel’s RE92 has six relay outputs, with SSR, analogue or digital as options, as well as three digital inputs. Its modern control functions include independent dual loop, an innovative SMART PID algorithm with auto-tuning function, four sets of PID parameters and an additional set for cooling, as well as six types of alarm with programmable hysteresis and memory.

“Independent dual loop comes in particularly handy when controlling two separate temperatures on a furnace, for example,” explained Jez Watson, managing director of CD Automation. “Such an application, which would normally require two separate controllers, can now be handled easily by only one RE92. Alternatively, the two loops can be used together in an application like temperature and humidity control.

“Overall, the RE92 considerably simplifies demanding temperature and process control applications, making control smarter, more intuitive and significantly reducing maintenance costs.”

The user-friendly interface has a 2.5 inch full-colour graphic screen with luminosity control. The menu is available in English and Polish and the password-protected regulator access allows four users, with three access levels. This means the controller is secure and easy to use. The RE92 can be programmed using LUMEL’s LPCon software, available for download on the company website. This allows the user to save the configuration to file and fast copy the settings to other RE92s, saving both time and maintenance costs.

Advanced programming control is another significant benefit of the RE92. The dual loop controller can take 20 internal programs (ten for each channel), and 15 units per program. It can signal up to six events per unit and select PID parameters for any unit.

The RE92 also allows for digital communication, with RS485 as a standard and Ethernet as an option. RS485 offers data transmission speeds of 35 MB/s up to 10m and 100 KB/s at 1200m. Because the standard uses a differential balanced line, it can span large distances of up to 1200m and resists electromagnetic interference, from motors and welding equipment for instance.

Finally, the RE92’s installation category III, IP65 panel sealing and galvanic isolation prevents current flow and ensures the safety and reliability of the advanced dual loop controller in the harshest environments.

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The Export Ace Up Your Sleeve

Thyristor Power Controllers

In many ways, business is a bit like poker. It’s risky and not everyone is good at it, but playing your cards right can definitely make you a winner. According to the UK Trade and Investment, 60 per cent of mid-sized companies already benefit from doing business in high growth markets. When done correctly, export can be a vital card up a company’s metaphorical sleeve.

Here at CD Automation, we don’t play a lot of poker, but we do know about export. Around 30 per cent of our sales come directly from exporting our industrial automation products to different territories around the globe. Although taking on international markets is never an easy game, product quality, a strong technical sales team and continuous customer support have been the strongest cards in our export deck.

Regardless of the company background or sector, the main benefit of exporting is that it opens up new markets. In recent years, UK trading has been particularly prudent and the sales process has become even more demanding than before. Despite this, certain international markets – like the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular – have bloomed over the past few years.

Providing immediate and flawless customer support is one of our main priorities. Our dedicated sales team comes from a technical background and understands the needs of our customers across different sectors and territories. If anything breaks down, we guarantee the dispatch of a replacement unit within 48 hours or less, regardless of where in the world your operations are located.

Although we’re extremely confident when it comes to the reliability of our products, should you ever need support, we promise a terrific service. To make customer support around the world even smoother, CD Automation uses a dedicated range of product support software tools.

We also have a dedicated PC Configuration tool, which our customers can use to monitor process variables in real time, configure inputs and outputs, save common recipes and broadcast them to one or several pre-assigned unit addresses. The software is user-friendly and takes less than a minute to install, but makes a huge difference by allowing improved control and diagnostic monitoring of variables such as internal power, voltage or current.

In addition, we offer NRT support to all our customers. This means our engineers access your system online, regardless of your location and provide a live diagnosis of the problem. Finally, we also have an authorised distributor network with excellent coverage of most industrialised countries worldwide.

To be a successful exporter, you need to take advantage of existing technology and make it work on your behalf. We would also advise you to start off small. Stick to Europe in the first few years; consolidate your position on the continent before taking on the global market.

The main advantages of exporting in Europe are geographical closeness and the lack of trade barriers. Very often, trading within the European Union is almost like trading in the UK. Moreover, language doesn’t have to be an issue. Don’t get us wrong, it always helps if you have a native speaker on board. However, most businesses in European countries have at least one person with an excellent level of English that you can trade with.

Before you decide whether to export or not, make sure you do your research. Planning and identifying strategic markets, partners and distributors are key steps in setting up an export service. Just like in poker, knowing the rules of the game always increases your chances. After that, it’s all about instinct, ambition and strategy.

If you would like to have a chat with us, about poker or export, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to share our experience with you.

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Making Every Day As Eco-Friendly As Earth Hour

Earth Hour PictureSince 2007, Earth Hour has gathered pace as one of the most popular eco-friendly movements in the world. Organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the event now engages 7000 cities and towns worldwide. In this blog post, we have a few tips on how businesses across the UK can do their bit for Earth Hour and also achieve continuous energy savings.

Held at the end of March every year, Earth Hour aims to convince individuals, households, communities and industry leaders to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol for their commitment to saving the planet.

This year Earth Hour is planned for Saturday, March 29, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time. More than 1,200 businesses and over 10 million people took part in last year’s experience. The energy savings, as well as the darkened landscape across the country were impressive to say the least.

Overall, Earth Hour is a great initiative and it draws attention to the biggest environmental issue of the 21st century. However, UK Plc must find ways of saving energy in each hour of the remaining 364 days of the year if it hopes to improve its bottom line. One of the ways this can be achieved is by managing power use more effectively.

CD Automation has been helping businesses up and down the country by supplying power filters, soft starters and temperature controllers. These products not only increase the ROI (Return on Investment) for the purchased equipment, but also achieve a reduction in the energy used by the application.

Temperature controllers can be used for comparing the process temperature with the desired or required value. Their role is to use the difference between the two values and decide how much heating or cooling is needed to bring the process temperature back to the desired level. This means that, in a manufacturing environment, any errors can be spotted quickly and less energy is wasted. PID control algorithms can help manage temperature deviations accurately and safely.

REVO-PC is another useful instrument which can help save businesses money. A power management system, the REVO-PC minimises energy costs by controlling synchronisation and power limit of multiple zones on a machine or plant.

In addition, it reduces harmonics and flicker by synchronising loads, as well as limiting maximum power demand; this way maximum demand supply contracts are not exceeded.

But as a rule of thumb, the best way of reducing the amount of electricity you consume is to be aware of how much you need in the first place. By closely monitoring, recording and logging process data, industrial organisations can gather the information they need to make informed energy saving decisions.

Using videographic recorders, such as the ones CD Automation supplies, can help keep usage on track and allow plant managers to turn off or turn down non-essential applications.

If your plant already uses temperature controllers, power controllers and data loggers, then additional savings can be made by using an integrated factory management system. This will give you real time data on energy consumption, monitor temperature and processes and react when applications need adjusting in order to use less energy.

Earth Hour’s beautiful display of darkness in the most iconic landmarks has become a global phenomenon. It connects millions of individuals in over 150 countries, all hoping for the same result: a better and cleaner future for our planet. But organisations in the industrial sector can do their bit as well, and thanks to monitoring and control technologies, their savings could actually make a global impact.

So if you would like to pay less for your electricity bills and make your plant an eco-responsible one, get in touch and see what savings we could achieve for you.

Image courtesy of Ondrej Vavricek on earthhour.org

Posted in Power Controllers, Power Filters, Sizing thyristors, Smart thyristor range, Temperature Controllers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment