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NW-Niemann develops and manufactures switchgear for complex control and low voltage distribution systems up to 4000 A. Over sixty employees are involved in the design, planning and production at two locations in the Lower Saxony district town of Vechta. Compliance with VDE regulations and EMC directives is the first and most important quality commandment for the ISO-certified company. Customised test reports then build on this and underpin the quality of the products.
In order to manufacture efficiently and professionally, NW-Niemann invested in a Komax machine for the production of wires and wire sets and established its own sheet metal processing centre with a Perforex LC 3015. It quickly became clear that the next step would be a suitable CAD system. The demands of the planning and CAD design department are high: they need to be able to independently develop customised small controllers, schematics and ICA (instrumentation, control and automation) switching systems themselves.
Figure 1 – Schematics are developed with the Electrical Engineering discipline in WSCAD SUITE. Cabinet construction with Cabinet Engineering follows seamlessly; schematics from other electrical CAD systems can also be imported.
To build control cabinets, NW-Niemann’s engineers must be able to accept data from other planning systems and to control the in-house production without detours. “In this context, we comprehensively analysed and evaluated two well-known electrical CAD solutions within the framework of a test setup”, says Managing Director Holger Pawel. “Functionally there were no significant differences, but certainly in terms of price. When you add up the overall solution we need, including wire routing and manufacturing integration, WSCAD was more cost-effective by a factor of three. Even the annual maintenance costs have a significantly lower impact on our bottom line.”
The company opted for the new E-CAD system from WSCAD. However, this was coupled with a drawback: at the time of purchase, there was still no interface to control the Komax machine at NW-Niemann for wire production. “The WSCAD sales engineer did, however, after consulting with management, promise to implement this important interface for us as soon as possible. And he kept his word”, recalls Holger Pawel. In summer of 2016, NW-Niemann could work with the promised interface and by September it was included by default on the current versions of WSCAD SUITE.
After receiving an order, NW-Niemann creates the associated schematics using WSCAD. “In the past, we created schematics with simpler E-CAD software”, says Holger Pawel. “Today, we develop them already with a view to the following cabinet construction with subsequent production – all on one platform and with a single software program.” This helps the company avoid redundant work, save time and increase quality. If the schematics and documentation are supplied by the clients, they go straight into the cabinet configuration. Regardless of the supplied E-CAD format, the exported or manually created materials list is read into WSCAD using a wizard. Matching with the part database during the import prevents redundant data.
Figure 2 – For the production of wires and wire sets, data comes directly from the cabinet layout created with the WSCAD SUITE.
If a required part is not available locally, it can be easily found via the free access to wscaduniverse.com, which is included with the maintenance contract of the E-CAD software. “Part vendors had already confirmed to us prior to our procurement of WSCAD that they prefer to make the part data of their products available on wscaduniverse.com because, in contrast to other providers, they are not charged for the presentation here. For us as users, this increases the probability of finding more and, most importantly, the latest data immediately. We do not have to go on a cumbersome third-party search.”
In the next step, the experience of the designers came into play: if the cabinet structure is not specified, they estimate its size and determine how the mounting rails, power supply and other components should be arranged. They then simply put this information into the drawing – a process that can be significantly accelerated using macros. By using macro variants, different manifestations of a macro can be created. This enables a 25A feed, for example, to be easily changed to a 63A variant in all plans at a later date. The components planned or imported into the schematic via a materials list appear in the Materials Explorer and can also be dragged and dropped into the cabinet.
The software supports this step with automatic left or right alignments and the snapping of components on the rail accurate to one tenth of a millimetre. If all components are green, this means that everything is in and nothing has been forgotten. Those who want better spatial awareness of the cabinet structure can simply switch to the 3D control view and immediately see whether the cabinet door can be shut.
The next step with the software is wire routing. Even though the designing was done in 2D thus far, all three-dimensional measurements of the components are stored with the part data. The information required for routing is either taken directly from the previously created schematic or is imported via terminal charts and connection lists that were exported earlier from third-party electrical CAD systems. A simple click on the ‘Routing’ button is enough to make all the connections with the wire lengths already calculated. Even the current filling degree of the channels is indicated visually, for example red meaning ‘too full’. Rerouting can then be optionally enforced via a setting or larger cable channels must be used.
Figure 3 – Doors and mounting plates are made on a Perforex LC 3015 – with data from the WSCAD SUITE. The previously required additional M-CAD software is no longer needed.
All the generated data is available for manufacturing at the touch of a button. For the production of wires and wire sets, the data is passed directly to the Komax machine without any detours. Those who do not have such a system can alternatively start the CadCabel application via a menu item and transfer all the necessary data to the service provider of the same name directly from within the WSCAD software. The machining of mounting plates and cabinet doors is carried out at NW-Niemann on a Perforex LC 3015.
The selectable settings correspond to the capabilities of the respective machine. “Until now we had to use additional M-CAD software for this production step,” explains Holger Pawel. “With WSCAD, we can now send the data directly to our laser machine. The previous parallel drawing in the M-CAD system has been eliminated.” Parallel to the manufacturing, all the components required for production can be procured on time. Project-specific material lists can be created and compared with the ERP system for this purpose. After this comes the assembly of the pre-machined components and their wiring in the main assembly. The specialists at NW-Niemann pays particular attention to the subsequent electrical and technical quality control: visual checks, measurements based on previously created protocols, one last final inspection and test results created individually for the system complete this step. The automatically generated documentation is typically in the form of intelligent PDF files. In other words, installers and service technicians on site do not need any special viewers and can instantly switch by clicking on a cross-reference from the cabinet layout to the schematic’s other plans in the associated disciplines of the WSCAD SUITE.
Working with the WSCAD SUITE makes it possible to handle development, planning and documentation on a single platform and with part data from a central database across the disciplines of electrical engineering, control cabinet construction, process and fluid engineering, building automation and electrical installation. The PLM/ERP Integration facilitates comparisons with data from other systems, and mechanisms to automate engineering processes accelerate the work of several weeks down to just a few days and possibly even a few hours.
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