Phoenix technology raises up mining

By Dineo Phoshoko

Phoenix technology has developed new technology for fully-automated fitting and marking of terminal blocks. The push-in technology enables consistent wiring without tools from the field to the power and control level.

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Phoenix Contact terminal blocks with push-in technology enable quick and easy wiring.
Image credit: Phoenix Connection

Introduction to the market

“Push-in research and development started in 2005 and a completed product range with all the required test certifications, approvals, documentation and accessories was introduced to the international market in 2009,” says Bruce Patton from Phoenix Contact.

The motivation behind the initial development of the push-in technology terminal blocks came from the Japanese motor industry, however advantages of rather using the terminal blocks for electrical, instrumentation and control in engineering applications was realised, which is the turning point of push-in technology.

The terminal blocks are expected to last for up to 20 years or more, however, this may vary depending different environmental factors such as the presence of hazardous chemicals or any form of contamination, damp or moisture and excessive heat or moisture.

New innovation for convenient electrical connections in mining

The terminal blocks are fitted with connection technology that is marked with orange leavers. This makes it easier for the installer to identify where exactly to input the wiring for the “push-in” effect. For an individual responsible for connecting the wiring on a mine, the orange leaver markings make the often complex and time-consuming task a lot easier.

In addition, the push-in technology makes it possible for electrical connections to be carried out on a mine consistently, which is ideal for efficient machine and system installations. As a result, control cabinets for the terminal blocks can be built more simply and cost-effectively. Through the push-in technology innovation, the installer can wire an entire control cabinet more effectively. In addition, wiring errors are can be avoided due to push-in technology’s easy and safe handling measures in place. This becomes essential as the process of wiring control cabinets needs to be lean and efficient, with no deviations in connection quality.

“The control cabinets of the machines must be wired very quickly during assembly and connected just as easily and safely to the sensors and actuators of the machines. Push-in connection technology therefore offers an ideal solution,” comments Horst Günther, head of Electrical Design at Deckel Maho. Pre-assembled conductors are used in the electrical wiring of the control cabinet. Günther adds that the pre-assembled conductors accommodated smaller cross sections to be inserted into the clamping space effortlessly with no special tools. “This saves a lot of time when wiring. The orange actuation lever prevents mismatching,” he adds. 

Günther’s sentiments are echoed by Lewis Bronkhorts who is equally impressed with the terminal blocks. Bronkhorts is a project manager from Control Systems Integration and is very familiar with terminal blocks. “You can feel that the terminal is nice and secure,” he says.

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Uniform connection technology across all product groups results in process cost savings. 

Image credit: Phoenix Connection

One size fits all solution

The push-in technology terminal blocks are a ‘one size fits all’ solution as they are suitable to be used across a variety of product groups. The terminal blocks have uniform connection technology for all product groups. This is especially useful to the mining industry because of the amount of equipment that requires electrical wiring. As such, a mine does not have to have different terminal blocks to suit the technical specifications for the variety of equipment utilised on the mine itself. This is especially handy because numerous manufacture-specific connection technologies for most terminal blocks, relays and controllers, have increased the cost of installation, operation and servicing for a plant. An added benefit is that the push-in technology terminal blocks meet the requirements of several applications in different sectors including mining, energy and rail industries.

Another advantage of the terminal blocks is that they can be configured by a single individual, in most cases, an operating mine site is usually huge in terms of the area size. This would most likely mean that a mine requires more than one individual to carry out electronic wiring across a mine operation in the most efficient and safest way possible. The Phoenix Contact terminal blocks make it possible for one person to configure the terminal blocks, which allows for flexibility and cost optimisation for the entire process of electrical wiring.

The individual configuring feature is possible through the lean product design of the terminal blocks. The design connects system modules that consist of standardised function blocks. The consistent wiring from the field to the controller is made possible through the sensor or actuator cabling in the field and modular terminal blocks, as well as the relay systems to small-scale and compact controllers.


“You can feel that the terminal is nice and secure.”


 

The terminal blocks also have a clip line complete modular terminal block system, where all connection technologies are equipped with uniform and standardised accessories. The connection technologies include screws, spring cages and plug-in solutions, among others. The modular system allows it to freely combine all the different connection technologies without problems.

The interface technology and switching devices are additional features that come with the terminal blocks. These two features provide signal condition for an entire control system, beginning with the relay module, right through to the analogue signal conditioner. The interface technology and switching devices feature are versatile as they make it possible for analogue, digital and power signals to perform certain functions including converting, switching, isolating, conditioning, amplifying and connecting.

No compromise on safety and regulation

Safety is a very important factor especially when dealing with electrical connections on an operating mine. It is for this reason that the push-in technology terminal blocks have a safety component that permits only two cables for each terminal point. To ensure that the terminal blocks comply with all safety regulations, Phoenix Contact has put push-in technology terminal blocks through a series of tests to make guarantee that they are suitable for use in a variety of industries.

The outcome of the tests has also shown that the terminal blocks can be used in industries like the mining industry, where chemical products are used. Other tests that connectors go through include resistance to vibrations, gas tightness and contact reliability.

According to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act No. 29 of 1996), which is administered by the Chief Inspector of Mines of the Department of Minerals and Energy, requires that certain prescribed electrical installations on mines comply with the requirements of SANS 10142-1. In addition, the act also states that it is the responsibility of a competent person to ensure that those prescribed electrical installations are in accordance with the standard.

In addition to meeting the DMR’s regulations, the terminal blocks must also meet the South African National Standards requirements (SANS 10142), and must be SABS approved. The main purpose of the SANS 10142 requirements is to ensure that ‘people, animals and property are protected from hazards that can arise from the operation of an electrical installation under both normal and fault conditions’.

Push-in installation terminal blocks features

Solid and stranded conductors with a solid that have a cross section, from 0.34mm² easily use force without tools. The built-in latch enables fully insulated releasing with any tool. The neutral busbar allows secure contact to be made with the help of snap in disconnect slides with status display.

The terminal blocks also allow it to implement a three-phase system within a terminal strip with double bridge shafts. Easily viewable marking areas and test connections to every terminal point, ensure easy and convenient servicing.

Other features include:

  • Vibration resistant
  • Shock resistant
  • High performance level
  • Maximum pull-out forces
  • Can survive in the most robust conditions
  • Temperature independent
  • 150 controllers and I/O modules
  • 2 600 PCB blocks and PCB connectors
  • 100 surge protective devices
  • 400 industrial connectors and sensors/actuator cabling
  • 150 power supplies and device breakers
  • 1 800 terminal blocks and distribution blocks
  • 500 relay modules and switching devices
  • 100 signal conditioners

Push-in connection technology facts and figures

Should the push-in technology terminal blocks give users any problems, Phoenix Contact will replace the terminal blocks. “Phoenix Contact will replace any PT terminal block that fails mechanically while used in compliance with the manufactures specifications and recommendation,” explains Patton.

The terminal blocks’ features are easy to use, have secure connections, are safe touch proof and do not need any tools to make them appealing to the mining industry where electrical connections can often become complex and time consuming.


 

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