ABB prepares for future electricity distribution with NeoGear

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Safety, Switchgear, Sustainability, Industry 4.0

ABB Distribution Solutions has redesigned its low-voltage switchgear to launch NeoGear across Europe in 2020, following trials in Switzerland and China.

Digitalization is changing how industries use electricity in their machinery, factories and operations: driving them to extend the lifecycle of their assets; modernize equipment to improve safety and efficiency; and to shift towards more sustainable and responsible business models. 

Reduce downtime

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NeoGear deploys laminated bus plate technology, which until now could only be found in aircraft, automobiles and space stations, redesigning it to make it safer, smarter and more sustainable. 

The bus plate technology, accessed via ABB’s Ability digital platform, replaces traditional horizontal and vertical busbar systems, to help customers meet increasing demands to keep working environments safe and reduce maintenance downtime and costs across the food and beverage sector, among others. 

Alessandro Palin, MD, ABB's Distribution Solutions business line, said switchgears are key to ensuring the safety of the electrified economy, but for more than 30 years the industry has seen little innovation.   

One of the strengths of our portfolio is the ability to innovate and come up with new solutions that improve the level and quality of what we deliver to our customers. Over the past few years things have changed thanks to digital technology which is becoming more and more an important element to what we deliver​,” he said. 

We have moved on from an electro mechanical industry to an industry where our customers still want electro mechanical devices but everything has to be remotely and locally controlled, it must be possible to store information through our global platform (ABB Ability), either in the cloud or on the premises depending on the requirement of the customer​.      

ABB launched in the 70s a product called MNS which represented for many years the standard for low-voltage switchgear. It has been used as a reference for many applications and if we look at the industry standard today a great part of that is based on this solution. It is still a solid, reliable product however our engineers thought there was an opportunity to do something better​. 

It was extremely difficult to improve a switchgear which is still a state-of-the-art product, however, looking to the requirements of our customers we saw an opportunity to improve its safety, energy efficiency and overall sustainability with functionalities which up until now were not available on the market​. 

NeoGear is ABB’s commitment to bring future sustainable alternatives to the market to shape the infrastructure of tomorrow​.” 

Industry 4.0

NeoGear’s digital capabilities include real-time condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, remote assistance, fault and solutions diagnostics and data analytics for Industry 4.0. 

It also includes ABB’s Ability Condition Monitoring for on-site electrical systems, for operational efficiency and flexibility. 

According to Marc Lakner, partner/MD, A.T. Kearney, an expert in the area of Industry 4.0, which works with the World Economic Forum on a topic called the ‘Future of Production’ his company recognises the ‘Factory of the Year’, comparing annually on a European and global basis factories which are showing great performance and the underlying factors of that success. 

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If we look at the topic of Industry 4.0 the question is always what will the future look like. A lot of people ask me for my perspective on the future of production and the Factory of the Future,​” he said. 

We are all standing on the brink of a technological evolution that will change our lives. It will change how we work and interact and the way we change production. The production of the future will be able to produce unconstrained designs meaning products we have never thought of before​. 

It will look differently because it will be flexible, and with Brexit, Trump the global supply chain will break up and look differently.​ 

If we compare this now to the Factory of the Future, all decision making will be done by machine learning algorithms, AI (Artificial Intelligence) activities and will change how we think about factories. They will be better, because they will be more productive, they will be smaller and closer to the customer and will be more flexible​. 

Industry 4.0 is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres of production, disruption is happening right now​.” 

Internet of Things

He said the new wave of technology will be the ‘Fab 5’; IoT (Internet of Things); AI; Human machine interface, advanced robots, and 3D printing.  

ABB NeoGear

  • NeoGear has no exposure to live parts
  • Reduces the physical switchgear footprint by up to 25%
  • Increases cooling efficiency to reduce heat losses by up to 20%
  • Reduces overall operational costs by up to 30%
  • 30 unique parts Vs up to 400 in traditional busbar
  • 8 electrical joints instead of up to 72 joints
  • 92% fewer busbar parts than traditional switchgear
  • 30% reduction in operational costs through predictive maintenance, increasing uptime and performance
  • 90% fewer electrical joints for highest switchgear availability
  • Arc ignition protected zones keep maintenance personnel safe

Marco Tellarini, head, global product group, ABB's Distribution Solutions business, agreed and said ABB sees a rising demand in the market for more innovative switchgear that can help customers navigate increasingly challenging environments and NeoGear will give customers safety, higher efficiency, better functionality, more flexibility, resilience and value. 

He added, NeoGear is revolutionary because it is safer, with a reduction in busbar parts, reduction in heat losses, reduction in footprint, and has more space for electrical parts. 

We are piloting it now in Switzerland with a concrete factory and using it in-house at an ABB switchgear factory in China, inaugurated two years ago, because we want to be an early adopter of the benefits​,” said Tellarini. 

We have had an enthusiastic reaction and we have customers waiting for delivery to install it. I’ve been the head of engineering for 30 years and never saw anything relatively new. Normally in this field the adoption rate is low due to a conservative attitude.​   

NeoGear will be available at the beginning of next year, initial production capacity will start where we will launch into the European market expanding to the Middle East, Asia, and China​. 

Our existing portfolio will remain as it is, which is also dependent on customer demand because some customers are conservative and prefer to wait before adopting new innovation. In 3-5 years we will have a significant transition to adopting the new technology. Some of our customers will be extending the existing switchgear which we will not phase out. Our existing products have a 20-year timeline​.” 

Palin added NeoGear will be manufactured in a factory in the Czech Republic and this will be extended to other factories, depending on the growth of demand. 

As regards our current switchgears, typically these products have a very long lifetime. The old ones will still be manufactured in significant volumes for a number of years and for servicing it depends very much on the change of demand, in this industry some products can be replaced and others have an overlap​,” he said. 

Click here​ to see a live stream of the NeoGear announcement in Paris. 

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