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Contactors are a special type of relays used for switching an electrical circuit on or off in applications with high current carrying capacity. By reducing and controlling electric arcs caused by heavy motor currents, they help you protect workers and equipment in a wide variety of industrial applications.

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Provide safety of workers and machines

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Contactors can be field mounted easily and are compact in size. They generally feature multiple contacts, which are in most cases normally open and providing operating power to the load when the contactor coil is energized. These devices help you handle high currents and powers in your applications. You can use them for controlling electric motors.

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Check contactor components

There are three components of the contactor that are crucial:

Coil or Electromagnet is the most crucial component. It provides the driving force that is required to close the contacts. It is protected by an enclosure together with the contacts.

Contacts do the current carrying task of the contactor. There are different types of contacts in a contactor namely, contact springs, auxiliary contacts, and power contacts. Each type has an individual role to play.

Enclosure provides insulation and protection from personnel touching the coil and contacts. The protective enclosure is made from different materials, e.g., polycarbonate, polyester, Nylon 6, Bakelite, thermosetting plastics, and others. The open-frame contactor usually features an additional enclosure, which protects the device from bad weather, hazards of explosion, dust, and oil.

Electrical cabinet and Benedict contactor

Choose the appropriate contactor

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Various types of contactors exist, each featuring its own set of characteristics, capabilities, and applications. They can break current over a wide range of currents (from a few amperes up to over 5000 A) and voltages (from 24 V DC to thousands of volts). These electrical devices also come in varying sizes, from hand-held dimensions to a meter size.

Two main types of contactors are:

Manual Controller with double break contacts that can open the circuit in two places at the same time. Thus, even in smaller space, it allows you to work with more current. As the switch or button is attached to the controller physically, the power circuit is engaged once the controller is activated by an operator.

Magnetic Contactor that does not require human intervention. It operates electromechanically and remotely. Thus, it eliminates the risks for operating personnel. This contactor only requires a small amount of control current to open or close the circuit. This is the most common type of contactor used in industrial control applications.

Prolong a Contact Life of contactors

The life expectancy of a contactor or its “contact life” presents one of the biggest user’s concerns. With the contactor’s contacts being frequently opened and closed, its life decreases. An electric arc created by opening and closing generates heat and damages the surface of contacts. It also causes pitting and burn marks, which eventually blacken the contacts. When the contacts get worn out and corroded to a large extent, you must replace them.

The faster the contact closes, the quicker the arc extinguishes. This helps to increase the contact life of the contactor. Thus, the latest contactor versions are designed in such a way that the contacts close very quickly and energetically. In doing so, they slam against each other and produce a bouncing action as they rebound. This “contact bounce phenomenon” creates a secondary arc.

The quick closure of the contacts and the reduction of the contact bounce both help reduce contactor wear and secondary arcing.

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Use contactors in various applications

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Lighting Control

You can use contactors to provide central control of large lighting installations, such as an office building or retail building. To reduce power consumption in the contactor coils, latching contactors are used, which have two operating coils. One coil, momentarily energized, closes the power circuit contacts, which are then mechanically held closed. The second coil opens the contacts.

Electric Motor Starter

You can use contactors primarily as a control element to provide power to your electric motors. Special protective contactors also provide power-cut-off, under-voltage, and overload protection.

You can benefit from them in a wide range of industries: Oil & Gas, Food & Beverage, Machine tools, Automotive, Packaging and much more.

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