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Title:
ELECTRIC SWITCHING DEVICE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2012/104260
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An electric switching device for a low voltage circuit, comprising: - at least an electronic unit (2) adapted to be operatively connected to at least a first communication bus (50, 52) implementing a first communication protocol; - at least a communication module adapted to be operatively connected to said at least first communication bus and to at least a second communication bus (51) implementing a second communication protocol different than said first communication protocol. The communication module is configured to place the first communication bus in communication with the second communication bus, and is moreover configured so as to detect at least a condition of the switching device and making it available externally thereto by means of the first communication bus and/or the second communication bus.

More Like This:
JPH1069844CIRCUIT BREAKER
JPS54132780LOW VOLTAGE BREAKER
Inventors:
RACITI, Luca (Via Monte Menna 1, Bergamo, I-24125, IT)
MANZOLI, Romano (Via Dante, 2/B, Caponago, I-20040, IT)
Application Number:
EP2012/051471
Publication Date:
August 09, 2012
Filing Date:
January 30, 2012
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ABB S.P.A. (Via Vittor Pisani 16, Milano, I-20124, IT)
RACITI, Luca (Via Monte Menna 1, Bergamo, I-24125, IT)
MANZOLI, Romano (Via Dante, 2/B, Caponago, I-20040, IT)
International Classes:
H01H71/46; H01H71/04
Foreign References:
US7479858B12009-01-20
US20050128034A12005-06-16
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DE SANTIS, Giovanni (ABB S.p.A, Via L. Lama 33, Sesto San Giovanni, I-20099, IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

An electrical switching device (1) for a low voltage circuit, comprising:

at least an electronic unit (2) adapted to be operatively connected to at least a first communication bus (50, 52) that implements a first communication protocol; at least a communication module (100) adapted to be operatively connected to said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) and to at least a second communication bus (51) that implements a second communication protocol differing with respect to said first communication protocol, said communication module (100) being configured to place said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) in communication with said at least a second communication bus (51);

characterized in that said communication module (100) is configured in such a manner as to detect at least a condition relative to the switching device (1) and make it accessible externally thereto through said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) and/or said at least a second communication bus (51).

The switching device (1) according to claim 1, characterized in that said communication module (100) comprises at least an auxiliary contact (70, 71) adapted to signal a state of the switching device (1).

The switching device (1) according to claim 1 or 2, characterized in that said communication module (100) is configured to control actuation means (80) adapted to cause opening or closing of said switching device (1), using at least a signal that it receives through said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) and/or through said at least a second communication bus (51).

The switching device (1) according to claim 3, characterized in that said communication module (100) is configured to control said actuation means (80) using the state of said switching device (1) signalled by said at least an auxiliary contact (70, 71).

5. The switching device (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, characterized in that said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) comprises an internal communication bus (50) which is adapted to be operatively connected, directly, to said at least an electronic unit (2).

6. The switching device (1) according to claim 5, characterized in that said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) comprises an external communication bus (52) adapted to be operatively connected to one or more devices (54) external to said switching device (1), said communication module (100) being configured in such a manner as to operatively connect said external communication bus (52) to said electronic unit (2) through said internal communication bus (50).

7. The switching device (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, characterized in that said communication module (100) is configured to place said at least a first communication bus (50, 52), which implements a Fieldbus communication protocol, in communication with said at least a second communication bus (51).

8. The switching device (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, characterized in that said communication module (100) is configured to place said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) in communication with said at least a second communication bus (51), which implements a Modbus communication protocol.

9. The switching device (1) according to one or more of the preceding claims, characterized in that it comprises a containment enclosure (5) in which said communication module (100) is housed.

10. An electrical circuit (500) characterized in that it comprises at least a first switching device (1) according to one or more of claims 1-9.

11. An electrical circuit (500) according to claim 10, characterized in that it comprises a second switching device (1) according to one or more of claims 1-9, wherein said at least an electronic unit (2) of the first switching device (1) and said at least an electronic unit (2) of the second switching device (1) are adapted to communicate with each other through said at least a first communication bus (50, 52) and/or said at least a second communication bus (51).

Description:
"ELECTRIC SWITCHING DEVICE"

The present invention relates to an electric switching device for a low voltage circuit, in particular to a switching device utilizing communication modules with improved characteristics and functionalities.

As is known in the art, electric switching devices installed in low voltage electric circuits (that is to say for applications with nominal voltages up to lOOOVAC / 1500VDC), such as for example circuit breakers, disconnectors, and contactors, indicated as "switching devices", are devices devised to allow the correct operation of specific parts of the electric circuit where they are installed and of the loads operatively connected thereto.

The switching devices comprise one or more poles each having at least a movable contact which can be coupled/decoupled to/from a respective fixed contact. A suitable operating mechanism is adapted to operate on the movable contacts to cause the movement thereof from a coupled position with the respective fixed contacts to a separated position with respect to the fixed contacts, and vice-versa.

In accordance with the position assumed by the movable contacts of the poles and the respective operating mechanism, the switching device may assume a closed state (movable contacts in the coupled position), an open state (movable contacts in the separated position), or a tripped state (operating mechanism tripped but the movable contacts in the coupled position).

In general switching devices comprise at least a protection device, such as for instance an electronic device or protection relay, capable of: detecting (by means of suitable sensors) the operating conditions of the electric circuit where the respective switching device is installed; and in case of faults or overloads, driving the opening of the switching device by acting on the operating mechanism. In addition to the driving and control functions, the protection device is capable of acquiring and making available the information related to the operating conditions of the electric circuit where the switching device is installed.

In known solutions the switching device comprises an internal communication bus which is operatively connected to the protection device so as to make a communication channel available between the electronic protection device and one or more accessory electronic devices.

Among the accessory devices utilized, there are foreseen communication modules capable of placing in communication, that is to say interfacing, the internal bus (and hence the electronic protection device) to a communication bus external to the switching device, even when the communication protocol implemented in the external communication bus is different from the communication protocol implemented in the internal communication bus.

For example, a communication network in an electric circuit may comprise at least a first communication bus, or system bus, and a second communication bus, or panel bus, which are operationally connected to a first communication module and a second communication module of at least a switching device installed in the electric circuit. The first communication module and the second communication module establish the communication interface between the system bus and the panel bus, on one side, and the internal bus of the switching devices in the electric circuit, on the other side.

Although the described solutions may already implement an efficient communication system available to the electronic protection device, there is still room in the prior art for expanding the functionality and versatility of the communication modules employed, so as to further exploit and improve the communication capabilities already available to the electronic protection device.

An objective of the present invention is therefore to provide a switching device with said improvements.

Said objective is fulfilled by an electric switching device for a low voltage circuit, comprising:

at least an electronic unit adapted to be operatively connected to at least a first communication bus that implements a first communication protocol;

at least a communication module adapted to be operatively connected to said at least a first communication bus and to at least a second communication bus that implements a second communication protocol differing with respect to the first communication protocol.

The communication module is configured to place said at least a first communication bus in communication with said at least a second communication bus.

The communication module is configured in such a manner as to detect at least a condition relative to the switching device and make it accessible externally thereto through said at least a first communication bus and/or said at least a second communication bus.

The switching device according to the present invention will be described in the following in relation to one of its embodiments as a circuit breaker; particular reference will be made to a molded case circuit breaker (or MCCB), without however thus limiting the scope of application of the present invention to other types of switching devices, such as disconnectors, contactors, or other types of circuit breaker, such as for instance air circuit breakers or modular circuit breakers.

Characteristics and advantages will become more apparent from the description of preferred but not exclusive embodiments of a switching device according to the present invention and the related communication modules, illustrated for exemplification purposes in the accompanying drawings; where:

figure 1 is a block diagram showing the communication network for a switching device according to the present invention, configured by means of a communication module operatively connected to the protection device of the switching device, and to other devices;

figure 2 is a perspective view of a communication module for a switching device according to the present invention;

- figure 3 is an additional perspective view of the communication module in figure 2, in the phase with cable adapters;

figure 4 shows a communication module during the inserting phase into the respective cavity of a switching device according to the present invention;

figure 5 shows the switching device and the communication device of figure 4, wherein the communication module is inserted in the respective cavity of the switching device; figure 6 shows in phase of assembly: a protection device of a switching device according to the present invention, a communication module, and the electrical connectors that implement the communication buses operatively connected to the communication module; figure 7 is a block diagram showing schematically a part of an electric circuit where a plurality of switching devices is installed according to the present invention.

With reference to the examples shown in the figures, a circuit breaker 1, in particular a molded case circuit breaker 1 for low voltage circuits, comprises an electronic protection device 2, such as for instance an electronic relay 2, of the type known in the art and hence not further described. The protection device 2 is suitable to be operatively connected, directly or indirectly, to at least a first communication bus 50, 52 which implements a first communication protocol.

Said at least first communication bus 50, 51 may also be operatively connected, directly or indirectly, to any other electronic unit of circuit breaker 1, other than protection device 2. For example, the first communication bus 50, 51 may be operatively connected to an electronic actuation unit or an electronic alarm unit, such as for example a unit suitable for controlling the turning on and off of luminous indicators to signal a particular state or condition related to circuit breaker 1 itself, such as the open, closed, or tripped state of circuit breaker 1.

The circuit breaker 1 comprises at least a communication module 100 suitable to be operatively connected to said at least first communication bus 50, 52 and at least a second communication bus 51 which implements a second communication protocol, different than the first communication protocol.

Communication module 100 is configured to place the first communication bus 50, 52 in communication with the second communication bus 51. In this way, the communication module 100 implements a communication "gateway" function between communication buses implementing different communication protocols.

Figure 1 schematically shows, through a schematic block diagram, a preferred architecture of the communication network available to the protection device 2, which is configured by means of the communication module 100. With reference to such communication network, the circuit breaker 1 comprises a communication bus 50 internal the circuit breaker 1 itself (indicated in the following for simplicity as "bus 50"), operatively connected, directly, to the protection device 2, so as to make a preferential communication channel available to the protection device 2 itself. Preferably, the circuit breaker 1 comprises at least an accessory device 3 configured to interact with and/or to extend the functionalities of the protection device 2. The accessory device 3 is operatively connected to the bus 50 so as to communicate with the protection device 2 (see figure 1). Among the accessory devices 3 are available for example: electronic devices suitable for expanding the inputs and outputs of the protection device 2; and/or electronic devices suitable for providing auxiliary interfaces to the protection device 2, such as for instance a display or a LED interface.

Bus 50 is operatively connected to at least a communication module 100 of circuit breaker 1, as shown in figure 1. The communication system of the protection device 2 further comprises at least a first communication bus 51 external to the circuit breaker 1 (shown schematically in figure 1 and indicated in the following for simplicity as "bus 51"), operatively connected to the communication module 100. Bus 51 implements a communication protocol different than the communication protocol of bus 50, and is suitable for making a communication channel available between the protection device 2 and one or more devices 53 outside the circuit breaker 1, which are operatively connected to the bus 51 itself (see figure 1).

The communication module 100 is configured so as to place the bus 50 in communication with the bus 51. In particular, as illustrated in figure 1, the communication module 100 comprises an electronic processing unit 200, preferably a micro-controller 200 (such as for example a micro -controller of the STM32 family manufactured by the STMicroelectronics), suitable for being electrically connected to the bus 50 and the bus 51. The electronic processing unit 200 is suitable for reading and translating the information present on bus 50, so as to make it conforming for transmission by means of bus 51, and vice-versa. In particular, such reading and translation of the information present on bus 50 and bus 51 occurs by means of a first communication driver (associated to the communication protocol utilized on bus 50) and a second communication driver (associated to the communication protocol utilized on bus 51), which are implemented in and utilized by the electronic processing unit 200 itself.

In this way, the protection device 2 is placed in communication to external devices 53 by means of the communication channel comprising bus 50 and bus 51.

According to a preferred embodiment, the communication module 100 is configured so as to place the bus 50, implementing a Fieldbus communication protocol, preferably of the CAN ("controller area network") type, in communication to the bus 51. Alternatively, the communication module 100 may be configured so as to act as a communication gateway for a bus 50, which implements any other communication protocol suitable for making a communication channel available to the protection device 2, such as for instance a communication protocol of the Ethernet type.

Preferably, the communication module 100 is configured so as to place the bus 50 in communication to the bus 51 which implements a Modbus communication protocol; alternatively, the communication module 100 may be configured so as to act as a communication gateway for bus 51 implementing any other type of communication protocol other than that implemented by bus 50, such as for instance the Profibus, Profinet, or Modbus TCP communication protocols.

Preferably, as shown in the example in figure 1, the communication network for the protection device 2 comprises a second communication bus 52 external to the circuit breaker 1 (indicated in the following for simplicity as "bus 52"), operatively connected to the communication module 100. Bus 52 implements the same communication protocol as bus 50 and is suitable for making a communication channel available between the protection device 2 and one or more devices 54 outside the circuit breaker 1, operatively connected to bus 52 itself (see figure 1).

The communication module 100 is configured so as to operatively connect bus 52 to the protection device 2, indirectly, through bus 50. In particular, bus 52 is electrically connected to the electronic processing unit 200, which is suitable for placing in communication each other the bus 52 and the bus 50. In this way, the protection device 2 is connected to external devices 54 by means of the communication channel comprising bus 50 and bus 52.

Among the external devices 53 and 54 that may be operatively connected to bus 51 and bus 52, respectively, can be named for example: electric supervisory and control devices, preferably but not limited to SCADA controllers ("Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition); and/or peripheral electronic devices, such as electronic displays or PLC, as well as combinations thereof.

The communication module 100 acts as a communication gateway between bus 51 and bus 52. Preferably, the communication module 100 comprises electric insulation means 300, or galvanic insulation means 300, placed between bus 51, on one side, and bus 50 (and bus 52, if present), on the other side (see figure 1). Thanks to the insulation means 300 the communication channels are electrically decoupled from one another, so as to guarantee mutual insulation and prevent problems of mutual interference.

In the illustrated examples circuit breaker 1 comprises only one communication module 100 acting as a communication gateway between bus 50 and 52 on one side, and bus 51 on the other side. According to this solution, in order to respond to the communication requirements between circuit breaker 1 and the exterior, the external devices 53 and/or the external devices 54 may comprises one or more interface devices between the bus 51 and/or the bus 52 on one side, and other communication buses implemented with a different communication protocol on the other side. For example, bus 51 with the Modbus communication protocol may be operatively connected through an interface device to a bus with the Modbus TCP communication protocol.

Alternatively, several communication modules 100 may be utilized in the same circuit breaker 1 to respond to the external communication requirements. For example, a first communication module 100 may be used acting as a communication gateway between at least a communication bus 50, 52 of the CAN type and a communication bus 51 of the Modbus type, and a second communication module 100 may be used acting as a communication gateway between a first communication bus 50, 51 and a second Modbus TCP communication bus. Alternatively, according to more complex embodiments, the communication module 100 itself may be configured to act as a communication gateway between at least a first communication bus 50, 51 and several second communication buses employing different communication protocols with each other. For example, a single communication module 100 may act as a communication gateway between at least a first communication bus 50, 51 of the CAN type, and two second communication buses, one of the Modbus type and the other of the Modbus TCP type.

Advantageously, the communication module 100 of the circuit breaker 1 according to the present invention is configured so as to detect at least a condition relative to circuit breaker 1 itself and making it accessible externally thereto by means of bus 50 and/or bus 51 (and/or bus 52, if foreseen).

According to a preferred embodiment, the communication module 100 comprises at least an auxiliary contact 70, 71 integrated internally thereto and suitable to signal a state (open/closed/tripped) of circuit breaker 1. In the examples shown in the figures, the communication module 100 comprises a first auxiliary contact 70 suitable for signaling the open or closed state of circuit breaker 1, and a second auxiliary contact 71 suitable for signaling the tripped state of circuit breaker 1 (see in particular figures 1-2).

In particular, both first auxiliary contact 70 and second auxiliary contact 71 are implemented with a micro-switch (not visible in the figures) and an actuator lever 73 (see figure 3) which actuates the micro-switch upon itself having being actuated, directly or indirectly, by a movable part of circuit breaker 1, wherein the position of such movable part is indicative of the state of circuit breaker 1 itself (see for example lever 91 or cam 92 in figure 5, operatively connected to the operating mechanism 12 of the circuit breaker 1 shown in figure 4).

Alternatively, the communication module 100 may be configured to detect and making available externally thereto a condition related to circuit breaker 1 but different than the state of the circuit breaker 1. For example, the communication module 100 could comprise means suitable for signaling the temperature present inside the circuit breaker 1 during operation, or alternatively means suitable for signaling the loaded condition of the springs in the operating mechanism of the circuit breaker 1 (such as for example springs 11 of the operating mechanism 12 of the circuit breaker 1 in figure 4), or in general other means known in the art for signaling a specific condition related to the circuit breaker 1.

Alternatively, according to more complex embodiments, the communication module 100 itself may be configured to detect and make conditions of different type and related to the circuit breaker 1 available externally. For example, the first auxiliary contact 70, the second auxiliary contact 71 and at least a temperature sensor may be integrated in the same communication module 100.

The state (or condition) of circuit breaker 1 detected by the communication module 100 is made available outside the communication module 100 itself by means of one or more communication buses 50, 51 and 52 (if foreseen). In particular, the state (or condition) of the circuit breaker 1 detected by the communication module 100 is made available outside the circuit breaker 1 itself by means of bus 51 and/or bus 52 (if foreseen, as illustrated in figure 1) and may be made available to the protection device 2 (or, in general to an electronic unit of the circuit breaker 1) by means of bus 50.

Figure 1 shows schematically how the first auxiliary contact 70 and second auxiliary contact 71 are operatively connected to the electronic processing unit 200, in particular to a respective input port of electronic processing unit 200 itself by means of dedicated lines, so as to send it an electric signal indicative of a detected state of the circuit breaker 1. The electronic processing unit 200 is configured to monitor the status of such input ports, so as to detect the presence of the transmitted electrical signal and write the information relative to the presence or lack of such electrical signal in a suitable register, ready to be used on bus 50, 51 and 52 according to the needs of request or transmission of the information related to the state of the circuit breaker 1.

According to a preferred embodiment, the communication module 100 is configured to control the actuator means 80 suitable for causing the opening or closing of the circuit breaker 1, utilizing at least a signal received by means of bus 50 and/or bus 51 and/or bus 52 (if present, as illustrated in figure 1).

The actuator means 80 operatively interact with the movable contacts of the circuit breaker 1 (shown schematically and indicated with numeral reference 90 in figure 1), for example acting on the operating mechanism 12 of the circuit breaker 1 itself. Preferably, the communication module 100 is configured to control a motor actuator (MOE, "Motor Operated Equipment"); alternatively, the communication module 100 may be configured to control other actuator means known in the art, such as for instance a solenoid actuator.

Specific signals and messages with indications about how operating the circuit breaker 1 by means of the actuator 80, for example signals indicative of a closing or opening command of the circuit breaker 1, are sent to respective input ports of the electronic processing unit 200 from bus 50 and/or bus 51 and/or bus 52 (if present, as illustrated in figure 1). The electronic processing unit 200 is configured to detect the presence of such signals, and if requested execute the code contained thereof in order to output a signal suitable for controlling the actuator means 80. Such control signal is made available on a respective output port of the electronic processing unit 200, which is electrically connected to the actuator means 80.

The communication module 100 implements the functionality of opening/closing by remote the circuit breaker 1 through the actuator 80, regardless of the presence of the protection device 2. In fact even if the protection device 2 is disconnected from the respective bus 50, the communication module 100 still implements an independent and functioning interface to control by remote the actuator means 80, for example by means of a supervisory and control system operatively connected to bus 51 and/or bus 52. For this purpose, it needs to be underscored that the power necessary for the communication module 100 is not supplied through the protection module 2; in the example in figure 1, the power is supplied from the outside of the circuit breaker 1 through means 74 operatively connected to the communication module 100.

When the protection device 2 is operatively connected to the respective bus 50, it may also control the intervention of the actuator means 80 through the communication module 100. Advantageously, the communication module 100 is configured to control the actuator means 80 utilizing as useful information also the state of the circuit breaker 1 signaled by the auxiliary contacts 70, 71. In particular, the code executed by the electronic processing unit 200 to output the control signal for the actuator means 80 is configured to also use the information related to the state of circuit breaker 1, which is written inside the respective register in the electronic processing unit 200, so as to ascertain the opportunity to perform the operation commanded by remote through bus 51 and/or bus 52.

According to a preferred embodiment, the circuit breaker 1 comprises a containment enclosure, or structure, inside its own casing, where the communication module 100 is located. The containment structure comprises a cavity 5 defined inside the casing 4 (see figures 4 and 5). In particular, in the illustrated examples such cavity 5 is externally accessible after removing the front part of the casing 4 (that is to say the part from which the actuator lever 6 of circuit breaker 1 leans forward). In the example of figures 4 and 5, the communication module 100 is placed directly inside the respective cavity 5; alternatively according to a solution not illustrated, the containment structure may also comprise an interface module on which the communication module 100 is mounted, which is in turn inserted in a removable way inside the respective cavity 5.

Body 102 of the communication module 100 comprises means of coupling suitable for coupling with the respective containment structure (with the cavity 5 in the illustrated examples), and decoupling means operatively connected to the coupling means so as to decouple the coupling means from the containment structure, upon their actuation. In the examples illustrated in figures 2-6, the coupling means comprise at least a first lever arm 103 hinged on an elastic fulcrum portion 104 protruding from the body 102. The first lever arm 103 comprises a hooking end 111 suitable for coupling with a respective portion 120 of the cavity 5 (see figure 5). The decoupling means comprise a second lever arm 105 operatively connected to first lever arm 103 so as to release the hooking end 111 from the portion 120 of the cavity 5, upon their actuation.

With reference to figure 2, the body 102 of the communication module 100 comprises a first wall 106 and a second wall 107 opposite each other from which the coupling/decoupling means lean forward. A first connection port 108 is defined on the first wall 106 for the connection to the bus 50, and hence to the protection device 2; the first connection port 108 is electrically connected to the electronic processing unit 200 (see figure 1). As illustrated in figure 6, the first connection port 108 is connected to a connection port 502 of the protection device 2 by means of a connector 501 implementing the bus 50 at the physical layer.

Advantageously, the cavity 5 is defined inside the casing 4 of the circuit breaker 1 above the protection device 2 and the respective communication module 100 is inserted inside it so that the first wall 106 faces the protection device 2. In this way, it is convenient to connect the first connection port 108 to the connection port 502 of the protection device 2, by means of the connector 501.

With reference to figure 2, the body 102 of the communication module 100 comprises a third wall 109 cross -connecting the first wall 106 to the second wall 107, on which a second connection port 110 is defined for the connection to both bus 51 and bus 52 (for example figure 4 shows a connector 503 implementing the bus 51 and the bus 52 at the physical layer). The second connection port 110 is electrically connected to the electronic processing unit 200 (see figure 1).

A third connection port 112 is further defined on the third wall 109 for the connection to the actuator means 80; such connection port 112 is electrically connected to the electronic processing unit 200 (see figure 1).

The communication module 100 is inserted inside the respective cavity 5 so that the third wall 109 is directly accessible by removing the front part of the casing 4. In this way, it is particularly convenient to access the second connection port 110 in order to connect connector 503, and the third connection port 112 in order to connect the actuator means 80, such as for example a motor actuator coupled to the front of the casing 4 of the circuit breaker 1.

Preferably, one or more cable adapters 130 are operatively coupled to the body 102 of the communication module 100 to match the respective containment structure defined in circuit breakers 1 of different sizes (for example figure 3 shows a first cable adapter 130 and a second cable adapter 130 to match the body 102 to two circuit breakers 1 of different sizes). Moreover, the cable adapter 130 is suitable for guiding and fixing an electrical connector operatively associated to a respective connection port 108, 110, 112.

The auxiliary contacts 70 and 71 are integrated inside the body 102 of the communication module 100, on the opposite part with respect to the second connection port 110 and the third connection port 112 (see figures 2 and 3). The cavity 5 is configured so as to allow the operative interaction between the auxiliary contacts 70 and 71 and the respective movable parts of circuit breaker 1 (see cam 92 and lever 91 in figure 5).

In general, switching devices are installed inside electric circuits (for example those implemented in electric panels), wherein communication networks are foreseen for exchanging communication between the circuit breakers themselves, and the circuit breakers and other devices, whether internal or external to the electric panel. The present invention therefore relates to an electric circuit (see for example the electric panel 500 illustrated in the schematic diagram in figure 7) comprising at least a first circuit breaker 1 employing at least a communication module 100 operatively connected to said at least a first communication bus 50, 52 and to said at least a second communication bus 51, wherein the first communication bus 50, 52 is operatively connected to at least an electronic unit of the first circuit breaker 1, preferably comprising the protection device 2 of the circuit breaker 1.

The present invention is moreover related to an electric circuit (see electric panel 500 in figure 7) comprising a second circuit breaker 1 employing a communication module 100 operatively connected to said first communication bus 50, 52 and to said at least a second communication bus 51, wherein the first communication bus 50, 52 is operatively connected to at least an electronic unit of the second circuit breaker 1, preferably comprising the protection device 2 of the circuit breaker 1.

The electronic unit of the first circuit breaker 1 and the electronic unit of the second circuit breaker operatively connected to said at least a first communication bus 50, 52 are suitable for communicating with each other by means of first communication bus 50, 52 and/or second communication bus 51.

In the schematic diagram of the electric panel 500 in figure 7, the protection device 2 of the first circuit breaker 1 and the protection device 2 of the second circuit breaker 1 are operatively connected to the bus 50 inside the first circuit breaker 1 and the second circuit breaker 1, respectively, and are suitable for communicating with each other by means of the communication channel made available by buses 50 and bus 51, and by the communication channel made available by buses 50 and bus 52.

The electric panel 500 hence comprises a communication network realized by buses 50 inside the circuit breakers 1 in the electric panel 500 (operatively connected to the protection devices 2 of the circuit breakers 1 and/or to other electronic units of the circuit breakers 1 themselves), and by bus 51 and bus 52, outside the circuit breakers 1 themselves.

At least an external device 53 and/or at least an external device 54 may be operatively connected to bus 51 and/or bus 52, respectively. For example, a SCADA system, whether inside or outside the electric panel 500, or alternatively a user interface for the electric panel 500, such as for example an electronic display mounted on the door of the electric panel, may be operatively connected to bus 51 and/or bus 52.

The switching device in the present invention completely fulfills the required functions, providing a series of advantages with respect to the prior art.

The communication module 100 is provided with additional functionalities with respect to the functionality of communication gateway already present in the communication modules known in the art, so as to better exploit the potential of the communication resources made available by buses 50 and 51, and by bus 52, if foreseen.

The presence of bus 52 permits increasing the communication potential by making a communication channel available externally to the circuit breaker 1, in addition to the communication channel already made available by bus 51. It is moreover necessary to underscore that bus 52 does not require the communication module 100 to act as a communication gateway, as opposed to bus 51, since it implements the same communication protocol as bus 50. In this way the communication possibilities implemented by the communication module 100 towards the outside of the circuit breaker 1 are overall improved. The communication module 100 is operatively connected to respective buses 50, 51 (and 52), so as to implement, with a single device, the two following functions which were previously implemented by the communication modules in the prior art:

- remotely reading the measurements and settings of the protection module 2;

remotely programming the protection module 2;

and implementing the additional functionality of detecting at least a condition relative to circuit breaker 1 and making it available externally thereto.

According to a preferred embodiment described and illustrated in the figures, the communication module 100 is configured to detect and make the information relative to the condition of the circuit breaker 1 available externally. In this way, such communication module 100 implements the additional functionality to enable the reading by remote of the detected condition of the circuit breaker 1. The reading/programming operations for the protection module 2 and/or reading the condition of the circuit breaker are carried out, for example, by means of supervisory and control devices or by means of suitable user interfaces, such as electronic displays, operatively connected to bus 51 and/or bus 52.

Moreover, the detected condition of the circuit breaker 1 may advantageously be made available to the protection device 2 by means of bus 50, as useful information in the performance of its control functions and/or analysis.

Advantageously, the communication module 100 according to the present invention may be configured to implement additional functions in addition to detecting and making information relative to circuit breaker 1 available externally. For example, the communication module 100 may be configured, as previously described, to control the actuator means 80 by utilizing at least a signal received by means of bus 50 and/or bus 51 and/or bus 52 (see figure 1).

With reference to the electric panel 500 where a plurality of circuit breakers 1 is installed, a single communication module 100 permits to simultaneously interface the respective circuit breaker 1, and in particular its protection module 2, to two buses present on the communication network of electric panel 500, such as for example the bus 51 and the bus 52 described above.

In this way, a communication network can be easily configured in the electric panel 500, by means of a few communication modules 100, wherein such communication network is a highly flexible communication network with the capability to exchange:

data relative to various protection devices 2;

control signals for the actuator means 80 of the circuit breakers 1 ;

- data relative to the circuit breakers 1, detected by the communication modules 100 themselves.

The solutions described here may be embodied with various modifications and variants, all of which are within the scope of the present invention. For example, the communication module 100 illustrated in the figures may be configured to detect only the closed/open state of the circuit breaker 1 by means of a single auxiliary contact, without comprising an additional auxiliary contact to detect the tripped/not-tripped state of the circuit breaker 1.

Furthermore, the structure of the communication module 100 illustrated in figures 2-5 could be different; for example with an arrangement and configuration of the connection ports different than that described and illustrated. In particular, instead of a single connection port 110 for buses 51 and 52, a connection port for bus 51 and a separate port for bus 52 may be provided.

Even though in the examples illustrated in figures 4 and 5 the communication module 100 is placed in the cavity 5 inside the casing 4 of the circuit breaker 1, the communication module 100 could be placed outside the casing 4; for example it could be operatively coupled to the external surface of the casing 4 itself. Further, the position of the cavity 5 could be different than in the illustration.

Finally, the type of communication implemented by buses 50, 51, 52 within the scope of the previously described foreseen applications, as well as the means utilized for implementing said buses 50, 51, 52 at the physical layer could vary according to the requirements and the state of the art.