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434 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON COMPONENTS AND PACKAGING TECHNOLOGIES, VOL. 25, NO. 3, SEPTEMBER 2002 Thermal Simulation of Switchgear J. Paulke, H. Weichert, and P. Steinhaeuser Abstract— In development of low voltage switchgear, proper thermal design becomes more and more important to provide safe function and reliability in spite of miniaturization and increasing performance demanded of modern devices. Due to the high complexity of heat generation and loss processes it is not easy to predict the thermal behavior of devices under various load conditions, i.e., usually numerous tests are required. Rockwell Automation has started thermal simulations of con- tactors some time ago, and now is working on a three-dimensional (3-D) thermal model of a manual motor controller. This paper describes how to transform well known contact physics into an application oriented thermal simulation. Linking relations of mechanical engineering with contact physics, the influence of the applied tightening torque at the field wiring terminals on the thermal behavior of the device is considered, as well as the modeling of the contact area, taking into account switching arcs during breaking of various load currents. The simulation results are compared with infrared (IR) pictures and thermocouple measurements of existing devices to validate the theory and furthermore reflect its quality. Index Terms— Contactor, contact physics, heat sources, manual motor controller, switching arc, switchgear, terminals, thermal simulation. I. I NTRODUCTION T YPICAL modern devices discussed here are shown in Fig. 1. Miniaturization of switchgear produces increased energy density finally resulting in higher temperatures of both within the devices and at the field wiring terminals. With respect to safe performance, reliability, suitable product life and last but not least cost efficiency it is important to design the relevant parts of a device as precisely as possible. That means oversizing on one hand and less than top performance on the other hand are no longer tolerable, development by trial and error only is not quick enough any more and by that too expensive. In addition customers require more confirmed data for dif- ferent applications. Therefore modern computer aided tools are necessary to get throughout correctly designed devices in ac- ceptable time frame. The use of three-dimensional (3-D) models for mechanical design by means of CAD software meanwhile is standard in many companies. They are a good base for building up a thermal computer simulation model. Manuscript received December 1, 2001; revised January 17, 2002. This work was presented in part at the 47th IEEE Holm Conference on Electrical Con- tacts, Montreal, Canada, 2001. This work was recommended for publication by Associate Editor J. W. McBride upon evaluation of the reviewers’ comments.
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