Engineers’ beer mat brainwave wins UK’s Queen’s Award

An idea sketched on the back of a beer mat in a Dublin pub has become a world-beating product and won the Queen’s Award for Innovation 2007 – one of Britain’s highest industrial honours, described by one recipient as ‘a corporate knighthood’.

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Instruments Director Neil Davies and Instruments Manager Colin Vickers of power engineering specialists EA Technology were waiting for a ferry back to Britain in 2002 when they hatched the idea for a new type of product to test the condition and safety of high voltage equipment.

The UltraTEV Detector is the world’s first hand-held instrument that accurately measures the symptoms which high voltage equipment exhibits when it starts to break down, long before the effects can be detected by human senses.

“The UltraTEV Detector is easier to use than a TV remote control, because it only needs the press of a single button, but it gives engineers an immediate indication when equipment is starting to deteriorate and needs attention,” Davies said. “They previously had to use several pieces of complex and expensive equipment to do the same job – or trust to guesswork, using sight, sound and smell.

Davies went on: “The UltraTEV Detector is a bit like the iPod, because there was nothing else like it on the market before and it uses the latest technology to do things in a new way. Like the iPod, it has created its own market, because it’s exactly what customers were looking for – but they didn’t realize that until we invented it.

“The ideas we scribbled down over a few beers turned out to be right first time, but it took months of investment, development and testing to come up with the finished product.”

“Just as importantly, it’s also a world first as a warning device when equipment is too dangerous for people to approach and may be about to fail catastrophically. When this happens, high voltage equipment can explode with the force of a bomb, so companies are increasingly issuing UltraTEV Detectors to all staff as personal safety monitors.

”The bottom line is that UltraTEV Detectors save money by making maintenance more efficient – and they save lives.”

UltraTEV Detectors are now used across the power industry worldwide and by other operators of high voltage equipment, including petrochemicals and manufacturing companies.

EA Technology won a Queen’s Award in the early 1990s for the development of ohmic heating – a highly efficient technology used in many industrial processes.

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Since 1997, EA Technology has rapidly evolved as an independent, employee-owned, commercially successful enterprise, with customers worldwide. Particular growth areas are China, the Far East, Middle East and North America.

Another EA Technology innovation which has become a world leader is the CableSniffer – a unique instrument which rapidly and accurately locates faults in underground cables, without having to dig exploratory holes.

Handy tool probes the parts others can’t reach

Designed to be the most robust available, Sensonics range of Senturion proximity probes has recently been extended to include a new instrument capable of operating to temperatures of 240 °C.

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Used extensively throughout industry to monitor rotating shaft alignment and axial position, particularly on steam and gas turbines, centrifuges and pumps, Sensonics proximity probes provide a range of non-contacting measurement configurations and comply with the API 670 standard.

Available in a selection of body and cable lengths, the new PRS05 model from Sensonics offers a 0 to 5 mm measurement range in a 12 mm tip (M18 body) configuration and operates above the range of standard probes, which can experience excessive drift where temperatures exceed 150 °C and typically will be manufactured in materials only suitable for occasional operation up to 200 °C. Temperatures in many applications can rise above this 200 °C ceiling for long periods at a time in the locality of the probe. During turbine run up where steam leaks are prevalent, it is key the measurement accuracy is maintained for both thrust and shaft vibration measurements as the turbine thermal characteristics stabilize. The new PRS05 solution maintains a measurement error of less than 5 per cent over the full working temperature range.

Rugged and reliable, the new probe incorporates a glass filled PPS bobbin case rated to 300 °C, which is both oil and chemical resistant. A bobbin expansion chamber and wire strain relief techniques for the cable interface are just two of the design enhancements incorporated to achieve the 240 °C rating. The instrument is supplied with a standard 0.5 m of high temperature PTFE cable and is used in conjunction with a coaxial extension cable, supplied as a tuned system with a driver unit

Other instruments in the standard Senturion range include straight mount, reverse mount and disc probes offering measurement ranges up to 25 mm. There is also an extensive selection of brackets, glands and housing.

Logging data in all weathers

2DI has announced that it has added the TR-51A and TR-52 data loggers to its list of products. These data loggers are manufactured by T&D, the largest manufacture of data loggers in Japan.

The TR-5x series uses an internal (-40 °C to 80 °C) or external temperature sensor (-60 °C to 155 °C). Each data logger can store 16 000 readings and has sample rates between once a second to once an hour.

This waterproof data logger can operate up to two years on an internal battery and is downloaded with a data collector to your computer. Frederick Kaestner, CEO, stated that these two products mean 2DI would be better able to meet the needs of its customers.

Light stick brightens up places where the sun doesn’t shine

Even where no mains supply is available, the new Lightstik from Thorsman, a company of Schneider Electric, provides a bright, convenient, dependable and very portable source of white light.

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Equipped with 34 super bright LEDs, the Lightstik features a built-in rechargeable battery that offers a long lighting time per charge combined with fast recharging.

The Lightstik is designed to give reliable service even in tough conditions such as those found on construction sites and in the automotive industry. It has an oil resistant NBR rubber skin, and an IP65 ingress protection rating which allows it to be used even in wet and dirty conditions. Its robust construction and its use of LEDs rather than ordinary bulbs mean that it is also highly resistant to impact and shock.

For added convenience in use, the Lightstik incorporates a multi-directional universal support hook and, in addition to its normal function of providing continuous illumination, it also offers a flashing signal function. A LED indicator is provided to warn users when the battery charge is low, and the unit can be arranged to turn on automatically when the mains supply fails.

As an optional accessory for its Lightstik cordless LED light sources, Thorsman offers a useful 12V charging cable that plugs into almost any vehicle cigarette lighter socket.

Pilot-operated valve offers users handy relief

Tyco Flow Control has announced the launch of the Anderson Greenwood Series 5100 pilot-operated pressure relief valve. The new modulating- action, non-flowing, soft seat pilot-operated pressure relief valve is designed specifically for overpressure protection of economizers in fossil-fired power plants in the power generation industry.

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The Series 5100 valve is the latest design innovation in pilot-operated pressure relief valve technology from Tyco Flow Control and its Anderson Greenwood brand to meet the most demanding applications. It is the first non-flowing modulating pilot-operated pressure relief valve that is certified under the stringent requirements of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code, Section I, with steam service capacity certifications in accordance with Section I and water service capacity certifications.

Additionally, it is the first all-plastic soft seat and sealed valve that operates as a non-flowing modulating pilot, requiring no component changes to handle alternating steam and water conditions. This design opens in proportion to relief demand and is suitable for hot water, flashing water and steam service without the operational performance problems usually found with spring-loaded pressure relief valves on economizer service.

Microwave pulse switch watches flyash hoppers like a Hawk

Hawk Measurement Systems has launched its new Microwave Pulse Switch, a comprehensive Sender-Receiver Remote or Integral System that addresses several of the power industry’s concerns for material handling, specifically in flyash precipitators.

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There is a need in the power industry to measure the bin level inside flyash hoppers under an electrostatic precipitator. These hoppers are usually ganged together per generating unit in arrays from 4 to 32 depending on unit capacity.

It is important that a properly maintained level monitoring system be implemented to prevent material from backing up in the hopper and damaging the precipitator, which would potentially reduce precip and/or efficiency. Various flyash properties, such as repose angle, temperature, dielectric constant, material buildup and space limitations present difficulties in applying process instrumentation correctly.

Hawk Measurement Systems’ microwave-based switch system has proven to be a successful means by which the bin level inside flyash hoppers can be measured while meeting the various concerns of the power industry. Hawk’s Microwave Pulse Switch uses radio frequency (10.525 GHz) to propagate a wave of energy from a sensor to a detector. It is similar in concept to the gamma switch, where an alarm relay is tripped if material interrupts the signal path. The RF energy, however, offers several significant advantages over other technologies.

The Microwave Pulse Switch is a span-measuring device similar to the radiometric switch that detects material in the path of the energy beam. The dielectric constant of flyash is in the ideal range for RF energy. It is also a non-contacting device, eliminating the possibility of process conditions fouling the sensor.

Using a low-energy source compliant with FCC CFR-15 rules for radiation emission, the Microwave Pulse Switch does not require warning sign posting for use. With an output below 10 uW/cm2, this comprehensive device emits less radiation than commercial microwave oven leakage. Additionally, the Microwave Pulse Switch is a high-powered device with a maximum range over 300 feet (91.4 m). Since its oscillator is solid state, the signal intensity will not degrade over time. Although the flyash precipitator application presents some challenges for proper operation, the engineers at Hawk have directed their efforts to come up with a cost-competitive alternative while keeping high performance and reliability in mind.

There are a few obstacles to installation that Hawk engineers have worked to overcome. Ceramic lenses are used by engineers to allow the RF signal to pass through the side walls since it will not penetrate steel bin walls like the gamma source. An aluminum conduit is also utilized to drop the temperature of the oscillator used in the microwave sensor because it can potentially reach temperatures of over 200 ºF (93.3 ºC), and the sensor itself is limited to a maximum continuous temperature of 160 ºF.

Hawk has also worked to simplify the installation, operation and maintenance of the components for field personnel by designing flyash precipitators as application-specific integrated systems for which no special installation tools are required.

Easing gland packing

Stockholding and operating costs at power stations, processing plants and many other industrial sites could be effectively reduced with Supagraf RibbonPak SC, which makers James Walker claim is a superior quality gland packing.

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Totally carbon-based, this new product provides high integrity sealing for steam valves at high temperatures and pressures. It also works as a long-life gland packing for high speed rotary pumps that handle condensate, process water, chemical solutions or slurries.

Product manager Andrew Goulding said: “We plait the length-form packing from high purity expanded graphite ribbons reinforced with carbon fibre. This construction gives strength and extrusion resistance, whilst allowing the packing to densify for high integrity sealing. It is also flexible for easy installation and conforms readily to housing irregularities.”

Supagraf RibbonPak SC is chemically inert in the range pH 0-14, excluding strong oxidizing agents. It works at up to 650 °C in steam or 450 °C in oxidizing conditions. Maximum system pressure in valves is 250 bar. In rotary pumps it works at up to 20 m/s shaft speed or 25 bar system pressure.

“This product directly replaces many different graphite foil packings and moulded rings used on pumps and valves across a site”, confirmed Andrew Goulding. It is supplied in all popular sections from 3 mm to 25 mm, boxed in 8 m lengths, or as moulded rings, split preformed rings and sets.

Software solution for automated documentation

PAS has announced the release of DOC4000 Express, an automated documentation and configuration management solution for the TPS system.

The new solution combines the functionality of the prior DOC3000 and Automation Change Manager solutions, and will be available from either Honeywell or PAS. Entry-level pricing makes it attractive to all customers, even those with small TPS systems or just one or two LCNs.

DOC4000 Express automates the documentation of all configuration information on the LCN, including tags, native graphics, GUS graphics, CL programmes, logic blocks, and more. In doing so, the software exposes the entire TPS configuration to the user, automatically identifying configuration errors, unused capabilities, and interconnections between all configuration elements.

Jack Bolick, president of Honeywell Process Solutions, said, “DOC4000 Express is an excellent solution for documentation of a TPS system. We recommend that all TPS customers who have not previously licensed DOC3000 or the more recent Automation Change Manager solution consider DOC4000 Express to capture the benefits of automated documentation and system integrity checking on their TPS system.”

Heat shrinkable tubing is clear as a bell

Leading supplier of advanced solutions and service in wire, cable and tubing, Alpha Wire International, has announced the launch of a new completely transparent, heat shrinkable tubing called FIT-CLEAR. The latest addition represents a unique addition to the company’s existing line of heat shrink products and will address applications where visual inspection and identification are issues once a cable has been dressed.

FIT-CLEAR is manufactured using a modified polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) material that offers UL VW-1 flame retardency with a low shrink temperature of 150 ºC. It has an effective operating temperature range of -55 ºC to +175 ºC with an approximate shrinkage ratio of 2:1 at 150 ºC. It also displays exceptional resistance to mechanical abrasion and cut-through as well as resistance to chemicals including solvents. Typical applications for FIT-CLEAR include: visual inspection and idnetificatio and jacketing for resistors, capacitors and other related components, in both high and low temperature, and caustic environments.