Nowadays we use more commonly miniature circuit breaker or MCB in low voltage electrical network instead of fuse. The MCB has some advantages compared to fuse.
It automatically switches off the electrical circuit during abnormal condition of the network means in over load condition as well as faulty condition. The fuse does not sense but miniature circuit breaker does it in more reliable way. MCB is much more sensitive to over current than fuse.
Another advantage is, as the switch operating knob comes at its off position during tripping, the faulty zone of the electrical circuit can easily be identified. But in case of fuse, fuse wire should be checked by opening fuse grip or cutout from fuse base, for confirming the blow of fuse wire.
Quick restoration of supply can not be possible in case of fuse as because fuses have to be rewirable or replaced for restoring the supply. But in the case of MCB, quick restoration is possible by just switching on operation.
Handling MCB is more electrically safe than fuse.
Because of to many advantages of MCB over fuse units, in modern low voltage electrical network, miniature circuit breaker is mostly used instead of backdated fuse unit.
Only one disadvantage of MCB over fuse is that this system is more costlier than fuse unit system.
There are two arrangement of operation of miniature circuit breaker. One due to thermal effect of over current and other due to electromagnetic effect of over current. The thermal operation of miniature circuit breaker is achieved with a bimetallic strip whenever continuous over current flows through MCB, the bimetallic strip is heated and deflects by bending. This deflection of bimetallic strip releases mechanical latch. As this mechanical latch is attached with operating mechanism, it causes to open the miniature circuit breaker contacts.
But during short circuit condition, sudden rising of current, causes electromechanical displacement of plunger associated with tripping coil or solenoid of MCB. The plunger strikes the trip lever causing immediate release of latch mechanism consequently open the circuit breaker contacts. This was a simple explanation of miniature circuit breaker working principle.
Miniature Circuit Breaker Construction
Miniature circuit breaker construction is very simple, robust and maintenance free. Generally a MCB is not repaired or maintained, it just replaced by new one when required. A miniature circuit breaker has normally three main constructional parts. These are:
Frame of Miniature Circuit Breaker
The frame of miniature circuit breaker is a molded case. This is a rigid, strong, insulated housing in which the other components are mounted.
Operating Mechanism of Miniature Circuit Breaker
The operating mechanism of miniature circuit breaker provides the means of manual opening and closing operation of miniature circuit breaker. It has three-positions “ON,” “OFF,” and “TRIPPED”. The external switching latch can be in the “TRIPPED” position, if the MCB is tripped due to over-current. When manually switch off the MCB, the switching latch will be in “OFF” position. In close condition of MCB, the switch is positioned at “ON”. By observing the positions of the switching latch one can determine the condition of MCB whether it is closed, tripped or manually switched off.
Trip Unit of Miniature Circuit Breaker
The trip unit is the main part, responsible for proper working of miniature circuit breaker. Two main types of trip mechanism are provided in MCB. A bimetal provides protection against over load current and an electromagnet provides protection against short-circuit current.
Operation of Miniature Circuit Breaker
There are three mechanisms provided in a single miniature circuit breaker to make it switched off. If we carefully observe the picture beside, we will find there are mainly one bi – metallic strip, one trip coil and one hand operated on-off lever. Electric current carrying path of a miniature circuit breaker shown in the picture is like follows. First left hand side power terminal – then bimetallic strip – then current coil or trip coil – then moving contact – then fixed contact and – lastly right had side power terminal. All are arranged in series.
If circuit is overloaded for long time, the bi – metallic strip becomes over heated and deformed. This deformation of bi metallic strip causes, displacement of latch point. The moving contact of the MCB is so arranged by means of spring pressure, with this latch point, that a little displacement of latch causes, release of spring and makes the moving contact to move for opening the MCB. The current coil or trip coil is placed such a manner, that during short circuit fault the mmf of that coil causes its plunger to hit the same latch point and make the latch to be displaced. Hence the MCB will open in same manner. Again when operating lever of the miniature circuit breaker is operated by hand, that means when we make the MCB at off position manually, the same latch point is displaced as a result moving contact separated from fixed contact in same manner. So, whatever may be the operating mechanism, that means, may be due to deformation of bi – metallic strip, due to increased mmf of trip coil or may due to manual operation, actually the same latch point is displaced and same deformed spring is released, which ultimately responsible for movement of the moving contact. When the the moving contact separated from fixed contact, there may be a high chance of arc. This arc then goes up through the arc runner and enters into arc splitters and is finally quenched. When we switch on an MCB, we actually reset the displaced operating latch to its previous on position and make the MCB ready for another switch off or trip operation.