eBook: Automating Manufacturing Systems; with PLCs



Although relays are rarely used for control logic, they are still essential for switching large power loads. Some important terminology for relays is given below.

Contactor - Special relays for switching large current loads.
Motor Starter - Basically a contactor in series with an overload relay to cut off when too much current is drawn.
Arc Suppression - when any relay is opened or closed an arc will jump. This becomes a major problem with large relays. On relays switching AC this problem can be overcome by opening the relay when the voltage goes to zero (while crossing between negative and positive). When switching DC loads this problem can be minimized by blowing pressurized gas across during opening to suppress the arc formation.
AC coils - If a normal coil is driven by AC power the contacts will vibrate open and closed at the frequency of the AC power. This problem is overcome by relay manufacturers by adding a shading pole to the internal construction of the relay.

The most important consideration when selecting relays, or relay outputs on a PLC, is the rated current and voltage. If the rated voltage is exceeded, the contacts will wear out prematurely, or if the voltage is too high fire is possible. The rated current is the maximum current that should be used. When this is exceeded the device will become too hot, and it will fail sooner. The rated values are typically given for both AC and DC, although DC ratings are lower than AC. If the actual loads used are below the rated values the relays should work well indefinitely. If the values are exceeded a small amount the life of the relay will be shortened accordingly. Exceeding the values significantly may lead to immediate failure and permanent damage. Please note that relays may also include minimum ratings that should also be observed to ensure proper operation and long life.

Rated Voltage - The suggested operation voltage for the coil. Lower levels can result in failure to operate, voltages above shorten life.
Rated Current - The maximum current before contact damage occurs (welding or melting).

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