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Direct current for an efficient factory of tomorrow

Knowledge about DC and suitable cables

It has become clear that the power supply to industrial factory floors will increasingly be established via direct current in the future. By deviating from the previous AC supply, a higher energy efficiency and many other advantages can be achieved in an increasing number of applications that already internally rely on DC intermediate circuits. Companies can thereby also reduce their CO2 emissions.

What benefits and opportunities does a DC supply system offer?

In the following text, you will find an overview of the objectives of factories supplied with direct current. Cables and wires are essential components when planning the construction of such infrastructure. We can, of course, supply you with our range of DC cables for the low-voltage range, which is perfectly tailored to industrial requirements.

Whitepaper "Cable cross-section calculation for direct current"

Our DC experts have created an advisor that can assist you in calculating and selecting the cross-section for cables in AC and DC systems. Ask yourself:

  • Which formulas can be used to calculate the conductor current for a DC grid?
  • How do you determine the required conductor cross-section?
  • How do you take the expected cable length into account in your calculations?

Quench your thirst for knowledge by downloading our detailed whitepaper.

Download the free LAPP whitepaper

LAPP is a founding member of the ODCA

LAPP has been actively involved in research projects on the topic of direct current in industry for years and joined the newly formed ODCA (Open Direct Current Alliance) in 2022 as a founding member. ODCA is considered a successor project to DC-INDUSTRIE2. The focus is now on the benefits of supplying industrial energy grids with direct current and the necessary international standardisation of existing concepts. Direct current is a promising lever to support a successful energy transition and thus an important contribution to climate and resource protection.

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Industrial DC power supply for production plants - with the world's first DC cable portfolio from LAPP
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White paper

Calculation and selection of the cross-section for cables in AC and DC systems
Download the free LAPP whitepaper

White paper

Comparison of copper cross section and transmission losses for cables in AC and DC systems
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Objectives of an industrial supply network with direct current

Implementing the energy transition and reducing CO2 emissions

The idea of converting industrial production plants to direct current is no fluke, but rather the result of successfully implemented DC projects, such as DC-INDUSTRIE and DC-INDUSTRIE2, in which industry and research are working on implementing the energy transition in industrial production. The concept of sustainability plays an important role here. This is because electric motors and drives are by far the biggest reasons for energy consumption in industrial production. If their energy requirements could be reduced or their efficiency increased, this would have a direct impact on a company's CO2 emissions.

Greater flexibility and supply stability through the integration of renewable energies

However, DC grids are also promising because, compared to AC grids, they offer greater flexibility while providing greater stability. When renewable energies are integrated, highly automated and digitally networked production environments in particular benefit from a decentralised and autonomous power supply and the accompanying, permanently stable plant availability.

Large-scale involvement of the industry speeds up standardisation for DC systems. Through close collaboration between users, planners, manufacturers, suppliers, research institutes, standardisation organisations and associations, the hope is to accelerate the transition of the industrial power supply.

When and for whom is direct current an option?

In essence, anyone constructing a new plant today should explore the topic of power supply through direct current.

Which production plants are suitable for a DC system?

  • Plants with high power requirements, e.g. arc or welding applications
  • Factories that generate electricity on site using renewable energy
  • Plants that precisely control, position, accelerate and brake devices and machines using a variety of servo drives
  • Plants with robotics applications in which dynamic movements are performed
  • Large office buildings

Whether it's plant and mechanical engineering, data centres, logistics or renewable energies – DC grids are making their way into many industries. We will provide you with information about the benefits of supplying plants with direct current.

Let's dive into the transformation process together!

Alternating current and direct current – simply explained

The abbreviations AC/DC denote more than just an Australian rock band. In electrical engineering, these abbreviations have always stood for the two types of current: alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC).

What are alternating current and alternating voltage?

Most classic machines or household appliances operate using alternating current. An alternating current is a current that constantly changes its direction of flow.

An alternating voltage is generated in large power station generators (e.g. in water, coal or nuclear power stations). This is an electrical, sinusoidal voltage with periodically changing polarity. If consumers (in the grid) are connected, a sinusoidal current flows.

In addition to systems with a single-phase alternating voltage, there are also three-phase current systems. Instead of just one, there are three current-carrying conductors with 120° phase-shifted alternating voltages to be able to supply electricity to large machines and devices that require more power.

What are direct current and direct voltage?

Computers, mobile phones and even LEDs work with direct current. A direct current is a current that does not change its direction of flow.

A direct current is only generated when a direct voltage is present. This is an electrical voltage which always has the same polarity.

5 solid reasons to use direct current in your factory floor

Switching industrial production plants from alternating current to direct current offers several advantages:

Direct current supply: what savings can you expect?

A DC supply promises not only many benefits, but also various cost savings, which can allow the installation expenses to amortise in good time.

Energy savings through

  • Integration of storage systems
  • Integration of renewable energies
  • Use of all recuperation energy
  • Fewer transmission losses

Resource savings through

  • Cables with smaller cross-sections and fewer cores (low copper requirement)
  • Fewer converters, smaller converters (means more space)

Protection against plant downtimes caused by external grid fluctuations

  • Costly downtimes in the production process and high repair costs are avoided.

What is the difference between DC and AC cables?

At LAPP, we are the global market leader in the field of cable and connection technology and are well versed in the properties of cables for the low-voltage range. Our explanation provides you with a brief overview of the key differences between AC and DC cables:

Differences in design

5-core cables are required for power transmission with alternating voltage (three-phase current system); in the case of direct voltage, 1 or 2 fewer conductors are required. A DC cable consists of a DC+ and DC- core and, in the simplest case, a neutral conductor.

Differences in colour coding

The conductors of a cable specially designed for direct current are colour-coded differently from alternating current cables. According to DIN EN 60445, the outer conductors must be identified in red and white, while for AC cables these outer conductors are coded in grey, brown and black.

Material use

Due to a lower number of conductors and smaller conductor cross-sections, less copper is usually required for DC cables than for AC cables. Attention must be paid to high-quality core insulation for the intact DC voltage supply in line with the relevant circumstances. However, there are no additional specifications in this regard compared to use with alternating voltage.

Choice of conductor cross-section

By choosing the correct conductor cross-section, cables are dimensioned to the required current rating. With the associated protective elements, the connected devices are protected against overload and short circuits. In many cases, the same process as for AC cables can be used to determine the required cross-section. Determine the conductor current, take the installation type and cable length into account, and check whether the cable material used is suitable for its temperature resistance.

Cables and wires from LAPP for a full-fledged DC grid

At LAPP, we have been researching the long-term stability of insulation materials for cables and the insulation strength of core insulation for decades. We are now also a pioneer in the development of low-voltage cables for industrial and other DC applications.

Fig.: Example depiction of a factory floor with a direct current supply

We understand your challenges and have a high-quality, state-of-the-art portfolio geared towards direct current with the essential components for a DC grid.

You can find further valuable information about the individual products in our online shop.