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Nov 30 2019

Thermal Relay

 The Working Principle and Structure of Thermal Relay

1.1 The Role and Classification of Thermal Relay

In the electric drag control system, when the three-phase AC motor runs under abnormal conditions such as long-term under-load and under-voltage operation, long-term overload operation, and long-term single-phase operation, it will cause the motor winding to overheat and even burn out. In order to give full play to the overload capacity of the motor, to ensure the normal start and operation of the motor, and once the motor is overloaded for a long time, it can automatically cut off the circuit, so that there are electrical appliances that can change the operating time with the degree of overload and that is thermal relay. Obviously, the thermal relay is used for overload protection of the three-phase AC motor in the circuit. It must be pointed out that, due to the thermal inertia of the heating elements in the thermal relay, instantaneous overload protection cannot be done in the circuit, and short circuit protection cannot be done either. Therefore, it is different from overcurrent relays and fuses.

According to the number of phases, there are three types of thermal relays: single-phase, two-phase, and three-phase. Each type has different specifications and model numbers according to the rated current of the heating element. Three-phase thermal relays are often used in three-phase AC motors for overload protection.

Divided by function, there are two types of three-phase thermal relay. One is without phase failure protection and the other one is with phase failure protection.

1.2 Protection Characteristics and Working Principle of Thermal Relay

1) Protection Characteristics of Thermal Relay

Because the contact action time of the thermal relay is related to the overload of the motor being protected, before analyzing the working principle of the thermal relay, the relationship between the motor's overload current and the motor's energizing time must be clarified under the condition that the motor does not exceed the allowable temperature rise. This relationship is called the overload characteristic of the motor.

When an overload current occurs during the motor operation, it will inevitably cause the winding to heat up. According to the thermal equilibrium relationship, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that under the condition of allowable temperature rise, the motor energizing time is inversely proportional to the square of its overload current. According to this conclusion, it can be concluded that the motor's overload characteristics have inverse time characteristics, as shown by curve 1 in figure 1.

 Figure 1. Overload Characteristics of the Motor and Protection Characteristics of the Thermal Relay and Their Coordination

Figure 1. Overload Characteristics of the Motor and Protection Characteristics of the Thermal Relay and Their Coordination

In order to adapt to the overload characteristic of the motor and play the role of overload protection, it is required that the thermal relay should also have the inverse time characteristic as the motor overload characteristic. For this reason, the thermal relay must have a resistance heating element. The thermal effect generated by the overload heating current through the resistance heating element causes the sensing element to act, thereby driving the contact to complete the protection function. The relationship between the overload current passed in the thermal relay and the action time of the thermal relay contact is called the protection characteristic of the thermal relay, as shown by curve 2 in figure 1. Considering the effects of various errors, the overload characteristics of the motor and the protection characteristics of the relay are not a curve, but a belt. Obviously, the larger the error, the wider the belt; the smaller the error, the narrower the belt.

It can be known from the curve 1 in the figure that when the motor is overloaded, it is safe to work below the curve 1. Therefore, the thermal relay's protection characteristics should be close to the motor's overload characteristics. In this way, if an overload occurs, the thermal relay will operate before the motor reaches its allowable overload limit, cutting off the power to the motor to prevent damage.

2) Working Principle of Thermal Relay

The heat-generating heating element in the thermal relay should be connected in series with the motor circuit. In this way, the thermal relay can directly reflect the overload current of the motor. The sensing element of a thermal relay generally uses a bimetal. The so-called bimetallic sheet is to mechanically roll two metal sheets with different linear expansion coefficients into one body. The larger the expansion coefficient is called the active layer, the smaller the expansion coefficient is called the passive layer. The bimetallic sheet undergoes linear expansion when heated. Because the linear expansion coefficients of the two layers of metal are different and the two layers of metal are closely attached together, the bimetallic sheet is bent to the passive layer side, and the mechanical force generated by the bending of the bimetallic piece drives the contact action.

There are four types of bimetal heating methods, namely direct heating, indirect heating, composite heating, and current transformer heating. The direct heating type uses the bimetal as a heating element and allows current to pass through it directly; the heating element of the indirect heating type is made of resistance wire or tape, is wound around the bimetal and is insulated from the bimetal; the composite heating type is between the above two methods; the heating element of the current transformer heating type is not directly connected to the motor circuit, but is connected to the secondary side of the current transformer. This method is mostly used in situations where the motor current is relatively large to reduce the current passes through the heating element.

 Figure 2. Structural Schematic of the Thermal Relay

Figure 2. Structural Schematic of the Thermal Relay

The thermal element 3 is connected in series to the motor stator winding, and the motor winding current is the current flowing through the thermal element. When the motor is running normally, although the heat generated by the thermal element can bend the bimetal 2, it is not enough to make the relay operate; when the motor is overloaded, the heat generated by the thermal element increases, causing the bending displacement of the bimetal to increase. After a certain period of time, the bimetal is bent to push the guide plate 4, and the contacts 9 and 6 are separated by the compensating bimetal 5 and the push rod 14, the contacts 9 and 6 are normally-closed contacts in which the thermal relay is connected to the contactor coil circuit, and the contactor is de-energized after being disconnected. The normally-open contacts of the contactor disconnect the power supply of the motor to protect the motor.

The adjusting knob 11 is an eccentric wheel, which constitutes a lever with the support 12, and 13 is a compression spring. Turning the eccentric wheel and changing its radius can change the contact distance between the compensating bimetal 5 and the guide plate 4, so that the purpose of adjusting the setting action current is achieved. In addition, the position of the normally-open contact 7 is changed by adjusting the reset screw 8 so that the thermal relay can work in two working states: manual reset and automatic reset. When debugging the manual reset, after the fault is excluded, the button 10 must be pressed to restore the movable contact to the contact position of the static contact 6.

3) Thermal Relay with Open Phase Protection

One of the main reasons for a three-phase asynchronous motor to burn out is that a wiring of a three-phase motor is loosened or a phase fuse is blown. If the motor protected by the thermal relay is Y connection method, when one phase power failure occurs in the line, the current of the other two phases will increase a lot. Since the line current is equal to the phase current, the current flowing through the motor windings and the current flowing through the thermal relay are increased by the same proportion, so ordinary two-phase or three-phase thermal relays can protect this. If the motor is △ connection method, the phase current and line current of the motor will not be the same when the phase failure occurs, the current flowing through the motor windings and the current flowing through the thermal relay will increase in different proportions, and the thermal element is connected in series with the power supply line of the motor, and it is set according to the rated current of the motor, that is, the line current, and the setting value is relatively large. When the fault line current reaches the rated current, in the motor winding, the fault current of the phase winding with the larger current will exceed the rated phase current, and there is a danger of overheating and burning. Therefore, the △ connection method must use a thermal relay with phase failure protection.

The thermal relay with phase failure protection is a differential mechanism added to the ordinary thermal relay to compare the three currents. The structural principle of the differential phase-open protection device is shown in figure 3. The guide plate of the thermal relay is changed to a differential mechanism, which is composed of an upper guide plate 1, a lower guide plate 2 and a lever 5. They are connected by a rotating shaft.

Figure 3a shows the positions of the components of the mechanism before power is applied. Figure 3b shows the position during normal energization. At this time, the three-phase bimetals are bent to the left by heating, but the bending deflection is not enough. Therefore, the lower guide plate is moved to the left for a short distance, and the relay does not operate. Figure 3c shows the situation when the three phases are overloaded simultaneously. The three-phase bimetal is bent to the left at the same time, and the lower guide plate 2 is pushed to move to the left. The normally-closed contact is immediately measured by the lever 5. Figure 3d shows the disconnection of phase C. At this time, the phase C bimetal gradually cools down, the end moves to the right and pushes the upper guide plate 1 to the right. While the temperature of the other two-phase bimetals rises, the ends are bent to the left, pushing the lower guide plate 2 to continue to move to the left. Because the upper and lower guide plates move left and right, a differential function occurs, and the normally-closed contacts are opened by the amplification of the lever. Due to the differential function, the thermal relay is accelerated to protect the motor when the phase failure occurs.

 Figure 3. Schematic Diagram of Differential Relay Phase Failure Protection Mechanism of Thermal Relay

Figure 3. Schematic Diagram of Differential Relay Phase Failure Protection Mechanism of Thermal Relay

 

 Selection and Setting Principle of Thermal Relay

The thermal relay is mainly used to protect the motor from overload. In order to ensure that the motor can obtain both necessary and sufficient overload protection, it is necessary to fully understand the performance of the motor, and assign it with a suitable thermal relay to perform the necessary settings. Generally, conditions related to the motor are the working environment, starting current, load nature, working system, allowable overload capacity and so on. In principle, the ampere-second characteristic of the thermal relay should be as close as possible or even overlap the motor's overload characteristic, or under the motor's overload characteristic, and at the same time, the thermal relay should not be affected (not actuated) at the moment when the motor is temporarily overloaded and started.

The correct selection of the thermal relay is closely related to the working system of the motor. When the thermal relay is used to protect the motor for long-term or intermittent long-term operation, it is generally selected according to the rated current of the motor. For example, the setting value of the thermal relay may be equal to 0.95-1.05 times of the rated current of the motor, or the median value of the setting current of the thermal relay is equal to the rated current of the motor, and then adjust.

When the thermal relay is used to protect a motor that is repeatedly operated for a short time, the thermal relay has only a certain range of adaptability. If there are many operations per hour, a thermal relay with a speed saturation current transformer must be selected.

For special working motors with frequent forward and reverse phase on and off, it is not appropriate to use thermal relays as overload protection devices. Instead, use temperature relays or thermistors embedded in the motor windings to protect them.

The specific principles are as follows:

2.1 Type Selection of Thermal Relay

The thermal relay can be divided into two-pole type and three-pole type from the structural type. The three-pole type is divided into phase-open protection and no phase-open protection, which should be selected according to the stator wiring of the protected motor. When the motor stator winding is in delta connection, a three-pole thermal relay with phase failure protection must be used; for a motor using star connection method, a thermal relay without phase failure protection is generally used. Because the general motor does not have a neutral wire when using the star connection method, the two-pole or three-pole type of the thermal relay can be used. However, if the motor is set to use a star connection method with a neutral wire, the thermal relay must use a three-pole type.

In addition, generally a two-phase structure thermal relay should be selected for light-load starting, long-term working motors or intermittent long-term working motors; when the current and voltage balance of the motor is poor, the working environment is poor, or there are fewer people to look after, three-phase thermal relay can be used.

2.2 Selection of Rated Current of Thermal Relay

1) Ensure the normal operation and starting of the motor

In the case of normal starting current and starting time and infrequent starting, it must be ensured that the starting of the motor does not cause the thermal relay to malfunction. When the starting current of the motor is 6 times of the rated current, the starting time does not exceed 6s, and rarely starts continuously, the thermal relay can generally be selected according to the rated current of the motor. (In practice, the rated current of the thermal relay can be slightly larger than the rated current of the motor)

2) Consider the object of protection-the characteristics of the motor

Models, specifications, and characteristics of motors. The insulation materials of motors are classified into A, E, and B grades. Their allowable temperature rises are different, so their ability to withstand overload is also different, which should be paid attention to when selecting a thermal relay. In addition, the open-type motor is easier to dissipate heat, while the closed-type motor is much more difficult to dissipate heat. With a slight overload, its temperature rise may exceed the limit. Although the selection of the thermal relay is based on the rated current of the motor in principle, the rated current of the thermal relay (or thermal element) that it is equipped with should be appropriately small for the motor with poor overload capacity. In this case, the rated current of the thermal relay (or thermal element) can also be taken as 60% -80% of the rated current of the motor.

3) Consider load factors

If the nature of the load is not allowed to stop, even if the overload will shorten the life of the motor, the motor should not be allowed to trip unexpectedly, so as not to suffer a huge loss many times higher than the price of the motor. At this time, the rated current of the relay can be selected to a larger value (of course, the selection of the motor under this working condition generally also has a strong overload capacity). In this case, it is best to use the protective measures of the organic combination of thermal relays and other protective appliances, and only consider tripping when a very dangerous overload occurs.

In short, this is not a dogmatic formula and should be considered comprehensively.

2.3 Selection of Thermal Element Setting Current

According to model number of the thermal relay and the rated current of the thermal element, the adjustment range of the setting current of the thermal element can be found out. Generally, the setting current of the thermal relay is adjusted to the rated current of the motor; for motors with poor overload capacity, the setting value of the thermal element can be adjusted to 0.6-0.8 times of the rated current of the motor; when the motor starts for a long time, drags the impact load or is not allowed to stop, the setting current of the thermal element can be adjusted to 1.1-1.15 times of the rated current of the motor.

2.4 Reliable and Reasonable Protection Characteristics of The Thermal Relay

Specifically, it should have an inverse time characteristic similar to the allowable overload characteristic of the motor, and it should be below the allowable overload characteristic of the motor, and it should have high accuracy to ensure the reliability of the protective action.

2.5 Other Considerations

1) Operating frequency: When the operating frequency of the motor exceeds the operating frequency of the thermal relay, such as the motor's reverse braking, reversible operation, and dense on-off, the thermal relay cannot provide protection. At this time, you can consider using a semiconductor temperature relay for protection.

2) It is not necessary to set overload protection for motors with short working hours and long intervals (such as rocker lifting motors for rocker drilling machines, etc.), and motors that have little possibility of overload despite long-term work(such as exhaust fans, etc.).

3) Thermal relays are generally not suitable for motors with jog, heavy load starting, continuous forward and reverse rotation, and reverse braking.

4) It should have a certain temperature compensation: due to the change in the temperature of the surrounding medium, under the same overload current, the operation of the thermal relay will cause an error. To eliminate this error, temperature compensation measurements should be set up;

5) In general, the principle that the protected motor should not restart automatically even after the thermal relay is automatically reset after the thermal relay protection action, otherwise the thermal relay should be set to the manual reset state. This is to prevent the motor from being repeatedly restarted several times to damage the equipment before the fault is eliminated. For example: Generally, for the control circuit using button control to manually start and stop, the thermal relay can be set to the automatic reset form; for the automatic start circuit using automatic component control, the thermal relay should be set to the manual reset form; Any thermal relay that can be automatically reset should be able to be automatically reset reliably within 5 minutes after operation, while the manual reset one should be reset reliably when the manual reset button is pressed by hand within 2 minutes after the operation. Most products generally have both manual and automatic reset methods, and can be adjusted to any method with screws to meet the needs of different occasions.

6) The operating current value should be adjustable to meet the needs in production and use, and reduce the specification grade, so the thermal relay of a certain specification should be able to be realized by adjusting the cam.

7) Since it takes time for the thermal element to deform due to heat, the thermal relay can only be used as an overload protection for the motor, not as a short circuit protection. Therefore, when using a thermal relay, a fuse should be installed as short circuit protection. For heavy load, frequent-starting large-capacity important motors, overcurrent relays (time-delay action type) can be used for its overload and short circuit protection.

 

Ⅲ Other Matters Needing Attention

3.1 Installation Direction

The installation direction of the thermal relay is easily overlooked. In the thermal relay, there is a current that generates heat through the heating element, which promotes the action of the bimetal. There are three ways of heat transfer: convection, radiation and conduction. Convection is directional, and heat is transferred from the bottom up. During the placement, if the heating element is under the bimetal, the bimetal will heat up quickly and the action time will be short; if the heating element is next to the bimetal, the bimetal will heat slowly and the action time of the thermal relay will be long. When the thermal relay is installed with other electrical appliances, it should be installed below the electrical appliances and away from other electrical appliances by more than 50 mm to avoid the influence of other electrical appliances. The installation direction of the thermal relay should be in accordance with the specifications of the product manual to ensure that the thermal relay's operating performance is consistent during use.

3.2 Selection of Connecting Wires

The connecting wires at the output end should be selected according to the rated current of the thermal relay. Too thick or too thin will also affect the normal operation of the thermal relay. If the connecting wire is too thin, the heat generated by the connecting wire will be transferred to the bimetallic sheet, and the heat-generating component will dissipate less heat along the wire, which shortens the trip time of the thermal relay. On the contrary, if the connecting wire is too thick, this will extend the trip time of the thermal relay. For thermal relays with a rated current of 10 A, the cross-sectional area of the connecting wire at the output end is preferably 2.5 mm2 (single-strand copper-core plastic wire), the one of 20 A is preferably 4 mm2 (single-strand copper-core plastic wire), 16 mm2 is suitable for the one of 60 A(multi-strand copper-core rubber flexible wire), and the one of150 A is preferably 35 mm2 (multi-strand copper-core rubber flexible wire). Because the material and thickness of the wire will affect the heat conduction from the termination of the thermal element to the external heat, if the wire is too thin, the axial thermal conductivity is poor, and the thermal relay may act in advance; if the wire is too thick, the axial heat conduction is fast, and the thermal relay may lag behind. The connecting wire at the output end of the thermal relay is generally a copper core wire. If an aluminum core wire is used, the cross-sectional area of the wire should be increased by 1.8 times, and the end of the wire should be tinned.

Reference table for selection of cross section of connecting wire:

Setting current of thermal relay I / A

Cross-sectional area of connecting wire MM2

0 < IN ≤8

1

  8 < IN ≤12

1. 5

12 < IN ≤20

2. 5

20 < IN ≤25

4

25 < IN ≤32

6

   32 < IN ≤50

10

   50 < IN ≤65

16

   65 < IN ≤85

25

    85 < IN ≤115

35

  115 < IN ≤150

50

  150 < IN ≤160

70

3.3 Use Environment

This mainly refers to the ambient temperature, which has a greater impact on the speed of the thermal relay. The temperature of the medium surrounding the thermal relay should be the same as the temperature of the medium surrounding the motor, otherwise the adjusted fit will be destroyed. For example: when the motor is installed at a environment of high temperature and the thermal relay is installed at a environment of lower temperature, the action of the thermal relay will lag (or the action current is large); otherwise, its action will be advanced (or the action current is small).

For thermal relays without temperature compensation, they should be used at the place where there is little difference in ambient temperature between the thermal relay and the motor. For the thermal relay with temperature compensation, it can be used in the place where the environmental temperature of the thermal relay and the motor is different, but the influence caused by the environmental temperature change should be minimized as much as possible.

The ambient temperature of the thermal relay and the protected motor should be considered. When the ambient temperature of the thermal relay is lower than the ambient temperature of the protected motor by 15℃, a thermal relay with a larger rated current rating should be used; when the ambient temperature of the thermal relay is lower than the ambient temperature of the protected motor by 15℃, a thermal relay with a smaller rated current rating should be used. In addition, the load of the motor and the adjustment range that the thermal relay may require should also be considered.

3.4 Adjustment of Thermal Relay

Before putting into use, the setting current of the thermal relay must be adjusted to ensure that the setting current of the thermal relay matches the rated current of the protected motor. Before the thermal relay is used in the circuit, the specific current of the thermal relay must be adjusted according to the rated current of the motor to meet the the requirements of corresponding occasions.

For example, for a 10kW, 380V motor with a rated current of 19.9A, a XX20-25 thermal relay can be used. The setting current of the thermal element is 17 ~ 21 ~ 25A. First, set it at 21A according to the general situation. If it is found that it often moves in advance and the temperature rise of the motor is not high, you can change the setting current to 25A and continue to observe; if the motor temperature rises at 21A, and the thermal relay lags, you can change the setting current to 17A and observe to get the best fit.

It is used to adjust the rated current when overload protection of the motor is repeatedly operated for a short time. Multiple tests and adjustments in the field can get more reliable protection. The method is: first adjust the rated current of the thermal relay to be slightly smaller than the rated current of the motor. If it is found that it often moves during operation, then gradually increase the rated value of the thermal relay until it meets the operating requirements. There should be motor protection during special operation. Motors with forward, reverse, and frequent on-off operations should not be protected by thermal relays. The ideal method is to protect it with a temperature relay or thermistor embedded in the winding.

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