Time-delay relays

Some relays are constructed with a kind of "shock absorber" mechanism attached to the armature which prevents immediate, full motion when the coil is either energized or de-energized. This addition gives the relay the property of time-delay actuation. Time-delay relays can be constructed to delay armature motion on coil energization, de-energization, or both.

Time-delay relay contacts must be specified not only as either normally-open or normally-closed, but whether the delay operates in the direction of closing or in the direction of opening. The following is a description of the four basic types of time-delay relay contacts.

First we have the normally-open, timed-closed (NOTC) contact. This type of contact is normally open when the coil is unpowered (de-energized). The contact is closed by the application of power to the relay coil, but only after the coil has been continuously powered for the specified amount of time. In other words, the direction of the contact's motion (either to close or to open) is identical to a regular NO contact, but there is a delay in closing direction. Because the delay occurs in the direction of coil energization, this type of contact is alternatively known as a normally-open, on-delay:

The following is a timing diagram of this relay contact's operation:

Next we have the normally-open, timed-open (NOTO) contact. Like the NOTC contact, this type of contact is normally open when the coil is unpowered (de-energized), and closed by the application of power to the relay coil. However, unlike the NOTC contact, the timing action occurs upon de-energization of the coil rather than upon energization. Because the delay occurs in the direction of coil de-energization, this type of contact is alternatively known as a normally-open, off-delay:

The following is a timing diagram of this relay contact's operation:

Next we have the normally-closed, timed-open (NCTO) contact. This type of contact is normally closed when the coil is unpowered (de-energized). The contact is opened with the application of power to the relay coil, but only after the coil has been continuously powered for the specified amount of time. In other words, the direction of the contact's motion (either to close or to open) is identical to a regular NC contact, but there is a delay in the opening direction. Because the delay occurs in the direction of coil energization, this type of contact is alternatively known as a normally-closed, on-delay:

The following is a timing diagram of this relay contact's operation:

Finally we have the normally-closed, timed-closed (NCTC) contact. Like the NCTO contact, this type of contact is normally closed when the coil is unpowered (de-energized), and opened by the application of power to the relay coil. However, unlike the NCTO contact, the timing action occurs upon de-energization of the coil rather than upon energization. Because the delay occurs in the direction of coil de-energization, this type of contact is alternatively known as a normally-closed, off-delay:

The following is a timing diagram of this relay contact's operation:

Time-delay relays are very important for use in industrial control logic circuits. Some examples of their use include:

The older, mechanical time-delay relays used pneumatic dashpots or fluid-filled piston/cylinder arrangements to provide the "shock absorbing" needed to delay the motion of the armature. Newer designs of time-delay relays use electronic circuits with resistor-capacitor (RC) networks to generate a time delay, then energize a normal (instantaneous) electromechanical relay coil with the electronic circuit's output. The electronic-timer relays are more versatile than the older, mechanical models, and less prone to failure. Many models provide advanced timer features such as "one-shot" (one measured output pulse for every transition of the input from de-energized to energized), "recycle" (repeated on/off output cycles for as long as the input connection is energized) and "watchdog" (changes state if the input signal does not repeatedly cycle on and off).





The "watchdog" timer is especially useful for monitoring of computer systems. If a computer is being used to control a critical process, it is usually recommended to have an automatic alarm to detect computer "lockup" (an abnormal halting of program execution due to any number of causes). An easy way to set up such a monitoring system is to have the computer regularly energize and de-energize the coil of a watchdog timer relay (similar to the output of the "recycle" timer). If the computer execution halts for any reason, the signal it outputs to the watchdog relay coil will stop cycling and freeze in one or the other state. A short time thereafter, the watchdog relay will "time out" and signal a problem.