Phoenix Contact Releases New Line of Data-Driven Circuit Breakers

March 23, 2022 by Shawn Dietrich

Phoenix Contact’s new CAPAROC system of low-voltage circuit breakers provides remote reset functions as well as discrete and networked access to branch circuit data for rapid troubleshooting.

CAPAROC breaker system

Phoenix Contact’s new CAPAROC breaker system. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


What is a Circuit Breaker?

Inside of any industrial electrical panel, you can be sure to find one or more branch circuit protection devices. Sometimes these devices come in the form of a fuse, but they are often identified as circuit breakers. A circuit breaker is a device that will break an electrical circuit when an overcurrent is detected, resulting from improperly sized load devices, or perhaps a failure causing a short circuit.

The breaker will be selected based on the electrical load that it can safely protect. A ten amp circuit breaker will trip when an electrical circuit exceeds a draw of ten amps, and breakers are selected to be rated slightly above the highest operating current of the circuit. There are also different tripping characteristics, called curves, which allow the circuit to accept higher currents for short times when a heavy load (such as a motor) is expected to draw more current when starting. Circuit breakers can be found with 1 and 2- poles for DC and single-phase AC voltages, typically for control devices and I/O circuits, but there are also 3-pole breakers for larger loads. These can be hundreds of amps or more.


Circuit breakers

Typical circuit breakers for branch circuit protection. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


CAPAROC Data-Driven Circuit Breakers

Remote Reset Capability

The obvious common nuisance with circuit breakers, or any branch protection device, is the need to be reset when the breaker trips. A tripped breaker requires maintenance staff to track down the electrical panel in which the circuit breaker is located, then identify and reset the tripped breaker. This step also inherently involves reading a plant schematic to locate the source of the failure and correct it before further damage can occur.

Phoenix Contact is offering a solution to this problem with the CAPAROC family of data-driven circuit breakers. The power feed-in module of the CAPAROC system has discrete or ProfiNet connections to allow for a control system to monitor and remotely reset the circuit. Not only can you reset the circuit breaker remotely, but you can inform maintenance staff exactly where the circuit breaker is located. Typically, to achieve this same kind of notification system, the electrical design team would run a monitor signal wire from each circuit breaker back to a discrete input in the PLC. This solution is costly and time-consuming. The Phoenix Contact solution installation is merely plugging into the ProfiNet network and developing some control logic.


Breaker application diagram

Typical power and branch circuit architecture, application drawing. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


Circuit Monitoring

With a typical electrical circuit within a machine application, there are different voltages and current loads all with their respected branch protection. These circuits are typically not monitored and may only be occasionally checked after installation to ensure the load is not too close to the circuit breaker rating. This level of monitoring can be time-consuming and expensive to integrate, but the cost of failing to conduct proper monitoring can result in failures that are even more costly.

The CAPAROC circuit breaker is able to report data including total current, input voltage, under and overvoltage, errors, global reset, and an 80% current warning per channel.


CAPAROC power module

Power module with ProfiNet connectors for monitoring and reset capability. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


Networking and ProfiNet

The power-feed module uses the industrial protocol ProfiNet to transfer the monitoring data. By making use of the ProfiNet protocol, Phoenix Contact is making use of an industry standard to cyclicly transmit data to a control platform. As of now, ProfiNet is the only supported protocol.

For simpler applications where a ProfiNet network is not possible or logical, the CAPAROC system offers a power module with a discrete input for reset, and a discrete output for 80% current monitoring, allowing direct connection to a simple machine-centered I/O controller such as a micro PLC.

Specific Industries

The CAPAROC family is a relatively small circuit breaker with voltage ranges of 12-24 volts DC. because of this smaller range, the circuit breaker is designed for machine and automation control systems. Assembly machines or factory floor automation is dependent on constant operation. If a machine goes down because of a circuit breaker, the company will lose money by the minute. Rapid monitoring and tracking of voltage and current of load and control devices can be used to predict when a breaker might trip or if a device might fail.

Phoenix Contact

Phoenix Contact is a well-known manufacturer of electrical and automation components that are used all over the world, headquartered in Germany. Their product line stretches from components within electrical cabinets to sensors that might be found on the end of a robot arm.