Talking back between our readers

When David Loucks of Eaton wrote an article on selective coordination, he didn't have to wait a month for a reaction from Plant Engineering readers. The reaction came the next day, via the Talkback feature at “In his article,” the reader wrote, “Mr. Loucks indicates that even when fault current falls within the instantaneous trip range of two circuit b...


When David Loucks of Eaton wrote an article on selective coordination, he didn't have to wait a month for a reaction from Plant Engineering readers. The reaction came the next day, via the Talkback feature at

“In his article,” the reader wrote, “Mr. Loucks indicates that even when fault current falls within the instantaneous trip range of two circuit breakers exposed to the same magnitude of fault current, the breaker closest to the fault could be the first breaker to open, as the breaker closest to the fault would likely be the smaller (lower amp frame and trip) of the two breakers and would have lower mass to overcome allowing it to start opening first and introducing arc impedance to the faulted circuit, thus reducing the fault current to a level lower than the instantaneous pickup of the upstream (and slower) breaker.

“My first question is once the instantaneous trip has been triggered on any circuit breaker, is this not the point of 'no return,' meaning that the breaker will trip, regardless of what happens to the fault current over time?”

And the reader added this thought: “Relying on the idea of a downstream breaker acting faster than a larger upstream breaker in the instantaneous trip range of both breakers to prevent the upstream breaker from tripping instantaneously sounds like something that would need testing to confirm such operation and not something that can be guaranteed.”

At, Loucks was able to respond with a complete explanation, and a conversation had begun.

“Regarding the instantaneous tripping issue, yes, if in fact both breakers were in the process of opening, then you would have a point of no return; and while the smaller breaker might open first, the upstream breaker would still trip eventually,” wrote Loucks. “But what I was talking about was not the breaker contacts opening, but rather the tripping mechanism within the breaker that tells the breaker when to trip.

“The larger breaker will have a larger, heavier tripping mechanism that must be accelerated with a force and/or distance greater than what would be required on a smaller breaker. When that smaller breaker tripping mechanism operates a few milliseconds before the big one, you add arc impedance to the circuit.

“And I agree about your testing comment. You couldn't guarantee that this would work in all cases. Another interesting reason that could explain why we don't hear about selective coordination issues, at least from properly sized and set breakers, is this %%MDASSML%% the 2005 code mandates selective coordination on emergency systems.”

The Talkback feature at is a great way to contact story authors and editors. It's also a great way to build a network of plant managers. That kind of dialogue is important today as plant managers around the world work to solve common problems on the plant floor.

Top Plant
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Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
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February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
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April 2018
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February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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