Friday, November 13, 2015

Tracking Your Data In All Your Unusual Places

A very interesting article done on
Sluice gate on a ranch canalLet’s be honest: I say “level measurement,” you think “fluid in a tank.” It’s ok; most people do. And if we’re really honest with each other, you can admit that you probably were thinking about an industrial tank, related to factory production of some kind. And again, it’s ok. But there’s so much more to level measurement!
One of fastest growing industries for level measurement is agriculture. No, really! Farmers and ranchers have just as much to gain from automated resource management as plant production managers. Let’s look at just a few of the ways agricultural businesses are benefiting from incorporating level measurement into their operations.


Whether you are irrigating thousands of acres of crops or keeping large herds of livestock well-watered, you need to know how much water is available and how much is being applied or consumed. In the American Midwest and Southwest, this isn’t optional, or even just preferable; the wide-spread, multi-year drought means that every drop of water is precious. Survival of crops, livestock, and ultimately the farm or ranch depends on accurate measuring of wells, stream flows, and reservoir levels.
All of which means the “old eyeball test” doesn’t cut it any more. Yes, there are some farmers and ranchers who have amazing intuition about the natural resources available to them, but even they recognize the need for reliable, accurate, automatic measurements. Using satellite, point-to-point radio, or even cellular communications to link sensors and actuators across vast areas can create a network that allows centralized control of those resources.
An active sensor network reduces maintenance time, as it helps pinpoint problem areas. A breached pipe shows up as a low pressure and low to no flow; a blocked or dammed waterway will build pressure upstream of the blockage. These examples are simple, and intuitive, but trying to locate either of these problems on a large-scale agricultural operation without help from sensors is neither.


Liquid additives are commonplace throughout contemporary agriculture. Farmers use fertilizers, pesticides, and/or herbicides to protect and promote the growth of their crops. Ranchers use similar liquid-feed additives to keep their herds healthy. But how much inventory should be kept on hand? How fast is it used? How long does it take for a supplier to make a delivery after an order? Liquid level measurement to the rescue again!
For the farm or ranch owner, liquid level measurement enables instantaneous inventory appraisal. With multi-site integration and data logging, prior use can be used to precisely account for future needs across an entire enterprise. For a distributor, that forecasting knowledge can be turned into automated, scheduled deliveries. And simplified distributor-customer relationships save everyone time and money.


Liquids aren’t the only substances being measured on farms and ranches. Plenty of solids need to be accounted for as well. Granted, a level sensor might not be the best way to monitor the number of hay bales in a storage building, but a radar level sensor will handle all of the dusty feed and grain silos that need to be monitored.
Wondering what kind of sensors might be right for your agricultural applications? Our level and pressure transducers are manufactured to handle the rough and tumble of farm life. Give our Level Measurement Experts a call today, and we’ll help you find best sensor for your needs, even if it isn’t one of ours.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Enclosure Venting

Here are two examples of different ways we ventilate drive enclosures.  Notice the one on the left is ducted from the enclosure up through the heat-sink and the one on the left is open at the bottom and has a rain hood on it.
The left one is for indoor dusty environments and the one on the right is for using outdoors.  Notice the unit on the right has rain hoods on the enclosure fans as well.
Looking at the front you will notice that there are fans on the bottom of the indoor unit.  These fans are "ducted" through the bottom of the enclosure and then exit the back where the air is diverted across the heat-sink.  Note also the unit made to go outdoors has a door to protect the keypad and the other pilot controls mounted on the door.  Two distinct application, two different ways to protect the drives and keep them cool in the process.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fuse Testing

Testing a fuse would seem to be fairly common task in our world and it normally is.  So this begs the question, “why does this cause so much confusion?”

You are asking yourself, “Confusion?”  YES.  Misdiagnosis of a fuse is more common than you think and usually results in money being spent on service calls that could be avoided if the fuse would have been check properly on the first go-round.

Since most power fuses are the type that you cannot see the element, one needs to use a multi-meter in order to test most of the fuses we deal with.  The following diagram shows the proper way to connect to the fuse in order to test it.
Now, this fuse is shown as “just a fuse” with no connection to a circuit.  But in our world, the fuse is most always in the circuit and this is what introduces the confusion factor.  So let me pose a question: what type of test would you chose to test this fuse in the circuit?

Most of you are going to say “ohmic”.  That would be okay if this fuse were out of the circuit but in the circuit, this test (for the most part) does not work.  This fuse in a drive for instance will read good ninety-nine times out of a hundred due to the fact that it has multiple paths from the input to the other side of the fuse.  The ONLY way to properly test this fuse with an ohm meter is to remove it from the circuit.  Testing it in the circuit is a waste of time and always leads to a misdiagnosis of the fuse status.

Now, there is a procedure for testing a fuse while it is still connected in the circuit.  But this can only be done by doing a voltage test across the fuse.  Remember that if a fuse is good and you are connected across the fuse like the above diagram, the voltage will take the path of “least resistance” which will be across the fuse and not the meter.  This leads to a zero volt reading on the meter (or very close to it) which means the fuse is conducting and is good.  If you are reading across a fuse in a 480 volt circuit and you read 480 volts (or somewhere in that neighborhood), the power is traveling across your meter and therefore the fuse is bad. 

Voltage testing the fuse should only be done after it is determined that the unit can be SAFELY powered up.  In most cases you can do this if the unit has tripped and is still powered up and you have on the proper PPE to perform this type of test.  Powering up a unit that has failed to test the fuses is dangerous and should only be done after many other tests have been done to ensure that the unit can safely be powered up without further damage resulting from that act.

And that leads us to the easiest answer to the solution….ensure that the unit is powered down and that all incoming power has been removed.  Then and only then, remove the fuses from the circuit and “bench test” them using the ohmic method and this will result in an accurate and safe test of the fuses.

I have made tens of thousands of dollars over the years going on service calls and finding a blown fuse in the first five minutes of being on-site.  I have driven over 500 miles and this has happened and I have had electricians beg me to “say it was something else”.  Please, testing is something that is difficult and requires knowledge and focus on the task.  If you are unsure of what you are doing, ask questions of those that you can rely on for the right answers….I always do and so should you.