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Miniature Circuit Breakers (MCB)

A circuit breaker is an automatically operated electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit. Its basic function is to detect a fault condition and interrupt current flow. Unlike a fuse, which operates once and then must be replaced, a circuit breaker can be reset (either manually or automatically) to resume normal operation.

MCBs or Miniature Circuit Breakers are electromechanical devices which protect an electrical circuit from an overcurrent. The overcurrent, in an electrical circuit, may result from short circuit, overload or faulty design. An MCB is a better alternative to a Fuse since it does not require replacement once an overload is detected. Unlike fuse, an MCB can be easily reset and thus offers improved operational safety and greater convenience without incurring large operating cost.

 Operation

The principal of operation is simple. An MCB functions by interrupting the continuity of electrical flow through the circuit once a fault is detected. In simple terms MCB is a switch which automatically turns off when the current flowing through it passes the maximum allowable limit. Generally MCB are designed to protect against over current and over temperature faults (over heating).

 There are two contacts one is fixed and the other moveable. When the current exceeds the predefined limit a solenoid forces the moveable contact to open (i.e., disconnect from the fixed contact) and the MCB turns off thereby stopping the current to flow in the circuit. In order to restart the flow of current the MCB is manually turned on. This mechanism is used to protect from the faults arising due to over current or over load.
To protect against fault arising due to over heating or increase in temperature a bi-metallic strip is used. MCBs are generally designed to trip within 2.5 millisecond when an over current fault arises. In case of temperature rise or over heating it may take 2 seconds to 2 minutes for the MCB to trip.

A number of leading companies provide different types of miniature circuit breakers depending on the usage, breaking capacity and cost of the device. These include the Tripper and Azora series of MCBs from L&T, MCBs from Siemens, Acti 9(Merlin Gerin) and Neo Break from Schneider. The other leading brands in MCBs are Hager, ABB and Havells.

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