Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A nice December project

We have been very fortunate to stay busy all this year.  We have had the shop full of custom build projects from small water feature pumping controls to very large Variable Frequency Controllers.  We just finished the panel below for a customer to run their finish product crusher.
The customer provided a few of the items here that they wanted us to re-use but for the most part it is all new and is being installed today.  These are fun projects and it is very rewarding when your customer comes to pick it up, gets a big smile on his face and replies, "Wow, that's a thing of beauty".  Thanks Carston, Alex and the gang at Utelite!

It has been a great year for us.  Thanks to all of you for extending your friendship, loyalty and trust to us.  We are looking forward to bigger and better things to come in 2013.  Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Signal Wire Routing and Grounding

One common problem we run into from time-to-time is that of analog signals not operating properly.  Whether it is a 0-5 VDC, 0-10 VDC, 0-20mA or a 4-20mA signal we have had problems with them all.  Most times the problem is that the process is not operating as prescribed.  In other words, let’s look at a variable frequency controller operating from a pressure transmitter.  The system pressure is set for 90 pounds of pressure but the drive is either operating too fast, too slow or sometimes both.  This in turn causes the system pressure to be unstable and to not be at set-point.  This can be the result of improper routing of the signal wiring but if that is the case, it would show up from the beginning and should be dealt with at that time.  This is of course unless some modifications have been made to the original conduit runs/wiring or the addition of a piece of equipment.
Most times what we see is that multiple grounds have been attached on the control or signal circuit.  This causes a problem due to differing potentials in relationship to earth ground at each point of bond.  Normally what we find is that the signal cable would have been grounded in the PLC cabinet or in the drive during time of commissioning.  Then months later or even longer, someone may have had to replace a transmitter/transducer.  At this time the installer grounds the signal cable at the location of the device.  This is typically what happens causing the problem.
When you have a signal circuit grounded in more than one place, due to the differing potentials at the attachment points you get ground currents flowing through the shield.  This causes an addition or subtraction of current or voltage on the signal cable causing an error to the controller.  As the signal is traveling from the measuring device to the control device, the signal is being added to or suppressed by the ground currents flowing on the shield.  This causes the error in the control unit and therefore confuses the entire process.
Some devices come with leads already hanging out of them as they have been “potted” at the factory.  In the case of a pressure transducer or other metallic bodied device, one should measure the potential of the shield on the device in relationship to the body to make sure they are not connected.  If they are, care should be taken to insure that the shield/ground is not connected at the other end of the run in the control device or where ever the run terminates.  This is a major problem and is normally the cause of the error at most sites where water pumping/controlling is taking place.
As silly as this may seem, it is real and happens all the time.  When installed correctly, signal cables should be grounded on one end only, it’s just that easy.  But in practice, this mistake is very common and that is what lead to this write-up.  It also helps to route your signal cables so they are not running parallel or in close proximity to your power leads.  Never run signal cables in the same conduit as power leads as this is nothing less than a waste of time and money. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Metal Fabrication needs

Just so you know, we have had and are currently able to do some light metal fabrication if you should have the need for this.  We recently built a small skid for a power center which went out to Nevada to one of the mines.  This was actually the second one we have done for these folks this year so they must have liked the first.

We have been doing custom door fabrication for Motor Control Centers when the need arises and closing in existing holes in enclosure doors for a couples of contractors doing field modifications to existing panels.  We purchased a better brake and shear this year and Brandan has been putting them to good use.  He is currently making two custom doors for a remodel of an existing MCC.  This equipment is located at a  pumping station for our local US Army base, Camp W.G. Williams.

We have always had the ability to do MIG welding but we have a TIG welder now and have had for over a year or two.  We purchased the TIG machine to do repairs on heatsinks and other aluminum items we need to repair after a "blow-out" has occurred.  We then machine the surface to make it so we can re-seat the diode, SCR or whatever the device may be.  We routinely do this for another large customer here in the Salt Lake valley.

So if you have a need for some light metal work, please call us.  We can also help with your larger requirements as we have two local welding shops we work with on a regular basis.  These partners build all of our larger skids and other products that we need from time to time and do great work. 

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Surge Suppression

Although I have written about our product line of transient voltage surge suppression, I have not addressed the correct way to apply or install them.  The main reason I suppose is due to the fact that every application is different.  Many factors come into play in the application of  a SPD (Surge Protection Device).  They can be located or applied in various ways depending on the system configuration, size and of course voltage. 

There are several types and styles for various applications.  And within those there are many voltage options to match up to your type of feed and voltage level.  Saying this, it is probably best to talk to us about concerns and or problems you have encountered.  At that time we can review your entire electrical system if necessary based on your need or concern.  We can then recommend a product or products you may need to best fit your application. 

A little bit about installation:

One of the most neglected parts of making your device work as intended is proper installation of the device.  Correct installation is absolutely a must in order for the SPD to do it's job as it was designed to do.  I really can't tell you how may installations I have seen that are completely ineffective due to the lack of knowledge of the installer.  I am not an expert on the cause and effect of a voltage/current event and the effected di/dt of dv/dt on the system.  What I do know is that a properly installed TVSS or what we now call SPD will greatly reduce the effect and damage normally seen on a typical electrical system.    

When installing a SPD or surge protection device, it is best to mount it in a way that will result in the shortest lead length you can possibly connect with.  Doing this, you reduce the overall inductance of the connection path to the device.  Just to give you an example, one study I read measured a rise in let-through voltage of 100% at just eighteen inches of lead length.  The study also found a 400% increase at just fifty four inches.  This is significant when you think in multiples your applied system voltage plus tolerance.  The recommended lead length for connecting your SPD is six inches.  This is typically impossible on a large switchboard as it is more than six inches from any possible connection point in the switchboard to a location where it is within the NEC code to properly mount the SPD.  This is however very possible on sub-feeder panels where the sides of the panel have a more narrow wireway.  These are typically within six inches of a breaker that can be a landing point for one of these devices.

It is also helpful to twist the leads together if at all possible between the device and the connection point.  This helps reduce inductive coupling which also may lead to a reduction in time to the device.  A seemingly small thing but this is measured in micro-seconds (or less) and is extremely important in the overall reduction of the spike or surge.  Following these two application rules will make the SPD much more responsive when a spike or surge happens, thus reducing or eliminating completely the damage that is normally associated in one of these types of events.

We could spend all day talking about best practice for placement, sizing and installing a SPD.  Trust me when I say that every application is different.  It is important to spend the time with someone that understands surge protection.  That way they will be able to recommend the proper device or devices for your application based on your specific need.  The above information is mainly directed to the person that is or will be installing these devices.  Just by following the advice that I have given you will result in a device that is at least installed in a way to make it as effective as possible so long is the placement is correct.  As always, you can call me for more information regarding this matter.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Circuit Breakers

Last week I was asked to get a circuit breaker for a customer.  When I asked about the application, I was shortly chastised and then asked "does it matter"?  Well, of course it does or I wouldn't have asked.  So lets have a short discussion about breakers....

Just to put it simply, there are two basic types of circuit breakers and they are:

- Magnetic Trip Only

- Thermal Magnetic

Each have their own place and here is why:

Magnetic Trip Breakers are commonly referred to as "Instantaneous" breakers.  They provide short circuit protection but do not have the built-in characteristics to provide overload protection.  They typically have an adjustment feature for adjusting the instantaneous trip anywhere from four to eight times the rating of the breaker itself.  There is no standard or regulation for this setting and it is usually adjusted in the field to meet the specific application.
These types of circuit breakers are typically provided on motor starters where they work in conjunction with the overload relay to provide complete protection for the application.  These breaker are not intended to be used as a feeder as they provide no overload protection for the circuit.

Thermal Magnetic Breakers give you the short circuit protection of a magnetic only breaker but also have time delayed overload protection which can protect in the event of a thermal problem.  This is typically detected via a bimetallic strip that is made up of two dissimilar metals that are bonded together in the breaker.  When excess current flows through the device, it causes the metal strip to bend causing the breaker to open if the current is in excess of the rating of the device. 

Magnetic breakers can be reset after a trip where a thermal magnetic breaker will not immediately reset after a thermal or overload trip until it has had time to cool back down from the trip. 

This is a very basic explanation regarding these devices but maybe next time when I ask about the application, I won't get a ear-full about my asking as to the application.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Putting the Irrigation Controllers to rest

I received my first call today about winterizing a drive.  Yes, it is that time of year to drain the pressure transducer and bug and rodent proof the drives for their winter rest.  If you have not done it by now, check out the last blog and you will see a diagram for the best way to configure the piping for your transducer.  This piping also incorporates a gauge and provides an easy means for draining them both so they will not stand the chance of freezing over the winter.

Make sure that the drive enclosure will be secure from becoming a nest for a tribe of mice.  There is nothing worse than the damage those little varmint's can do to the insulation and boards for that matter.  Please, make sure these little buggers can't get in.

For those of you who have been thinking of converting over to a pressurized system, there is no time like the present to start making plans and getting with us for what you will need and to see what will fit into your budget for the coming season.  Remember that if your are throttling back at all for pressure regulation, we can save you big dollars with the installation of a drive on your system.  If you have any questions about doing this, please give me a call.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Configuring for a Pressure Transducer

We are providing more drives for pressure regulation on pumping systems than ever before.  A very important piece of this application is the pressure transducer or transmitter.  I have seen these mounted in all kinds of configurations but the very best way to do this is diagrammed below:

Notice that there is a valve to shut off the supply water and also a valve installed to vent or relieve pressure in the gauge and transducer.  This is very useful during calibration and also helpful in testing and in servicing if needed.  The gauge is good also for testing and just to provide a means of visual checking to make sure that what is happening in the system is the same as what the drive is reading and producing. 
When winter comes the drain/relief valve makes short work of making sure the gauge and transducer is drained so they won’t freeze and be ruined.
Hope this helps all of you with this set-up.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Large Current Project

We are currently working on a 900 horsepower Variable Frequency Controller for a customer.  Here are a few pictures of it during construction:

This is two 450 horsepower modules that we have paralleled together for the combination 900 horsepower requirement for the customer.  As you can see, the units are connected together via the bus work in the top of the photo.  All incoming and out-going connections will be made in the section to the far right.  The guys are doing a great job with this and are ahead of schedule even though we have been extremely busy in the shop. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Using Soft Starters verses a VFD

When to use a Solid State Starter and when to use a Variable Frequency Drive is a topic that comes up quite often.  Most times it is generated by a need that is expressed by an equipment manufacturer for their equipment or a piece of equipment that too large to start across-the-line due to line restrictions or limitations.  Which method to use really depends on the application and what the expectations are for the driven equipment.
Sometimes it is a mandate by the power company that requires that a motor be started by “reduced voltage” means so as to not stress the utility line.  It can be at a site where the primary source of power is a portable generator.  Other times it may be applicable for a desired or needed reduction in mechanical stress for the driven equipment or a system that is connected to the equipment such as a pipeline connected to a pump.  Even a conveyor can be a concern and is typically a good application for either method.  So what makes the determination as to which method we should use?
Does a VFD make a good soft starter?  The answer to that is yes.  Under most circumstances a VFD does make a great soft starter and can soft stop if needed with complete and smooth regulation on most loads.  But if the load is to be run at 100% speed after initial start-up until such time as it is no longer required, it is generally a bit extravagant to use a drive for this application.
Newer technology has brought the cost of general purpose Solid State Starters down due to the ability of many of today’s soft starters to control a motor with only regulating two of the three phases.  Better phase control and switching technology has made it so this is done without the distortion that was typical on earlier units which were not very well accepted in the past.
One note, notice I said “general purpose” soft starts.  While these starters perform well starting and stopping a centrifugal pump, a fan and some light duty conveyor applications, I still hesitate applying them on applications where starting torque is an absolute necessity.  Loads such as a crusher or any load that requires all the torque a motor can wring out at reduced current still require a three-phase controller style soft starter.  Also on these applications a true “Shunt Duty” starter should be used in place of the units that have “built-in” bypass.
If the load is to be regulated for flow, product delivery, pressure or what have you, a VFD is probably the way to go.  Mainly due to the fact that if you are going to throttle the load in any manner, you might as well be benefiting from the reduction of required kW that the drive will provide and in doing so will save you money.  Depending on the load and application, the energy saving benefits of using a Variable Frequency Controller is still the number one reason to apply a drive.  Many applications such as pumps and fans running at 20% speed reduction can have huge cost savings in comparison to throttling or dampening.  In most application, you can expect save the initial cost of the VFD in less than 6 to 12 months depending on the hours of average run time during a day, week or month.  So you get the benefit of desired work and cost savings using a VFD if applied correctly.
I still get people telling me that they have been told that applying a Solid State Starter will save them on their demand charge.  This is not correct in most cases.  Under most circumstances demand is calculated over a 15 minute window by most utilities.  It is typically not just a “blip on the scope” caused by starting a specific load as most believe.  Let’s just take a look at starting a 100 horsepower motor.
Using today’s information here is what we would expect to see with an across-the-line starter driving a centrifugal pump:
FLA = 122 amps
LRA =720 amps  
Typical Start time = .86 sec
Now using a Soft Starter in current control mode set to 300%
Max current =366
Calculating average inertia or angular acceleration of the pump and motor and based on a common pump curve and by changing the initial head over time of acceleration, we can come up with a hypothetical time of about 4-6 seconds.
Now, which is greater: 366 amps for 4-6 seconds or a max of 720 amps reached during the .86 second time?  The answer is, in the eye of the utility they are equal to each other therefore there is no demand difference.  Calculating in all the factors of starting a motor still require that a certain amount of power be consumed to accomplish a start.  Only by regulating voltage, current and frequency can this be altered and that would require a VFD.
If you have an application that you are looking at for either a drive or a soft starter, call us and we can discuss your application and see what would be best for your need.  We may not have all the answers to your questions, but we know where to look and whom to call.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Big Sky Country Visit

We just returned home yesterday from a quick road-trip to Montana.  We spent a couple of days in Ennis fly fishing the Madison River with no luck catching anything in the way of fish, but what a great time.  Fields full of antelope and whitetail deer, an amazing backdrop of the mountains and a river that is hard to describe other than clear and beautiful.  Ennis is a quaint little town and is busy this time of year with people coming there primarily to fly fish.    From what I am told, come November they "shut-er-down" until the following late April/early May when it starts all over again.

We stayed at the El Western Cabins & Lodges which is just Southeast of town and is a great place to stay.  Great cabins for rent and the facility is groomed to perfection.  I spoke with the owner (John) one of the mornings we were there.  They water the entire property via water wells and I hope to be able to work with him in the near future to help save him a good sum of money on their power bill.  Yeah I know, I just can't help myself when I see people doing things where I know I can help with products we provide........cut me some slack.

From there we traveled to Townsend where we attended the annual picnic for Graymont Western's Indian Creek Plant.  Zach and Brandan golfed in the four-man scramble they had on Saturday morning where Zach won the closest to the pin contest and received a new golf bag.  He still can't believe it.

John and Rick cooked ribeye steaks for all that were worth the 500 mile drive and always are!  They had their annual horseshoe tourney and raffle for the employees and their family members.  They always have a great turn-out and the weather this year was a bit hotter than normal but turned out great.  All-in-all, a great day and a good get away.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Temperature Measurement

For some time now, we have been selling Infrared Temperature Measurement Units made by Williamson Corporation out of Connecticut.  Their line of products are uses to measure temperature in many environments where other would not stand up to the task do to the temperature at the measuring point, dust, smoke or other obstructions that may hamper the view to the target.
How Williamson is able to outperform the competition is through careful review of the application and determining the proper “Wavelength” to be able to see through non-target items and focus on just the target for temperature measurement.  They also custom tune an algorithm for the specific emissivity the target item acquire a proper reading.
We have these units installed and doing critical temperature measurement in application from coating pipe to precious metal refining in our area.  Anyone that has a need for this type of device and is currently using one automatically becomes a raving fan.  So if you have a need for infrared temperature measurement, please give us a call. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wireless Connectivity Solutions

We have recently acquired the Weidmuller line of wireless products.  This product line includes Industrial Ethernet Switches, Modems, Wireless I/O modules, Transmitters and Receivers, Wireless Data Gateways and many associated others products.

These units operate at either 900 MHzwith a frequency hopping spread spectrum of 902-928 MHz at 1 Watt.  They are also available in units that operate at 2.4 GHz which do require licensing where the 900 MHz units operate license-free in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

We are just getting our feet wet with these products but I can see many uses for these products and have already quoted several systems to customers.  It is also good to note that these units operate on 24 VDC so they can very easily be powered by a small solar panel for operating an application such as a water tank on a hill where there is no power available.  Great for those "one tank town" applications.

These units are a cost effective way of wireless control or data collection and are very user friendly.  We have units that we can use to do a site survey for you to test an application you may have for them for connectivity at your site.  Please call us for more information on this line of products. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Elko Mining Show

Last week was again time for the Elko Mining Expo in Elko, Nevada.  There were a lot of vendors at this years event, more than I think I have seen in the past.  The weather was not the best as it was cold in the mornings and the wind really kicked up on Friday afternoon causing some to tear down and run out early. 

We had the opportunity to visit with several people that we only see during this event and many that we get to talk to and see during the course of the year.  Newmont had their "chopper" on the main stage of the convention center that was built for them by Paul Jr. Design.  It was quite an interesting piece of work and many different aspects of the mining operations were incorporated in the build.

It seemed that the weather kept the attendance down as there just were not as many people there as there has been in the past which made it a bit slow but non-the-less, generally a good time for visiting with many folks we look forward to seeing at this event.

This is a picture from last years show but it pretty much looked the same this year.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Checking in

It is the second week in April and I haven't been keeping up on this blogger thing as I should.  Mostly due to the fact that we have been busy working on several projects that have been taking up most of our time.  Since I last posted anything, TKI has now become the representative for WEG in the West.  They are working to promote the WEG products and help us with our sales effort. 

We have been getting some nice orders for water projects that will soon be in our shop for fabrication.  One is a stand alone 600 horsepower drive that will stay here locally and operate a deep well pump.  Another project we will be working on soon is a 900 horsepower drive for a I.D. Fan for a local lime plant.  Several other projects will be built-up in Siemens Motor Control Centers for various municipal accounts here in the state.  Below are a couple of pictures of the 600 we just shipped.

As always, if you have any needs or even question for us, give us a call.  We are more than willing to help with all you electrical needs and applications.

Inside shot

Front view

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January notes

We just returned from a week and a half long trip to Southern California.  While there, I visited a few sprinkler and irrigation companies in the Coachella Valley and left them information about our company and a business card.  Everywhere we stopped, the people were very nice and gracious with their time they gave us.  Hopefully we will be able to help some of these folks with their electrical needs in the near future. 

Traveling to the coast in the L.A. area, spent some time with David Hitt and his wife from DNH Industries.  We had a great time with them and did a bit site seeing as well as visiting.  While in the area we also attended some training at the WEG training and warehouse facility in Ontario, CA.  There we were met by the entire sales group for TKI including Tim Kaylor.  The WEG folks were very good to us and the day was informative.  We went to dinner that evening with them and had a good visit.  WEG's warehouse is very impressive and they have a huge inventory of motors at that site.  They also have a motor modification shop in part of the warehouse which is manned by WEG employee's which is different that most.

Tammy and I made a stop over coming home in Las Vegas where we met and went to dinner with Bob Ziegler and his wife.  Bob is the Western US Salesperson for MTE.  We had a great time visiting with them and Bob bought dinner!  For those of you who know Bob, that's huge.  Thank's again to him and his wife for a great time.

All in all, it was a great trip and we had great traveling weather.  The average temperature while we were in California, 70 degrees.  Now back, it's cold and we have a winter weather advisory today....ah, Utah.

Late next month is the Utah Rural Water Association Conferance in St. George.  That will basically kick of the water year and get people thinking about preparing for their water needs whether for irrigation or for culinary needs.  I always look forward to this show since I get the chance to catch up with folks that I usually only see this time of the year.  It is also good because you are dealing with the people that are really in the thick of it.  Mainly those that work for the state, cities, towns, counties or irrigation companies that provide us all with our water needs throughout the state.  Always a great show to attend.



Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Day

Christmas has again come and gone and we are at the beginning of a new year.  Let me share with you what happened on Christmas day.

We are up and slowly opening gifts when the phone rings.  One of our customers is on the phone and telling me that they lost there 400 horsepower Variable Frequency Drive overnight due to a huge power problem that happened at the plant.  They had many issues they were dealing with and had one of the local Electrical Contractors on site trying to restore power and fix a problem with the main transformer that feeds the plant.

Now I started thinking and remembered that the customer had purchased a spare unit for this application and I told him that it should be out there somewhere in the warehouse.  He did not know this and told me that he would start looking for it but meanwhile, he wanted our Service Engineer on the way to try to fix the VFD.

Madhu, our Service Engineer first drives to the office to gather together some spare parts as the customer by now has called a few times and is relaying to us that he cannot find the spare drive.  He is in panic mode and we are doing what we can to get him up and running once power is restored to the plant.  We have contacted one of the people from the VFC the factory and yes, they answered the phone on Christmas day!  We talked about the potential of being able to get parts out on an airplane if needed but all the while I was hoping that the customer would find the spare unit that I knew was on-site.

There had been a few personel changes at this customers location and the person that had purchased the spare unit no longer works there.  Due to this, no one knew where the spare unit was and from what I was being told, it just wasn't there.  Meanwhile Madhu had arrived at the site and had begun to check out the unit for what damage it has sustained duing the power event.  He called me and told me what parts he thought he would need to fix the existing unit and I informed him and the customer that I would start the ball rolling to get parts flown in for the drive.  I also at this point told the customer that I was certain that the spare drive was on site and that they needed to organize a search party and find it because there was a good possibility that I was not going to be able to get parts out until the next day.  The airport near the factory is a small one and only has a few flights out each day let alone it was Christmas day.

Just as I was making arrangements for parts, I recieved a phone call that they had found the spare unit that was on site.  Madhu finally finished at nine pm that night and drove the two hours it takes to get home from the location back to Salt Lake.

So here's the score: Out of the last 11 Christmas days, called out twice.  Customers back up and running Christmas day....100%

I am pleased to tell you that as a team- we ROCK!  Just the fact of the matter.  Where else are you going to find that type of service and dedication?  Madhu is truely dedicated to our customers being up and running and US Drives shares his and our collective attitude and concern towards the customer.

Kinda makes a guy proud to be part of this team....