Panel Builder US

January 19, 2021

Selecting a panel meter for a particular application can be a daunting task, given the wide variety of products that are available today. There are many factors to consider when making a decision. Let’s look at a few of the major items.


Panel meters can be categorized by type, size, style or other criteria. One way to begin the selection process is to look at the meter’s function – what measurement is this meter making? Some common functions are ammeter, voltmeter, frequency meter, power meter, energy meter, counter, timer, temperature meter, process meter, and controller.


Panel meters are generally classified as either analog or digital. Does the application need a precise readout (digital meter) or a visible level indication (analog meter)? A hybrid of these is an analog/digital or digital bargraph meter, which provides both in a single instrument.


How much space is available in the panel? Both analog and digital meters come in a wide range of sizes. Analog meters from 1.5″ to 8.75″ are available from multiple manufacturers. Common digital meters vary from 1/32 DIN (24x48mm) to 4.25″ square ANSI. Smaller and larger meters of either type are less common, but still available. Bargraph meters go from 1/16 DIN up to 12″ high.


What meter style will properly indicate the reading and/or match other instruments in the panel? Analog meters come in round, square, rectangular, and edgewise styles. Edgewise models have a straight scale; the rest have a curved scale. Digital meters generally have a square or rectangular front panel, but vary in the number of displays and front panel controls. Bargraph meters have either straight or curved bars, similar to analog meter scales. For higher space utilization, dual or even triple display meters may be used.


What is the preferred display? All analog meters have a pointer driven by a mechanical movement. Some models offer illumination for use in low light conditions. Typical digital displays are either LED (light-emitting diode) or LCD (liquid crystal). The most common LED color is red, but green, amber, or blue may be preferred in some installations. High brightness LEDs may be an option for use in sunlight. LCDs have either dark numbers on a light background or bright numbers on a dark background. Backlighting improves LCD visibility in low light areas. Digit height should be selected for readability at the expected viewing distance. Likewise for the height of scale markings on analog meters. On digital and bargraph meters, the number of digits and decimal position determine the reading resolution. Some digital meters use an alpha-numeric or graphical display to show setup prompts and additional information about the parameter being viewed.


Is the meter input an electrical signal or a sensor? For an electrical signal, select a meter with a matching function and level (e.g. 200V dc). Analog meters have a factory set function and range. The function and range on some digital meters can be changed by the user. For a sensor directly connected to the meter, select a meter compatible with the sensor type (e.g. thermocouple, RTD, strain gauge, RPM sensor). In some applications, a transducer may be used to convert a signal before it is sent to the meter. For these, a digital meter that can be set up to show a scaled or calculated value is desirable, so the readout appears in units of the signal source. Front panel markings on analog and bargraph meters can be customized to show the resulting scaled or calculated value.


Is a power source available in the panel to operate the meter? Most analog meters operate without external power. Digital meters usually require an external power supply, either AC or DC. Often the meter datasheet will list several power supply options to match the meter to the available panel supply voltage. An exception is loop-powered meters, which are powered from the 4-20mA DC input signal. Some AC power meters can also use the input signal to operate the internal circuitry.


Are meter outputs needed? Some applications use a panel meter to control external devices or interface to a SCADA system. Relays, either mechanical or solid-state, are an option on many meters. Care must be taken to match the relay specifications to the load characteristics (form, current rating, voltage rating, isolation, etc.). Note that analog meters with relay outputs are often called Meter Relays.

An analog output (aka analog retransmit) is a DC signal derived from the meter reading. It is typically a 0-1V, 0-10V, ±10V, 0-1mA or 4-20mA process signal used to drive a remote indicator or process controller. The output is usually set to cover the full range of the displayed value, but often can be scaled or modified to follow a narrower span or offset value.


Will the meter interface to a computer or network? Many digital meters include or offer a communication interface for data export and/or meter setup. Typical hardware formats are RS-232, RS-485, USB and Ethernet. Common protocols are ASCII, Modbus RTU and Modbus TCP/IP. Specialized communication standards such as CANbus, Profibus, DeviceNet, and DNP3 are less common. Analog panel meters generally do not offer communication capability.

To select a meter for an application, rank the factors listed above in order of importance and begin to narrow down the available models. The Weschler website has selector tools in various panel meter categories to help do this across multiple brands. Then consider any special requirements such as shock, vibration, water resistance, extreme ambient temperature, sensor excitation, safety certification, etc. When several models meet the technical requirements, price and delivery can be assessed to make the final selection.



Editor's Pick: Featured Product News


Data Centre and Plant Managers working in small and mid-sized businesses often find themselves searching their buildings for unused space to house the company’s IT and other enclosures.

Mailrooms, empty offices, janitors’ closets…all have been repurposed into data closets holding one to a few racks. This approach may be the right choice in terms of square footage needed, but when it comes to proper climate conditions for sensitive IT equipment, it could not be more wrong. At best, these spaces are cooled using only the building’s AC system. At worst? An open window.

A building’s existing air conditioning system (or combined heat and air conditioning system) is designed to create comfortable environments for employees – the reason they are sometimes referred to as “comfort systems.” When IT racks need to be placed somewhere on site, it’s thought that “any old room” will do because AC ductwork usually terminates in these spaces. However, the reality is that even if you were to add ducts to supplement the building’s AC, relying on a system designed for humans is not a good solution for IT equipment.

Server rooms need more targeted cooling to keep the temperature within a specific range and prevent the servers from overheating. According to ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), the appropriate temperature range for server rooms is between 64.4 and 80.6 Fahrenheit. This requires a discrete cooling solution capable of monitoring and managing the temperature of both the equipment and the room. The same cooling system must also be capable of regulating humidity within the precise margins required by sensitive equipment. Finally, building HVAC will not provide sufficient airflow volume for heat removal from installed appliances; the CFM requirements for comfort cooling are significantly lower than airflow required to remove heat from the IT devices.

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binder has recently made key additions to its M16 connector series. They are versions that meet the very high data speeds required by the latest sensor-based automation systems and an ASIG-compliant model used in wireless networks including 5G.

binder has been at the forefront of M16 connector development since the 1970s working to widen the range of applications for these versatile circular connectors. Today’s models can accommodate up to 24 contacts – with or without EMI shielding. With mainly metal housings and a robust screw locking system, M16 connectors provide environmental protection up to IP68.

The combination of a high pin count with the compact size of nominally 18.5mm diameter and 60mm in length means M16 connectors offer an excellent alternative to more expensive connector systems. M16 connectors accommodate cables ranging from 4.0 to 10mm diameter, are rated to 250V and can withstand an impulse voltage up to 1500V, with current handling of up to 7A (at 40ºC).

Suitable for 5G roll out

The latest applications for M16 connectors include the impending roll-out of 5G networks where binder’s ASIG-compliant connectors have been designed to provide high international protection for selected outdoor installations. The AISG (Antenna Interface Standards Group) defines standards for the control and monitoring of antenna line devices in the wireless industry.

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Convergint Technologies recenrlt announced the acquisition of Advantage Medical Inc. (AMI), a leader in the deployment and support of wireless patient security systems in acute care hospitals. The acquisition further strengthens Convergint’s position within the healthcare safety and security market across the United States. 

Advantage Medical Inc. brings Convergint over thirty years of healthcare industry expertise, with a specialization in patient security and Real Time Location Systems (RTLS). AMI’s commitment to delivering innovative healthcare solutions is supported by its comprehensive approach to providing security solutions to mitigate risk and enhance protection in healthcare facilities. The company’s dedication to meeting each customer’s unique need aligns with Convergint’s culture.

“Advantage Medical embodies similar values to Convergint; they embrace a culture-first community centered on colleagues and are committed to being their customers’ best service provider,” said Ken Lochiatto, CEO of Convergint Technologies. “We look forward to joining our teams, learning from one another, and further deepening our expertise to continue to deliver best-in-class safety and security solutions across the healthcare industry.”

“There is an amazing alignment between the organizational cultures of AMI and Convergint Technologies,” said Dan Rea, President & CEO of AMI. “We have both centered our businesses around a similar philosophical approach: the customer comes first, and failure is not an option. AMI is looking forward to the opportunities this new relationship will bring to existing and new customers alike.”

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