Versatile Protection with HRC fuse links

P. T. Williams B.Sc., A.M.I.E.E.
Development Manager - Fusegear





To understand how the modern HRC fuse link fits into the protective scene. burns back to a point where the supply is unable to sustain it and circuit interruption occurs. providand close excess overcurrent particular. Figure 1b. At a critical temperature the silver and tin merge together and form a low melting point alloy (around 230°C). This phenomenon is known as 'M' effect.Versatile protection with HRC fuses The humble High Rupturing Capacity (HRC) fuse link. The centre of the GEC AlSTHOM industrial fuse link element has a band of pure silver which is formed into a trough and then filled with tin. Fuse link bodies are made from high grade ceramic materials. shows the construction of typical industrial fuse elements. or elements in the T __ max. is seen as perhaps just a relic of the dim and distant past.xII~ /111' /111' /111' //11' /111' /111' //11' '1'/11' Multiple arcing 1 . this seemingly simple unsophisticated product still has a vitally important role to play in modern electrical protection. 'M' effect zone is extremely low overload faults. computer aided element design techniques. This silver/tin responsive to ing operation protection. however. Sandwiched between the inner and outer caps of the fuse link are patented arc inhibiting sealing discs. The current now flowing down this wire raises the temperature so rapidly that the energy is no longer able to dissipate from the ends. Today's modern HRC fuse links have outwardly changed little since their introduction in the early 1900's. which respond rapidly to high fault currents and quickly produce a multiple arcing condition and subsequent circuit interruption. Even with all the advanced electronic circuit protection now available. Figure 2a. in cables. shows this simple wire subjected to an overcurrent. 1/WJ>II/~I/@II~II/@II~IIq. to PVC insulated The construction of a typical BS 88 Part 2 industrial fuse link is shown in Figure 2b. They have. The centre of the wire eventually reaches melting point and parts. Figure 1a. The heart of the HRC fuse link is. the fuse element. This molten wire than breaks up into a string of molten globules of material which form a series of short arcs (multiple arcing). These discs help prevent catastraphic failure of a fuse link under the most onerous fault conditions. Modern materials and manufacturing techniques have enabled the evolution of fuse links with improved voltage capability and breaking capacity. which causes the centre of the element to melt at this temperature. in today's high technology world.111/ ~ /111' ~72S Single short arc Figure 1 b Tags and caps are made from high grade copper and brass. Figure 10 . whilst restricting the damaging energy and current let through to the fault. These arcs then merge together and rapidly form an unstable column which the supply is unable to sustain and interruption occurs. of course. Current flowing down this wire causes it to heat up at the centre. resulting in the whole length becoming molten at the same time. able to withstand both the high thermal and mechanical stresses associated with the arc energy generated during fuse link operation. These natural phenomena are enhanced in the design of industrial HRC fuse link elements. Reduced sections are located along the length of the fuse element creating short circuit zones of high current density. all being electro plated to prevent deterioration of conducting surfaces and enable good solder joints to be effected. The parting of the wire then generates an arc which is fed by the energy stored in the system. the earliest type of crude electrical short circuit protection. Without this metallurgical effect the centre of this element would need to be raised to 960°C (the melting point of pure silver) under overcurrent conditions. High performance ceramics. changed significantly in terms of performance. this in turn. To look at this we can firstly consider the operation of a simple wire fuse. It is still today the unequalled answer to short circuit protection. have enabled production of extremely high speed fuse links for the protection of power semiconductors. since the ends of the wire allow the energy to escape and dissipate down the conductors. and improved quartz filling methods. when soldering the elements to the inner caps. we need to have an understanding of how it works. shows the same wire fuse now subjected to a high short circuit fault current.

where arcing is initiated when a short circuit fault occurs. however. comprise Silverbond rolled element Silverbond element or copper. severely restricting These two zones of operation expressed energy. A = Peak asymmetrical value of E Voltage zero n . less material used for a given rated current. time D. as previously the energy arcing down described.5kA = 81. element suddenly on a short circuit under the dispersing known In this instance the fuse disintegrates rapidly effect of such a current.1 kA RMS SYM. at which the arc voltage E across A Current zero I _t_ Ll F the pre-arcing arcing creating point the fuse elements go into multiple the fuse link and limiting let through During forced the peak current to B. in terms of three B C Time current characteristics. restricting the current and energy to the fault. and can be expressed in Amp' seconds. The filler which totally surrounds is extremely sections under normal load to be dissipated the low in impugrain size. that give the and high let through It is these phenomena breaking capacity HRC fuse link its current limiting properties.4 milli sec. Figure 2a ously described.. which are log-log graphs of ___________________ J fault current . prospective current = E= B Peak cut off current of the fuse link Peak arc voltage link across the fuse Operation of the fuse link occurs after time C has passed. As previ- these elements normally form of the two. data is produced for all D Arcing time 3. in which a trough is formed and filled with tin. let through.6 milli sec. either silver or a composite sections or necks along the the heat generated through the with reduced length. to the fuse cool them to be impor- and therefore. The elements are required thin and flat to enable at the reduced conditions..------------------------------------------ case of higher current ratings. which A Reduced sections in copper portions. Firstly. More Figure 2b Brass caps Fusible elements Ceramic tube is the effect of the filler when a fuse link operates fault current. Cut-off current: 39. tant. voltage of an HRC fuse link (Figure 3) the can be seen in the oscillogram The top trace representing across the fuse link and the bottom Figure 3 I--l 0. Performance Iuse links and expressed prime relationships: 1. to be thin strips of metal. o Sealing disc Quartz sand filled o Copper tags it through forming rapidly severely as fulgurite. filler. The purpose because elements rities and is of tightly controlled of its close proximity it is able to effectively enable of this filler is twofold. since energy can be of is propor- in terms representative let through Time tiona I to the square of the RMS current and the time it flows (I't). A Asymmetrical peak value of prospective current 182. E Arc voltage: 930V Recovery voltage 461V RMS. to produce 'M' effect when a prolonged overload fault occurs. fusible elements consists of high grade silica sand.01 one the current flowing. nominal prospective Figure 2 4a. B Central silver section.5kA Pre-arcing time 1. the current is rapidly to zero. the cut off current. the adjacent silica sand and material of fulgurite a high resistance The formation forces the current down to zero. The operation as shown.

\.. 2. 100 \\ 1. and danger to personnel. Because of their nature.S. the total energy let through (Total I't) which is a measure of the maximum energy in A's that the fuse link will let through at a particular voltage. 10 ~ _.947. they will discriminate with a ratio of 1.. The point where the individual characteristics depart from the line of peak asymmetry would approximate to the 10ms time current point. risk of fire. Cut off current characteristics. Hence. i. Symmetricalprospective current in Amperes Figure 4b Cut-off current characteristics Figure 4c I't Values • Current rating Amp 2 4 ____ 6 10 16 20 2. to be assessed.000 4 hours 10. under the worst case conditions of asymmetry that would normally be encountered. which also comply with IEC 269 r are ideally suited to motor starting and motor starter protection.(A) versus pre-arcing time (sec). motor starters and miniature circuit breakers. 3. the British Standard BS 88 fuses... melting curve. This makes the HRC fuse link the ideal choice to provide Type 2 Co-ordination with motor starters to IEC.6 : 1 between major and minor current ratings..--. The main reasons today for the widespread application of HRC fuses can be summarised as follows: • Figure 4a Time/current characteristics 20. such as. I't characteristics.C fuse links will limit the amount of damage caused by the electro magnetic stress created between current carrying conductors. versus prospective fault current kA (RMS symmetrical).000 on -0 • c Restriction of Electro Magnetic Stress H. Secondly. They are also used in discrimination studies.000 R. Under no circumstances should fuse links be applied on systems above their rated voltage. express the two most important quantities representative of energy for a fuse link. kA (Peak). Figure 4c. 4 2 T rr: . They enable the fuse link's ability to withstand surge currents.M.\-""\ _. Typically.. \.S. thus altering the characteristics. 5. If this is exceeded then the fuse link elements may be damaged.V . which indicates the minimum energy in A's that will result in the melting of the fuse element. Low Voltage Fuse links Most applications for low voltage industrial fuse links will be in the area of motor starting and distribution. such as.000 High Breaking Capacity and Energy Limitation In the event of a short circuit. i.. the point where the fuse link starts to limit current (cut off).. This results in limitation of the amount of damage to equipment. 0·1 1\ \ \1\ \1\ • Reliable Short Circuit and Back-Up Protection By virtue of their precise operating characteristics HRC fuse links can provide protection to devices of inherent low breaking capability. without reference to the manufacturer.R. ___ - -- _ 1.2 7. HRC fuse links will discriminate with each other much more readily and reliably than other protective devices. or cut off current.--v 20M32 20M25 20 16 10 6 E OJ C ct ~ ~ 10 " 1·0 \_. 0 u IV on C IV 100 \ \ »> .-J v -. which plot the peak let through. fault energy is severely restricted and contained by the rapid operation of the HRC fuse link.4 18 31 70 ---------------- -------------------- -=6--'-0_ 400 280 1000 850 2000 2500 300 540 900 1000 3000 4000 Prospectivecurrent kA (R. These characteristics are the ones most frequently used.2 2_1 100 PreArcing I't IA'sec) TotolI't IA'sec) at: 41SV SSOV Accurate Discrimination Protective devices are commonly used in series with one another to provide discrimination. Symmetrical) 20M25 20M32 1100 • Low Overcurrent Protection HRC fuse links type gG to BS 88 3 . the absolute minimum value of pre-arcing energy (min pre-arcing I't). Figure 4b.M.e. motor start ing currents. 0·01 0-005 i'-. which would be '/' cycle (1Oms) at 50Hz. Firstly...e. It is important to note that the oper- ation of fuse links under short circuit is dependent upon the applied voltage and a significant reduction of total I't can be seen with lower values of applied voltage. This stress could cause the severe distortion of busbar copper work or the bursting of cables with consequential risk of a further major fault developing.

it would starting curves. the two is a result of the of power electronic excess overcurrent maximum PVC cables equipment. be usual to compare for the duration the fuse link's to ensuring this in- to withstand Industrial fuse akA Prospective current 20kA peak of the 'run up' time. pulses. the design of a typical construction.3kA Thyristor that the selected fuse link will withstand surge. even after many years in service. • protection requirements Diodes and thyristors are devices low thermal energy mass which are and voltage therefore. tion of industrial If we consider with lower let through nite life. characteristic easily evaluate to particular ability for example. rating above the motor full load IF"" -----"-_" ------- 1 lkA __ _L __ ~ __ ~ . against In addition Rectifier fuse 3. There are no moving tion of typical Semiconductor Fuse links Semiconductor from industrial element fuse links differ physically fuse links. ~'"' j I Let through current of typical 100 Amp fuses curves can be utilised the application duties. the motor's time current of low voltage the fuse link to of fuse links currents fuse from the six main reasons However. Examinafuse links has shown them to be in perfect condition. fuse links selected for semiconductor much faster operating characteristics. that and their associated very short duration. 1 Application of Low Voltage Fuse links The prime applications links are derived detailed above. Proven Non Deterioration When properly applied HRC an indefiparts fuse links have virtually surges.~ .and IEC 269 enable will provide ultilisation close and of Assessment will involve pre-arcing However. To assess a fuse link's motor starting current. It is very important device protection exhibit link manufacturer should be sought. it must also have a continuous service current. ence between protection devices. values than those selected for the protecequipment. may require analysis. Figure 6 a Helically wound silver strip elements Ceramic fuse barrel Plated brass end caps Star shaped ceramic core Powdered quartz filler b Self supporting silver strip elements with stress relief form 4 . repetitive complex against similar withstand other applications principles to assess the or highly more from the fuse of fuse links. mainly in their differThe principal to jam up or wear out. and advice with relatively sensitive to current.

'\ \ / High voltage fuse link minimum pre-arcing curve Protectivedevice characteristic on sourceside 100 -0 10 Time (s) 1 J5 Q) 8 \ \ \ .of L. Ultra fast acting fuse links are normally selected when co-ordination is required with an individual semiconductor device. The slower speed of these fuse links relative to ultra fast types. Whilst excellent low overcurrent performance is often provided.V. with overcurrent protection being provided by other means. or perhaps to protect a single diode.1 Secondary terminal earth fault -- Maximum fault current at location -. This enables the fuse link body dimensions to be kept to a reasonable length. are common in this type of fuse link and are used extensively in British Standard fuse links. The operation of the striker pin in the event of a single phase fault will provide protection to the equipment downstream of the fuse link. will also enable discrimination to be achieved with other fuse links or circuit breakers. Fuse links of this type are normally equipped with striker pin mechanisms which are used to provide three phase tripping of a fuse switch or contactor under certain fault conditions. The superimposition of a. distribution fuse links have a number of long thin elements connected in parallel and wound around a ceramic former inside the fuse tube. will still provide the basic data for assessment. side) Distribution fuse links have time current characteristics which are designed principally to withstand a transformer magnetising inrush current. Fast acting fuses would normally be selected to disconnect a failed device within a group of healthy devices connected in parallel on a large convertor stack.e. -. a circuit breaker or overload relay. of a fuse switch or contactor. however. which would have a greater withstand than a thyristor. i. if fitted. require time current characteristics which are the exact opposite to that of distribution fuse links. Operation of such a mechanism providing "trip all phases" will make the combination selfprotecting under all fault conditions. can make assessment a very complex problem.~ ·E . with the reduced element sections running at much higher current densities.c. below the fuse link's minimum breaking current. to limit energy let through to motor starters. The elements for a semiconductor fuse link are usually made from pure silver. A semiconductor fuse link is normally required to provide only short circuit protection to an electronic circuit. Construction of the two different types can be seen in Figure 6. provide protection to the fuse combination under these onerous conditions. we can see the differences. side) ~ \ .semiconductor fuse link compared to an industrial type. to enable co-ordination with devices having critical withstand values. as well as spring charged types. -. withstand and clear secondary terminal faults in a reasonable time. Under low overcurrent fault conditions operation of the striker pin will enable the disconnection of the supply and. and d. The addition of stress relief to these elements makes a dramatic difference to the fuse link's ability to withstand frequent motor starting surges. and are closely matched to the device withstand levels. \ \ High Voltage Fuse links High voltage fuse links can be split into two major categories: 1) 2) Distribution transformer fuse links Motor circuit fuse links 0. which includes both fast acting and ultra fast acting types. Explosively charged striker pins. and a heavy characteristic around the 5-10 second region to provide a good withstand of motor starting surges. hence. High voltage motor circuit fuse links. with fast operation at the short time end. they are not designed to operate under extremely low overcurrent fault conditions. They are also much thinner than those of an industrial type of fuse link of similar current rating. Comparison between the operation of semiconductor fuse links and industrial fuse links can be seen in Figure 5. Generally they need to be closely assessed for energy and current limitation. such as. usually of somewhat lower voltage rating. however. An explosive charge ignited by the arc voltage across the fuse link forces the striker pin to project out of the end of the fuse link and impact upon the trip bar.V. This would typically be between 2-3 times rated current. with much smaller reduced sections. This results in an element that is much more responsive to fault current. along with high frequency discharges and positioning of fuse links in some applications. provide good overload Current (A) 5 .V. Due to their application on high voltages. most likely a thyristor. have a number of much heavier stress relieved fuse elements running direct from end to end of the fuse tube. Most high voltage fuse links are designed for back-up short circuit protection. They may also be required to withstand highly repetitive pulsed duty cycles which can have a significant influence on the selection of the fuse link. Manufacturers' characteristics. Low voltage fuse link or protectivedevice maximumtotal operating characteristic (referredto H. Operation of the striker pin would occur as soon as the main fuse link elements commence arcing. Application of HV Fuses The normal application of a high voltage Figure 7 Effectof possible derating due to enclosureor high ambient air temp.c. Application of Semiconductor Fuse links The application of semiconductor fuse links can be extremely complex. protective device (referred to H. fault currents. Motor circuit fuse links.

01 10000 6 .12 times transformer full load current for 0. after more than 100 years since their introduction. and proposed for incorporation into IEC and CENELEC Standards. Fuse link manufacturers' data. Figure 8 shows the co-ordination of a high voltage motor fuse link co-ordinated with a vacuum contactor motor starter. On the time current curve is shown the magnetising inrush current which the fuse link must withstand.time lil '" I C1l Typical vacuum contoctor switching capability f. correct co-ordination with the overload relay. links. Also indicated are secondary terminal fault currents. Future Trends Future trends will be towards more compact fuses and fusegear. such as. The versatility of the HRC fuse link. The co-ordination with other protective devices. and the commercial constraints 01 price and size. below the contactor switching capability is essential. GEC ALSTHOM's 'SAFECLlP' range to BS 88 Part 6. NOTE: HV fuse links to BS 2692 or IEC 282-1 have voltage ratings based on their use in three phase circuits. Some. recommendations contained within these Standards should be followed. Here it can be seen that the selection process is not unlike that for the low voltage fuse link in a motor circuit. typically 10.distribution fuse link can be seen in Figure 7. The time current curve may also be compared with the non damage curve of equipment. For use in single phase circuits or other three phase systems. however. such as. The most significant technological trends and advances will be happening in the power semiconductor protection field to meet advances in modern thyristor technology. for the protection of electrical circuits. <X> I Take over point mustbe less than switching capability of associated device 10 -0 '" c o _ un-up.Amp '" Typical combined clearance time of contactor and instantaneousearth fault relay . In conclusion.1 seconds. will simplify the selection of the correct fuse link for a motor duty.1 __ ~ __ 1 50 100 1000 Current . having solid impedance or resistance earthed neutral. which shows the significant parameters for fuse link selection. an earth fault relay can shift the takeover point and make co-ordination difficult to achieve. requiring much faster acting fuse Figure 8 1000 Fusetotal clearing curve Overload relay 100 ~.= E o <X> ~ Contactor switching capability exceeded on earth fault / c: ~ 3 u Cl ~ __ ~~ c . overload currents and both up stream and down stream protective device characteristics. such as that produced by GEC ALSTHOM. all referred to the primary side of the transformer. cannot be matched by any other device on the market. Other protective devices. can be extremely complex. of this information will be required to assess a fuse link's suitability for a particular transformer. or all. fuses and fuse technology has made significant advances from the early wire fuses to the modern high performance devices of today. However.

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