Electrical energy is the life force of American industry. Few companies have greater expertise than ABB, Inc., in delivering the total solutions, systems and equipment to transmit, distribute and control electrical energy. With 160,000 employees in more than 100 countries and a century of experience, ABB is dedicated to serving customers in manufacturing, the process industry, consumer products, utilities, the oil and gas sector and the infrastructure markets.
ABB has a history of innovation, and its Medium Voltage Technology group is no exception. Allen Burchett, director of marketing and sales for medium-voltage switchgear, is excited about some of the group’s latest developments, which are focused on solving customer problems. In fact, solving customers’ problems is both a way of life and a philosophy for ABB. Burchett states, “We can fix everything but a broken heart.” Historically, the switchgear business has built its success on custom engineering and building power distribution equipment for utilities and industry. The switchgear business environment had been one of high regulation and very technically competent customers that specified exactly what they wanted. This environment is rapidly changing, and suppliers to these customers must adapt as well.
ABB believes that the future of power distribution lies not just in the equipment, but more in a company’s ability to understand the customers’ needs and to tailor a complete solution. ABB dubs this revolution in thinking a “transformation to a more customer-centric organization.” It does not mean doing less in the areas of technology, manufacturing or other functions. It simply means doing everything to move the business forward, while never losing sight of the customer.
ABB uses advanced technology to produce the best solutions for electrical distribution system performance, personnel safety, cost-effectiveness and durability. For example, ABB has several architectural solutions in the ANSI and IEC medium-voltage distribution segment, from 5 kilovolts (kV) to 38 kV, to integrate with customers’ on-site distribution system of incoming and internal medium-voltage lines and transformers.
More Power to You
ABB manufactures and markets medium-voltage, metal-clad switchgear, including its Advance™ switchgear, for industrial and utility use. With a completely modular and bolted design, Advance™ switchgear offers increased reliability, improved safety and maintenance simplicity. Advance™ has just received a new ANSI certification rating at 27 kV. “This rating extension gives us a more complementary package,” says Don Elliott, senior product development engineer. “We now can cover a more complete range of ratings within the medium-voltage class market.”
The new voltage class is being packaged in the same 36 inch-wide enclosure as ABB’s 15 kV Advance™ switchgear equipment, and that’s another major benefit to customers. “We are staying with the same footprint, which, along with two-high construction, saves the customer money by not having to increase building space,” says Elliott. Fabricated in ABB’s Lake Mary, Fla., facility, Advance™ switchgear has a wide array of standard modules for fast, efficient delivery to the customer.
Quality is ensured by extensive design and production tests, coupled with Six-Sigma quality techniques and manufacturing facilities that are ISO 9001-certified. Its high-grade, durable epoxy insulation is just one outstanding feature, along with closed-door racking and fully automated disconnects. Safety interlocks inside the cell give operators superior protection. Bolted construction allows for faster replacement and modification in the field. All of these features lead to reduced costs of ownership and risk. Galvalume®, a self-healing, coated sheet metal, is used throughout the product. Its superior corrosion resistance provides for a long life in any environment while reducing equipment costs through the elimination of a painting process. This cost saving ultimately is passed on to the customer.
The heart of all switchgear is the circuit-breaker technology, and ABB is the leader here, too, in meeting and exceeding industry standards. Both Advance™ metal-clad switchgear and SafeGear® arc resistant switchgear use ABB’s ADVAC® ANSI-rated vacuum circuit breakers. Made in the company’s facility in Florence, S.C., ADVAC® offers the latest technology for maximum operator safety, ease of installation and simple, infrequent maintenance. ADVAC® uses a revolutionary yet simple front-accessible, stored-energy operating mechanism designed specifically for use with vacuum technology. This provides dependable design and proven reliability, without the complexity of mechanisms found in previous circuit-breaker generations.
“Most circuit breakers have springs like shocks on your car,” says Luke Chassereau, product design and development engineer. “The ADVAC® uses a very large clock spring and translates rotary motion into linear motion. That design allows fewer parts to transfer more power in the mechanism. And the design is very open and easily accessible for maintenance purposes.”
The fault-current interruption speed of the ADVAC® is lightning fast. “With ADVAC®, we wanted to take it above and beyond the industry standard. We are so much faster, almost in a different category.” says Chassereau. The ADVAC® breaker’s opening speed of less than three cycles far exceeds the ANSI requirements for most other five-cycle breakers currently on the market. This can be a real advantage for the customer. For example, during abnormal conditions as in a major failure of a connected transformer, power cable or motor, the cable has to carry those high short-circuit currents without being damaged. It is a thermal (cable heating) vs. mechanical (breaker opening) race and when applied properly, the circuit breaker and associated protective relaying will protect the cable from overheating. Applying a faster circuit breaker, such as an ADVAC®, allows a smaller-size cable and/or conduit to be installed for the same-size connected load. “Our initial calculations indicate a customer can reduce construction installation costs (material and labor) by several hundred to two thousand dollars (approximately) per circuit breaker,” says Ray Catlett, consulting field engineer. “Here is a value-added engineering application with real economic savings for the customer.” There are other positive impacts when applying an ADVAC® circuit breaker — increased protective-relay coordination margins in tight applications, and improved power quality for the distribution system, for example.
The Next Generation
Although many refinements have been made throughout the 80-to-90 year history of the medium-voltage circuit breaker, there have been only three generations of circuit-breaker design. Early circuit breakers were manually operated. The next grouping was operated by large, solenoid-type mechanisms. The current generation is the familiar stored-energy, spring-charged mechanism. Each generation reflects the best technology available at the time of its introduction, building on the strengths of previous designs yet adding a new innovation that marks a true turning point.
The ABB AMVAC® circuit breaker is truly the next generation in medium-voltage vacuum technology. With the AMVAC®, ABB is the first manufacturer to marry the unique requirements of vacuum-interrupter technology to a stored-energy mechanism designed to exploit those capabilities. Using magnetic actuation consisting of a flux-shifting device with integral permanent magnets, the AMVAC® mechanism has just one moving part. Featuring only open-and-close coils, an electronic controller and capacitors for energy storage, the mechanical simplicity of the magnetic actuator produces a circuit breaker capable of 100,000 operations.
Vacuum interrupters as well as the entire pole assembly on the AMVAC® breaker are embedded in a proprietary epoxy material, providing excellent dielectric and thermal capabilities. Eliminating mechanism-operated cell switches, the AMVAC® breaker packages all auxiliary control contacts on the circuit breaker.
Medium Voltage, High Design
ABB’s AX1 is another medium-voltage switchgear design — a modular, air-insulated system for power distribution up to 27 kV. The AX1, manufactured in Sweden and marketed in the United States and the European Union, is based on several unique engineering concepts. The high-voltage main circuit of the AX1 is in its own separate compartment, with limited access to personnel. All mechanical and auxiliary parts are fully and safely accessible outside the high-voltage compartment when parts are live and the circuit breaker is closed. This design protects against accidental access to high-voltage components and provides simple installation, improved cooling and a very compact package.
The system is constructed with welded bus bars and maintenance-free contact springs. “We did not develop the AX1 to look exactly the same as other equipment,” says Thomas Einarsson, area manager for the Americas. “We took a good look at new technology.” The AX1 features an extremely fast arc eliminator to prevent an open arc due to a severe fault. The AX1 almost instantly eliminates arcs within about 5 milliseconds by converting the arc fault to a normal short circuit, which is interrupted and grounded.
“We’re bringing extra safety for the personnel operating the switchgear, and we are taking it a step further by saving the switchgear so you don’t have to replace equipment after an arcing fault. You more or less recharge the arc eliminator and you’re up and running again,” Einarsson says. This, along with the efficiencies of built-in computer metering, monitoring and remote station control, makes the AX1 an economical option in an increasingly competitive and deregulated energy marketplace. In addition, ABB conducts factory pretests of the equipment as an integrated system instead of as separate parts to speed installation times. Like all ABB switchgear, the AX1 comes with the technical support of a vast network of expert engineers across the nation.
Today, it is not enough to simply have the best product. It is also not enough to be able to meet the customers’ stated needs. To thrive, a company must be able to pull together all of its brain power and commit to creating value for itself and its customers. This requires constant vigilance in every area of the business. The future will reward those that keep up the vigilance and profitably focus on the customer.
Burchett states, “We are transforming our business from just supplying products to finding solutions for our customers. We support that vision within the medium-voltage switchgear market by developing and manufacturing products and solutions with attributes that overcome our customers’ problems. Industries are moving away from specifying exactly what they want and are moving toward working with supply partners to develop profitable answers to their needs. We have responded to the market with higher ratings, faster breakers and smaller, feature-packed switchgear. Got a problem? We can provide you with a solution.”