Jan 28

Do Smart Machines Mean Smarter Food?

Whether a food company is striving for smart factories or simply wants the agility to respond to new-product demands, it is commonly perceived that automation can help.

nacelectrical.co.ukHow does automation replace the skills honed over decades of food manufacturing history? Mixers and ovens have the same functionality today as they did decades ago, but with the addition of automation advances you get a night-and-day comparison in terms of performance.

The programmable logic controller or PLC sells in its millions every year and provides the logic needed to safely and efficiently run a machine. But it is becoming increasingly apparent that PLCs are obsolete technology.

The Achilles heel of automation is loss of flexibility, an easy trade-off when production schedules are static. However, the trend in food and beverage is not static, in fact it’s the exact opposite. Changes in packaging, product variation, ingredients at short notice all make for flexible requirements. The flexibility challenge is further complicated at companies with multiple facilities, none of which is ever identical. All of this combines to work against operational efficiency. Installation of PLC systems can be achieved by local contractors such as NAC Electrical Services who operate nationwide.

But leaving aside efficiency, in a world where we seem to move rapidly from one food scandal to the next, traceability and engaging with customers is becoming increasingly important to food producers on both large and small scales.

Bristol Electricians NAC have noticed recent changes in how the food industry is operating. “There are lots of small companies out there who want to make their systems in food manufacturing more personal”.

Recently one food manufacturer launched an experiment that matches raw material genealogy with product serialisation. Working with PLC designers their manufacturers are printing QR codes on their food. “How is this new” we hear you cry? QR codes have been with us for a while now? But this time its different-by scanning the code with a smart phone, shoppers are linked to a website where details on where the raw materials were harvested, where the grain was milled, which farm the eggs came from, which plant processed it and when and from where the finished good was distributed. This “digital passport” embedded in the code on the packet ostensibly advances food safety and answers the “where did this my come from?” question posed by consumers.

The flexibility of modern PLCs needs to be improved in order to allow quick changes in this kind of system as a response to changes in the supply chain.

Dec 03

Reasons Why We Should Know More About PLCs!

Image:gabsterowww.freeimages.com

Image:gabsterowww.freeimages.com

A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is like a computer that constantly checks the state of input devices and then decides the state for output devices. It is generally used to operate machinery. Unlike computers, PLCs are not programmed but they are made to be positioned, wired and commissioned. PLCs have become one of the most important parts of manufacturing industry with time. They are easily programmed and made to withstand harsh conditions. Their importance increases in workplaces where human labor cannot work due to harsh conditions. Not only does PLC replace manual labor but, it also makes the process more efficient and error free. Considering all these facts implies that the future definitely belongs to PLCs. The efficiency of almost every process can be increased through PLCs.

Industrial usage of PLC

PLCs are designed to hold out against humidity, vibrations, noise, and extreme temperatures i.e. places where human labors find it difficult to work. They can control and monitor a large number of actuators and sensors resulting in higher productivity and a guaranteed better quality of the end product. PLCs can control computers and machines for years, without human intervention, decreasing chances of human error. They have replaced the relays, reducing the high costs associated with the relay controlled systems. PLCs are quite simple to operate and program. Nowadays, PLCs are used for mechanized job and handling in a machine, and it increases to full computerization of production process running in a factory.

Importance of PLC

Troubleshooting is made quick and easy by the PLCs, as the operation is visible on a screen. It is a matter of seconds to locate and identify a damaged part. It was not the case in the past when an error almost always meant a lot of time invested to replace the wiring of devices and panels. However, with PLC controls, changing circuit sequences or designs are quite simple and cheap. A Programmable Logic Controller has a simple programming language and its testing can be performed in a lab. Moreover, it can perform tasks that are beyond human capabilities. PLCs contain solid state switches, hence they are able to switch unlimited times between the cycles. In that way, PWM signals can be produced in addition to very complex logic. Some PLCs can be linked to a human machine interface, acting as LCD that shows useful information for the end user. PLC is modular, which means that the different types of output and inputs and can be mixed and matched to better suit the application.

PLC vs. Traditional Relay Controls

PLCs are greater in functional capabilities and power, when compared to the old relays. Relays are usually used for turning “On” or “Off” when only a few number of devices are involved but in large systems, the wiring becomes very complex and requires some training. PLCs are best to switch small control devices and handle the complicated sequencial functions. The total cost also decreases as we increase the number of functions and devices. PLCs are simple to install and any modifications can be made by reprogramming instead of changing the wires and it requires little space. The system does not need to be moved so the maintenance costs are also low. Unlike relays, PLC can perform additional functions such as analog signal processing, counting, timing etc. PLCs can copy and perform certain logical tasks that were once, done by many interconnected relays.

Today, PLCs work as integral parts of all the industrial projects; especially, where working conditions do not allow manual work. They are applicable in nearly all the industries and so, we must know more about PLCs because future belongs to them!

 

 

Dec 03

Miniaturization of Electrical Machines

“Less is more”, a popular saying of our time, but what most people don’t realize is the fact that the greatest minds of our age have turned this into their mantra and are pushing the boundaries of modern innovation by keeping to this simple aspiration. The most ambitious bunch following this motto are the electrical engineers, who are making major strides towards creating the next generation of electric devices and miniaturization of these devices is the major design element that they are focusing on.

The need for miniature parts of electronic machines stems from the fact that many machines and devices are being miniaturized in their design and structure. There is also the cost factor involved, smaller parts mean a lower manufacturing cost. There are a myriad of fields that are benefiting from producing tinier, efficient and more affordable machines.

The Race for Smaller Machines

The most important industry, regarding miniaturization of machines, is the aerospace industry. The requirements for modern flying machines, especially rockets, encouraged the creation of components that were considerably lighter and smaller than the ones that were utilized in the past.

By far the ‘giant leap’ in the miniaturization of electrical machines was the invention of semiconductors. Next step, integrated circuits; and the rest is a beautiful history that helped us assimilate hundreds of transistors in the most minuscule of circuits. When the PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) became the norm, the sensors and inductors used on them needed to be smaller, this requirement also helped push the production of miniaturized electrical machine components and eventually machines.

The Medical Industry

The industries mentioned above were the ones that brought the miniaturization process into the fast lane and benefited from them the most. But the industry that was completely revolutionized by this trend was the medical industry. A few decades ago, placing an electronic device inside a human body was impossible, but now, thanks to miniaturization of electrical machines, we can even place a ‘Tony Stark’ like pacemakers inside human beings.

The pacemakers of yesteryear were bigger than most Smartphones today, imagine fitting your Smartphone inside your chest cavity; that would be impossible to say the least. Thanks to the smaller components and the miniaturization movement, the pacemakers are now roughly the size of a large coin and slightly thicker. They allow heart patients to lead normal lives, without having the fear of damaging their pacemaker.

The Modern Gadgets

Any discussion about miniaturized electrical machines would be incomplete without the mentions of the modern smart-devices. From cell phones to smart watches, every gadget out in the market was made possible because an electrical engineer somewhere created smaller components for them. And the amazing thing about these gadgets is that the reduction in their size still continuing, with each newer model being smaller and lighter than the last one.

Research and Development

If the latest technologies around us are any indication, the research into miniaturization of electrical machines growing and reaching further than we first thought of. Human curiosity is the driving force behind the R&D related to the miniaturization of electrical machines. The need to produce more efficient and popular devices is the reason why components like planar transformers are reducing in size.

Tech and electrical giants such as www.dualtec.co.uk, are also focused on reducing the manufacturing costs of their machines, and what better way to do it then creating smaller components and that help them create sleeker machines. The smaller the component, the less manufacturing material the companies have to purchase; which means more profits for them and more striking devices for their customers.

Other industries aren’t focused on the cost but the utility that the smaller machines can offer them. The medical industry is a prime example. Devices like micro cameras are used because they can perform a function, which cannot be completed without the help of this miniaturized machine.

Dec 03

Programmable Logic Controllers and The Industrial Evolution

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) swept across the industrial world when they were first introduced to the market in the 1960s. Automation systems, manufacturing industries, and assembly mechanisms saw a rapid transformation in their performance and efficiency with the involvement of Programmable Logic Controllers.

Since the time of their inception, PLCs have gone through a lot of evolutionary phases which increased their performance and efficiency manifolds. In the initial years, PLC systems consisted of thousands of unique relay systems that worked in coordination in order to execute a specific work. Operating these relay control systems with motion control and timers was itself a complex procedure. However, as the electronic components got more compact with the advancements in technology, these relay controls were replaced by microprocessors. This in turn, not only enabled the workers to operate them easily, but also added the multifunctional feature in them; i.e. a single PLC could now perform multiple functions at a time.

What Are PLCs?

Programmable Logic Controllers, commonly referred to as PLCs, are basically digital computers that are exclusively designed to operate in a wide industrial line. Their design differs from general purpose computers as the control unit of PLCs is different in both design and functionality. Every PLC unit has its own design and function according to the requirements and input/output configurations. For example, a PLC designed for a car assembly factory would be different from a PLC which is installed in a company for automation purposes and the design of each system will be determined by a company experienced in custom control panels.

How PLCs Operate:

As mentioned earlier, the manufacturing design of modern PLCs is microprocessor based; hence, they are programmable. They are programmed using a specialized language in various logics, techniques, and standards, ranging from the C language to Basic, FBD (function block diagram), SFC (sequential function charts), ST (structured texts), IEC 61131-3 standard and the ladder logic. These programs are stored in the nonvolatile part of the memory section.

Programmable Logic Controllers operate according to the type of program fed in them. Programming standard or technique is chosen according to the complexity of the work they are set to do. The Logic ladder is considered as the most user-friendly technique. When the logic ladder logic is used, the system acts in the sequential modes. Sequential modes are most easy to work on and need basic technical knowledge to control the machine. That is why, even those who have little or no knowledge of computer operation, can easily work on PLCs programmed in ladder logic.

Impact On The Industry

The flexibility, cost-efficiency, and convenience has made PLC one of the most important parts of the manufacturing industry. It is one of the prominent factors in the global development in general and in the industrial development in particular.

One can gauge the impact of PLCs by thinking about the difference in the output and productivity when thousands of machines or human labor are replaced by a single machine that can perform multiple functions and control multiple things under a single program. Moreover, the ratio of errors in manual operations is mitigated to the minimum through these programmable machines. Apart from that, the monitoring and troubleshooting in these programmable machines are very easy. Industrial environment is pretty harsh for labor work, whereas PLCs can work perfectly normal in these tough conditions.

PLCs continue to become less spacious, more durable and cost effective with each passing day. Many programmable machines have already hit the market by storm which can be used in domestic chores. Considering the facts discussed above, it can be easily said that the days are not far when the Programmable Logic Controllers will replace most of human labor jobs.

Dec 03

Efficiency of Control Panels In Industrial Applications

Control panels have become a significant aspect of manufacturing units. They are used in all types of industries to control, monitor and maneuver the production processes, machinery, applications and assembly lines.

Over the years, the industrial control panel technology has evolved to a great extent. The touch technology may seem quite a new innovation, but control panels with push buttons handled with analog systems have been for a long time now. Without a control panel, the industrial applications succumb to the challenges of efficiency, stability and safety at the very beginning at their installation. That’s why an economically designed control panel can add to the efficiency and performance of the industrial applications.

Control panels are mainly custom designed and engineered for all industrial applications as the requirements of every industry are different with a set of different control instruments.

Control Panels and their Usage

There are three major types of control panels for industrial applications that are recommended by UL, a global safety organization. Open industrial control panels, enclosed control panels and modified industrial control panels. These control panels mainly serve the purpose of control of in-house industrial application such as lighting, ventilation systems, pump controllers, alarm systems, security and safety systems, motor or for other mechanical and electrical devices.

The installation of control panels in the industries requires the NEC (National Electric Code) approval and marked ratings. The components of the control panels such as push buttons, light beams, relays, power circuits, power transmission buttons, contractors are some of the must-to-integrate components in the engineered control panels so that they can be categorized under the UL and NEC ratings and standards. For safety purposes, the industries using the control panels must have a marking of instructions or field installation diagrams with the information about the name of the manufacturer, power voltages, short circuit rating of the current and trademarks.

Ensuring the efficiency of control panels

Every day the requirements for industrial automation are escalating; along with the requirements to control and monitor the different assembly units through networked yet safer control systems. In this scenario, control panels need to be produced and installed with higher consideration for the different prospects of different industries and their applications. After a careful and prudent survey and inspection of the industries by the engineers, first the diagrammatic then the configured and engineered prototype of the control panels is installed in the industries. To ensure their efficiency and sustainable performance without any hazards or security dangers, the control panels must be prepared with following considerations:

  1. Spacious Industrial Area: Control panels can be both small and large depending on the industry requirements. Large space needs to be allotted to the control panels for their operations like control and monitoring so that they are not hindered by other industrial processes and mechanical work. And, large space to control panels will mean that the error free control supervision can take place, without the interference of industrial applications.
  2. Low Noise: For efficient control panel functions, noise mitigation can play an impertinent role. The low noise control panels can be more efficient and environment-friendly than the high noise producing panels.
  3. Higher Safety: As stressed by the UL standards, efficient control panels are safer for the working environment. This safety needs to be integrated at all levels of designing, manufacturing, installing and functioning of the control panels.
  4. Grounding power systems: The whole power control panels must be connected to other devices with a proper networking system. The automated and networked usage of control panels can ensure the efficient, effective and protractile performance of control panels.

Along with observing the aforementioned guidelines, the industries using the control panels must be looking to repeatedly check and upgrade according to the standards and ratings of UL and NEC.

Dec 03

Instrument Monitoring and Electrical Control Panels

Instrument Monitoring and Electrical Control Panels

An electrical control panel, also known a panel board, power distribution board or service panel, is a flat, horizontal or vertical surface, having multiple control instruments. These instruments are involved in the supply of electricity to a number of applications which operate for a specific project. Control panels are often used in the large-scale industrial projects, operate at less than 600V and involve power circuits and control circuits. The name ‘panel’ refers to its mounted position on or in a metal enclosure. Its main purpose is to provide signals to show the performance of the controlled equipment. It comes in different sizes and shapes with varied specifications with respect to the functionalities it has to cover. From simple control panels with only a few buttons to large and complex panels with intricate structures are all examples of present-day electrical control panels used for monitoring and control operations in the industry.

Electrical control panels in control instruments

Control panels have pervaded every industry and every large scale project to monitor and control machines and production lines. Some of the large scale projects where it finds its implementation are nuclear power plants, aircraft carriers, mainframe computers and ships.

A control panel helps in keeping track of all the processes with a single go. It used to have switches and push buttons in old designs, however, now switches are replaced with automated and touch screen displays. A typical control panel involves a capital console and multiple sub-panels and indicator lights. The Console carries fuses and circuit breakers. An upgrade has been made in the old designs and so, the contemporary transformers do not facilitate in the current supply if it is lower than the main supply. Such upgraded panels are very efficient especially in situations where numerous equipment with different power requirements is merged together.

Components of an Electrical Control Panel

Electrical control panels are available is a wide variety of technical integrations and digital displays. Generally, an electrical control panel consists of the following parts.

Housing: It is the outer cover that contains all the switches, displays and lights. It is layered with a plastic or metal coat and an insulated paint. This eliminates all the likelihoods of short-circuit or electric shock.

Main disconnect: It is the central switch for power control and thus has the fundamental value in an electric control panel. Main disconnect is of major importance in the case of overload or short circuit.

Circuit breakers: The power runs through main disconnect to circuit breakers when the main disconnect is switched on. These small constituents operate by tripping down automatically in case of a power overload or fluctuation. Hence, these components cut down the risks of overheating which may cause a fire hazard.

Quality control for Electrical Control Panels

An electrical control panel available in the market must have a QC stamp by its manufacturer and it is now considered mandatory. Following are some of the parameters or factors that must be checked before purchasing a control panel.

  • Resistance to harsh weather conditions
  • Safety standards
  • Temperature threshold of controllers
  • Quality of circuit breakers
  • Integrated voltmeter
  • Inclusion of main switch fuse division

Electrical control panels are an amazing accessory for the industry; having an ever increasing demand in industrial units and technology-intensive projects. They have made the process of monitoring and control easier than ever by providing a single platform to perform and control complex operations. They must be purchased after running strict quality control checks and maintained perfectly to ensure efficient and smooth running and a long life span.

Summary:

This article provides an introduction to the electrical control panel and its application in the industry. It also highlights quality control features that must be checked before purchasing an electric control panel.

 

 

Nov 26

Could your save money on your business electricity bills?

As winter approaches you may find your thoughts turning to your energy bills; thanks to the rising cost of energy, falling temperatures and those long winter nights. But is there anything you can do to help save energy and cut the cost of your businesses’ energy bills?

At this time of year electrical contractors tend to be inundated with calls from businesses who are concerned about unnecessary energy costs. Reducing the amount of energy your company uses makes perfect sense; not only can it help you cut costs and increase profit margins, it can also work wonders for your reputation as a company that is working hard to reduce its carbon emissions.

With this in mind it really does make sense to conduct an energy audit. An energy audit makes it much easier to identify patterns in your energy usage and to pinpoint where potential savings can be made. However, carrying out an energy audit yourself is not only complicated, the chances are you simply won’t have time to do it yourself so this is where an electrical contractor will be able to help.

Power correction survey

A power correction survey is a technical way to describe checks to determine how efficiently electrical power is consumed. It can be used either on a single piece of equipment or all of the electrical equipment you use, regardless of the size of your premises.

Make the most of energy efficient lighting

LED lighting is, in comparison to other forms of energy efficient lighting, incredibly long lasting and impressively energy efficient. If you think LED lighting is too expensive, the fact that it could help you save around 90% on your lighting costs might make you think again. A range of highly efficient LED lighting schemes are available and your electrical contract will be able to advise you on the best one for your business.

Motor control systems

A wide range of applications such as ventilation systems, pumps and air handling units can benefit from the installation of a motor control system. Inverter or variable speed drives will allow the system to vary its output as required, whilst maintaining an optimum level of performance and production. Using a variable speed drive, for example, could help you save up to 50% on energy use so this is also something that’s well worth discussing with your electrical contractor.

Simple things to try

On a much smaller scale there are lots of fairly minor changes you can make which have the potential to slash pounds from your energy bills. Turning off lights, electrical equipment, computers etc when not in use is so easy to do but really does save money – especially if yours is a large site!

Something else to try is swapping high-energy light bulbs with energy saving LEDs and fit lights in little-used or outside areas with movement sensors and timers. It’s worth encouraging your colleagues to turn the heating down at the weekends or during holidays: make use of the timer on your central heating system – it’s there to help you save money!