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A contactor is an electrically controlled switch used for switching a power circuit, similar to a relay except with higher current

ratings. A contactor is controlled by a circuit which has a much lower power level than the switched circuit. Contactors come in many forms with varying capacities and features. Unlike a circuit breaker, a contactor is not intended to interrupt a short circuit current. Contactors range from those having a breaking current of several amperes to thousands of amperes and 24 V DC to many kilovolts. The physical size of contactors ranges from a device small enough to pick up with one hand, to large devices approximately a meter (yard) on a side. Contactors are used to control electric motors, lighting, heating, capacitor banks, and other electrical loads. A contactor has three components. The contacts are the current carrying part of the contactor. This includes power contacts, auxiliary contacts, and contact springs. The electromagnet (or "coil") provides the driving force to close the contacts. The enclosure is a frame housing the contact and the electromagnet. Enclosures are made of insulating materials like Bakelite, Nylon 6, and thermosetting plastics to protect and insulate the contacts and to provide some measure of protection against personnel touching the contacts. Open-frame contactors may have a further enclosure to protect against dust, oil, explosion hazards and weather. Magnetic blowouts use blowout coils to lengthen and move the electric arc. These are especially useful in DC power circuits. AC arcs have periods of low current, during which the arc can be extinguished with relative ease, but DC arcs have continuous high current, so blowing them out requires the arc to be stretched further than an AC arc of the same current. The magnetic blowouts in the pictured Albright contactor (which is designed for DC currents) more than double the current it can break, increasing it from 600 A to 1,500 A. Sometimes an economizer circuit is also installed to reduce the power required to keep a contactor closed; an auxiliary contact reduces coil current after the contactor closes. A somewhat greater amount of power is required to initially close a contactor than is required to keep it closed. Such a circuit can save a substantial amount of power and allow the energized coil to stay cooler. Economizer circuits are nearly always applied on direct-current contactor coils and on large alternating current contactor coils.

A basic contactor will have a coil input (which may be driven by either an AC or DC supply depending on the contactor design). The coil may be energized at the same voltage as the motor, or may be separately controlled with a lower coil voltage better suited to control by programmable controllers and lower-voltage pilot devices. Certain contactors have series coils connected in the motor circuit; these are used, for example, for automatic acceleration control, where the next stage of resistance is not cut out until the motor current has dropped. Unlike general-purpose relays, contactors are designed to be directly connected to high-current load devices. Relays tend to be of lower capacity and are usually designed for both normally closed and normally open applications. Devices switching more than 15 amperes or in circuits rated more than a few kilowatts are usually called contactors. Apart from optional auxiliary low current contacts, contactors are almost exclusively fitted with normally open contacts. Unlike relays, contactors are designed with features to control and suppress the arc produced when interrupting heavy motor currents. When current passes through the electromagnet, a magnetic field is produced, which attracts the moving core of the contactor. The electromagnet coil draws more current initially, until its inductance increases when the metal core enters the coil. The moving contact is propelled by the moving core; the force developed by the electromagnet holds the moving and fixed contacts together. When the contactor coil is de-energized, gravity or a spring returns the electromagnet core to its initial position and opens the contacts. For contactors energized with alternating current, a small part of the core is surrounded with a shading coil, which slightly delays the magnetic flux in the core. The effect is to average out the alternating pull of the magnetic field and so prevent the core from buzzing at twice line frequency. Contactors can broadly be divided into 2 types: 1) Solenoid type 2) Clapper type

1. Solenoid type: Movable contacts are attached to the movable core of the magnet. When the electromagnet coil is energized, the movable core is pulled to the stationary core, thus closing the contacts.

Mounting of contacts on horizontal plane reduces the size of the contactor. Pole face provided with shading coil this creates an out of phase flux to hold the magnet closed during the zero points of alternating current thus preventing chatter of the contactor. For contactors of higher rating, DC is used to avoid the noise.3 2. Clapper type contactor In clapper type DC contactors the movable contacts are mounted on a hinged movable armature. The hinged armature when pulled by magnetic cores moves the movable contact in the horizontal direction to make contact with the stationary contact mounted on the vertical back-plate of the contactor.

BLOW OUT: when the contacts separate, the magnetic field set up due to current flowing through the blow out coil exerts a force on the arc. Due to this force arc is elongated between the arcing horns. The arc chutes provided over the fixed and moving contacts also help in quenching the arc due to cooling action. Arc chutes also help to confine the arc and help avoid striking other structural parts. The force exerted by magnetic coil on the arc depends on the current flowing through the coil. Force exerted is proportional to the square of the current.

Lock out type Contactor: This type of contactor was primarily designed for the starting circuit of the DC motor, cutting the resistance of armature circuits in steps. The contactor is so designed that its contacts normally remain open. They also remain open during the inrush current on starting of motors. The contactor consists of two coils i.e., a closing coil and a lock-out coil. The lock-out coil prevents the contactor from closing during the inrush current of the motor. The magnetic circuit of closing coil (A) is made of such magnetic material which gets saturated easily. The pull exerted by the lock-out coil, therefore, varies much more widely with changes in current than the pull of closing coil. Both the closing coil and the lock-out coil are connected in series with the motor circuit. During starting, high inrush current flows which are beyond point B in graph. For point beyond B armature pull of lock-out coil is much greater than that of the closing coil, thus the contacts remain open due to armature being pulled by lock out coil. As the current drops below B the pull on armature increases on closing coil and therefore the armature is pulled by the closing coil and the contacts close. The closed contacts short the resistance in the armature circuit of the motor. The circuit is so arranged that when the contactor closes the lock out coil is short circuited thereby preventing it from opening the contactor. This ensures that the contactor will remain closed after it has operated. In some contactors closing coil may be shunt wound connected directly across the line. This removes the disadvantage of possible opening of the series connected closing coil on low loads. However, any variation in line voltage would affect the setting at which the contactor would close. Because of the development of better and simpler accelerating means they are rarely used.

INDUCTIVE ACCELERATING CONTACTORS Its lock out coil (hold out coil) magnetic circuit is highly inductive. The magnetic circuit of the hold out coil is so designed that a certain fixed duration of time is required for the flux to die down to a value to permit the closing coil to close the contactor. The time may be varied by varying the air gap in the hold out magnetic circuit. The relative strengths of the closing coil and the hold out coil is so adjusted that the contactor remains open with full line voltage on closing coil and approx. 1 % of full line voltage on the holdout coil. The closing coil and hold out coil are energized at the same time and then the hold out coil is short-circuited. The short circuiting of holding coil will

result in slow decay of flux in its magnetic circuit. The closing coil will close the contacts when flux of holdout coil falls to a certain low value. This type of contactors are used in DC motor starting for current the armature resistances type

IMPORTANT: Many contactors have one passive stable switching position


and one unstable active switching position. The stable switching position is passively maintained in the absence of externally provided active energy. For instance, a simple spring is often used to bias the electrical contacts into a first switching position, which will then be passively maintained. When a change in switching position is desired, an electrical switching signal is provided to the contactor, which in turn induces an active switching force on the electrical contacts. The active switching force moves the contacts into a second switching position, which is maintained until the electrical switching signal is removed from the contactor. A significant drawback to contactors with only one stable switching position is that energy must continually be supplied to the contactor to maintain the unstable switching position. This inefficient use of energy results in higher operational costs and also introduces heating problems into the contactor use and design. While contactors with multiple stable switching positions have performed satisfactorily, but improvements are required in certain areas like reliability particularly in high current switching applications where safety is of primary concern. Mechanical latching is prone to wear out over time. Therefore permanent magnet is used in many of the cases. But they too are prone to mechanical stress and shock.

ARC SUPRESSION Without adequate contact protection, the occurrence of electric current arcing causes significant degradation of the contacts, which suffer significant damage. An electrical arc occurs between the two contact points (electrodes) when they transition from a closed to an open (break arc) or from an open to a closed (make arc). The break arc is typically more energetic and thus more destructive. The heat energy contained in the resulting electrical arc is very high, ultimately causing the metal on the contact to migrate with the current. The extremely high temperature of the arc (tens of thousands of degrees Celsius) cracks the surrounding gas molecules creating ozone, carbon monoxide, and other compounds. The arc energy slowly destroys the contact metal, causing some material to escape into the air as fine particulate matter. This activity causes the material in the contacts to degrade over time, ultimately resulting in device failure. For example, a properly applied contactor will have a life span of 10,000 to 100,000 operations when run under power; which is significantly less than the mechanical life of the same device which can be in excess of 20 million operations. Most motor control contactors at low voltages (600 volts and less) are air break contactors; air at atmospheric pressure surrounds the contacts and extinguishes the arc when interrupting the circuit. Modern medium-voltage motor controllers use vacuum contactors. High voltage contactors (greater than 1000 volts) may use vacuum or an inert gas around the contacts. High-voltage electric locomotives may be isolated from their overhead supply by roof-mounted circuit breakers actuated by compressed air; the same air supply may be used to "blow out" any arc that forms.

Contactors are rated by designed load current per contact (pole), maximum fault withstand current, duty cycle, voltage, and coil voltage. A general purpose motor control contactor may be suitable for heavy starting duty on large motors; so-called "definite purpose" contactors are carefully adapted to such applications as airconditioning compressor motor starting. North American and European ratings for contactors follow different philosophies, with North American general purpose machine tool contactors generally emphasizing simplicity of application while definite purpose and European rating philosophy emphasizes design for the intended life cycle of the application.

IEC The current rating of the contactor depends on utilization category. For example IEC categories are described as:

AC1 - Non-inductive or slightly inductive loads AC2 - Starting of slip-ring motors AC3 - Starting of squirrel-cage motors and switching off only after the motor is up to speed. (Make Locked Rotor Amps (LRA), Break Full Load Amps (FLA)) AC4 - Starting of squirrel-cage motors with inching and plugging duty. Rapid Start/Stop. (Make and Break LRA) AC11 - Auxiliary (control) circuits

NEMA The contact rating of smaller NEMA contactors or their auxiliaries are defined by NEMA ICS 5: Industrial Control and Systems, Control Circuit and Pilot Devices standard. The nomenclature is a letter followed by a three digit number, the letter designates the current rating of the contacts and the current type (i.e., AC or DC) and the number designates the maximum voltage design values. Some examples are listed below:

A150 A300 A600

Contactor Ratings: MAIN CONTACTS No. of Contacts-3, Nominal Rating: 32A at 415 V, 50 Hz AUXILIARY CONTACTS: No. of Contacts: 2NO + 2NC Rating at 415 V - 6A AC Rating at 415V, 50 Hz

TERMINAL SIZE in sq. mm Lugs upto: 50 sq. mm Wires upto- 2 x 2.5 mm COIL Standard Coil- 110, 230/250, 360 Voltages 42, 400/440 CONSUMPTION During closing 120 V A When closed 20 VA (8.5 W) Other Details: Mechanical life 10 million operations Making capacity at 50 Hz 384 A A at 0.35 PF & 500 V & 400 A at 0.35 PF & 457 V Breaking capacity 320A at 0.35 PF Pick Up time 9-18 secs Drop off time 7-21 m secs Weight unpacked 0.95 kg

L & T make type: Nominal rating at Siemens make type: Nominal rating at 415V, 50Hz 415 V, 50 Hz MM00 10A 0 10A ML0 12A 1 16A ML1 16A 2 32A ML1.5 16A 4 70A ML2 32A 8 170A ML3 40A ML6 110A

ML7 ML10 ML12

125A 200A 300A