Curcuit Breaker Abstract


Curcuit Breaker Abstract Essay, Research Paper


A circuit breaker was examined to determine how it works.

Basically, it is designed to disconnect the current if the current passing

through the breaker is higher than the allowable current. Its main parts

consist of a switch, connecting pads, and the disconnect device. Since

the breaker consists of many individual parts, the only improvement found

was to combine some of the parts into a single part.


Our group dissected a thirty-amp household Circuit-breaker. Its purpose is

to protect electrical appliances from being damaged though excessive

currents. A circuit breaker limits the amount of current that may safely

enter a household electrical system via a predetermined amperage rating.

It is placed in series between your house and the provided electricity.

Any current in excess of the rated current amount will trip the circuit

breaker in to a non-conducting or open path condition. The closed path is

maintained until either magnetism or thermal expansion causes the circuit

to trip.

Device Description

The circuit breaker has several features that are worth noting in the

design discussion. First is its ability to detect various types of loading

situations. The breaker can not only open a circuit in response to a

current spike, but can also react to a sustained moderate current draw,

just above its rated current. The circuit breaker also has an easily

resetable 3-position switch, and various internal safety features such as

spark arrestors and cavity vents.

Operation of the circuit breaker is simple, but utilizes complex

mechanisms. Essentially there are to main internal mechanisms; the trigger

and the switch. The trigger is the device that senses the abnormal current

load. A sharp spike in current will cause a magnetic field to form in the

trigger, releasing the switch. A slightly elevated, but more constant

current draw through the breaker will cause the bi-metal composition of

the trigger mechanism to deflect in an arc like manner, which is also

capable of releasing the switch. This reaction may take a longer amount of

time to open the circuit, but is designed to provide the user with a short

time of extended current draw through the circuit before the breaker


The switch, which is activated internally by the trigger or externally

by the user, simply opens or closes a set of contacts which complete the

circuit. The switch can be set to open or closed from the outside of the

breaker’s case, but can only be set to the “tripped” position internally,

as a results of the trigger mechanism. Once the breaker has been tripped

internally, it must be reset externally by switching it off, and then back


The features enable the breaker to do several jobs at once, eliminating

the need for multiple elements in the circuit. For example, it provides

the user with an easily assessable on/off switch, fault protection against

current spike, and fault protection against heavy current draw. The design

of the trigger mechanism allows one internal part to the job of two, as

does the switch, which by design can be shut off either internally or


Some problems that come to light with these features include a limited

service life and expensive manufacturing. Limited service life is a

function of build quality. Many internal parts move without precise

surface preparation or lubrication, indicating that repetitive motion

could wear out the assemblies. Several internal springs may also wear out

over time. And, because there are may small parts that fit integrally with

each other, manufacturing costs may be inflated.


It has been discussed that the circuit breaker has many good design

points, such as double fault protection, a manually switchable mode, and

built in safety features to prevent spark ignition and meltdown. And it

seems that there aren’t many undesirable features of the unit, possibly

with the exception of cost. Because of the complexity of the inner

workings, manufacturability is more difficult, thus raising costs.

A small inspection was done to determine if any parts could be eliminated

or combined to reduce the build cost, but no immediate solutions were

identified. It appears that all attempts to improve or simplify the device

have been implemented and maximized, leaving the only avenue for

complexity reduction to be a change in application for the part.


A common household thirty amp circuit breaker was dissected in lab this

week. It consisted of hard plastic, moving metal parts, and two springs

(Figure 1). The circuit is placed in series between an electrical power

source such as Georgia Power and the fuse box or beginning of a home’s

electrical system. The circuit breaker operates via two mechanisms. The

circuit is tripped or opened when either a high peak current exceeds the

rated value of the circuit as when under constant thermal expansion the

circuit experiences small spikes in the current that exceeds the amperage

rating. The mechanism for tripping the circuit during a high peak value

is magnetism. A metal sleeve when subjected to high peak voltages acts

much as a solenoid, which magnetically attracts the triggering device

allowing the tension in the spring to disconnect the contact, points and

hence open the circuit. Similarly for the tripping mechanism under

constant thermal expansion the expansion of the top of the bimetallic

strip causes the trigger to be pulled down which has the same effect. The

circuit breaker’s best point is that the device is effective and compact.

On the other had it is not 100% effective and must also be manually reset

which can be problematic if it is dark and no lights are available with

which to see the fuse box. Another bad point is that the circuit breaker

has many moving parts, which complicates construction. Simpler or fewer

parts might drive cost down and make manufacturing more efficient.

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