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What's new in electrical manufacturing [Electrical Apparatus]
[November 21, 2013]

What's new in electrical manufacturing [Electrical Apparatus]

(Electrical Apparatus Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Attendees at Chicago CWIEME learn about new technologies and the global marketplace ROSEMONT, ILL.-An influential network of researchers and manufacturers met in this Chicago suburb last month to talk about the latest developments in electrical technology and further develop what has become a truly global market for advanced electrical products and processes.

The occasion was the Coil Winding, Insulation & Electrical Manufacturing Exhibition, or CWIEME, a meeting that makes up in quality of exhibitors and attendees what some say it may lack in size. This year's event, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Oct. 8-10, brought together 143 exhibitors and 1,095 attendees to network and to learn about the latest in electrotechnology and global marketing. (Photos from the exhibit floor appear on page 16 and 17.) What was discussed here may have tended toward the highly specialized and technical, but it should be of interest to anyone in the business of keeping electromechanical systems running. The sessions and demonstrations provided a glimpse of technological advances that could affect the aftermarket in significant ways for years to come.

What's in store for electrically conductive materials? What's new in the chemistry of insulation? Do electric vehicles and wind and solar power truly have long-term promise, or are they merely hyped-up technologies kept alive by subsidies? The answers to these and related questions could be found at CWIEME-or at least they were being earnestly addressed.


The conference was managed by i2i, a British producer of trade shows that acquired CWIEME last year and puts on similar conferences in Berlin, Bangalore, and Shanghai. In addition to the four CWIEME events, i2i produces trade shows covering a broad array of other industries, including gifts, fashion, retail, healthcare, energy, the environment, education, and media.

This year's Chicago CWIEME conference included the Inductica technical conference, a Machinery Zone for live demonstrations, networking events, and a roundtable discussion with the Transformer Association.

At last year's conference, numerous attendees observed that although the conference wasn't overwhelming in size, the quality of those attending was high. Much the same was being said this year. And again, as last year, attendees observed that the U.S. auto industry continues to recover, offering opportunities for manufacturers of specialized motors and suppliers to automated manufacturing systems.

"Lately, it seems the U.S. auto industry is getting stronger," said Adam Cook of Mitsui High-tec, Inc., a Japanese manufacturer of grinder parts, stamping products, and precision tools that is preparing for changes in its global network of vendors.

"We're looking for steel mills that can provide the quality we need, and a lot of this is in Japan," said Cook, adding that his company is open to changing vendors as opportunities arise. "Another thing that's probably going to affect the industry is antidumping laws, which could affect sourcing of electrical steel," he said.

Many suppliers in the U.S., Cook observed, claim to be suffering from steel dumping by Asian companies and are petitioning the federal government for antidumping laws. Some are concerned that steel prices may rise in the next year as a result of protectionist legislation in the U.S.

Changes in the sourcing of materials are also being observed by John Griffiths of Oriental Copper Co., a Taiwanese manufacturer of conductive metal machine components. Like Adam Cook, Griffiths anticipates changes in the way companies find vendors and customers in the global market.

"What we find when we go to the large end users, we find that they're open" to new suppliers, Griffiths said. The greatest challenge in exporting to the U.S., he added, is the logistical cost. Doing business in Europe presents somewhat fewer challenges, partly because of the comparatively simpler logistics, but also because Europe is a mature market in which Oriental Copper has cultivated relationships over time.

One might think that Europe's higher efficiency standards would make gaining a foothold there more difficult, but this is not the case for Oriental Copper. The European Union's demanding efficiency standards are "what gives us an advantage," Griffiths said, because "our materials are very energy-efficient." When viewed from the U.S., breaking into the European market may appear more daunting. One representative of a U.S. insulation manufacturer said that although his company markets throughout Asia, Mexico, and South America, Europe remains largely untapped because companies there have relationships with suppliers that go back many years-suppliers like Oriental Copper, for example.

Outsource or insource? The topic of global marketing was explored in greater depth by Farhan Mirza, president of BAFF Consultants, Inc., who talked about deciding between outsourcing and insourcing, by which he meant choosing between overseas and domestic suppliers.

His observations ought to gladden the hearts of U.S. manufacturers and their domestic suppliers, because "much of the manufacturing is moving back into the U.S.A.," Mirza said.

"We've been seeing a lot of outsourcing," he said of clients in India who are contracting manufacturing with firms in Europe and the Americas. His observation echoed what others at the conference were saying about the recovery of the U.S. automotive industry and of U.S. manufacturing in general.

In a typical manufacturing environment, Mirza explained, the location of supplies plays a critical role. The total "landed cost" of components, not just the quoted price, must be considered when choosing a vendor. Unions in the U.S. have "become more reasonable" in recent years, he said, contributing to the attractiveness of the U.S. labor market.

Factors to consider when evaluating the attractiveness of a nation to which to outsource, Mirza said, include the price of oil, shipping costs, duties and taxes, and the quality of labor and production. Increased burdens of outsourcing might include increased lead times, inventory carrying costs, and "risks that are beyond our scope of influence," he said, such as political instability.

In an ideal world, a company might source locally and build its product in a local fac- tory, but this often doesn't work out in real life, Mirza explained. When grappling with the decision to outsource or insource, companies should identify which partners will be "true partners" and will "weather the storm through thick and thin." Mirza said that "the supply chain is always going to be the forefront of your manufacturing operation." Companies that prove to be reliable suppliers can count on sustaining that relationship.

He explained how various procurement strategies have played out in the automotive and wind turbine industries. In those fields, he said, procurement has become aligned with needs, while the pace of innovation has increased.

Mirza has overseen a shift of suppliers from Germany to China, but he advises clients to keep Germany as a supplier, anticipating a time when manufacturing becomes truly global. "It was a true decision to not kill the source," he said of his commitment to Germany.

"By integrating business units into the management and risk strategies of new materials, organizations can overcome market volatility," Mirza concluded. "The takeaway from this session is that everything comes with an element of fair share of risk and reward." Condition monitoring If working smarter is key to building global market share, it is no less important for maintaining power systems, as explained by Tony McGrail, solutions manager at Doble Engineering Co., a company that specializes in diagnostics of electrical equipment, advising clients when equipment should be repaired or replaced. McGrail explained how condition monitoring of "intelligent" transformers can aid in this task.

Transformers fail for many reasons, he explained, including lightning, defective insulation, and electrical disturbances, to name just a few. Statistical modeling is useless in estimating when a particular transformer will fail.

"Every model, by definition, is wrong, because if it were right it wouldn't be a model -it would be the thing we're modeling," McGrail observed. The maintenance engineer's Holy Grail, so to speak, is to predict when a machine is going to fail and replace it the day before.

Knowing a piece of machinery's age isn't enough, however. You also need to know a transformer's condition. The probability of a transformer failing in a given year declines with each year, McGrail said, and a new transformer can be likelier to fail in a particular year than a transformer that's been in service for 90 years.

When attempting to forecast a transformer's remaining life, looks can be deceiving, McGrail added. First he showed his audience photos of a transformer that had failed but didn't look like it had failed, and then he showed a photo of another transformer that had fallen off a bridge into a body of water but hadn't failed. He displayed other photos of transformers that had caught on fire or suffered other apparently catastrophic damage but remained operable. His point was that you need means other than the purely visual to determine a transformer's condition.

Certain types of monitoring are unreliable. "Just because you have a light in your car that says 'check engine' doesn't mean your engine can't fail without the light going on," McGrail said. "If there's no condition monitoring, you don't know anything about a transformer's condition, except what you learned from the last test." So what's the best way to monitor a transformer? McGrail advises picking up partial discharge signals as part of condition monitoring and using UHF detectors as well.

Data gathered from a transformer comes in at varying rates, he warned, and the significance of any of these data at any given time must be carefully evaluated.

Doble's methodology is to look at assets, including transformers, create failure categories, focus on failure modes, and apply relevance weighting. Tony McGrail "The Smart Grid is two years ago," McGrail said. "Now it's the Intelligent Grid." The aim is for the Grid to "know" not only what's happening now but also what might go wrong in the future.

Advances in steel In addition to reviewing the state of the art in machine diagnostics, attendees at CWIEME were presented with news of the latest developments in materials, among them electrical steel.

Dr. Gwynne Johnston, vice president of steel technology at Tempel Steel Co., offered an update on non-oriented electrical steels for energy-efficient electrical machines, telling his audience that there are "exciting things happening in steel." The need for new, more efficient steels for electrical uses has arisen partly in response to the emergence of a market for electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, Johnston said. Traditionally, the performance of electrical steel has been measured by core loss vs. frequency, and one way to improve core loss has been by using annealed steel.

Using hybrid electric vehicle motors as an example, Johnston showed how, at certain frequencies, the benefit of using non-oriented steel declines. Until a couple of years ago, this was compensated for by making the steel thinner. But newer cold-rolled, non-oriented steel can also improve performance, as recent research has shown. "Steel grade development is very much alive and well," Johnston said.

Improvements in non-oriented steel appear likely to increase the efficiency and output of motors for hybrid electric vehicles, a prospect that "all the HEV manufacturers I've talked to are very excited about," Johnston said.

Apart from hybrid electric vehicles, there are some "great developments" in steel for induction motors as well, Johnston said. Induction motors present a particular challenge because, as he pointed out, as you add alloy, you lose efficiency. The magnetic properties of high-induction, cold-rolled, non-oriented steel are very good, "This is getting down to induction levels that would be close to pure iron," he said.

The implications for motoT design are "extremely exciting," Johnston concluded, because these steels offer "exceptionally good performance at low frequency, and quite acceptable performance at high frequency." A look at balancing Cutting-edge technology wasn't all that was discussed at the Inductica conference. There was also time for reviewing longstanding issues as well. One of these was motor vibration and rotor balancing, which was reviewed by James Hendershot, an IEEE fellow and a designer of electric machines.

He began with the example of auto tires that come out of balance. "The same reason you don't want your car's tires out of balance are the same reasons you don't want your rotors out of balance," he said. When it comes to electric motors, he explained, there are typically five sources of vibration: * PWM inverter frequency-caused disturbances. Inverters can cause resonance and magneto-stiction, formerly called "transformer hum." PWM frequency can cause bearing failures.

* Radial stator deflections from magnetic forces. Hendershot described stator deflection forces in switched-reluctance machines. Vibration from this cause can be mitigated by several means, including increased thickness of the stator yoke.

* Rotor-to-stator air gap eccentricities, often caused by production assembly practices that can cause these eccentricities.

* Rotor imbalance. Damage from rotating imbalance causes radial dissymmetry of rotor components.

* Structural vibrations in the frame and mounting, A damping system may be welded to the motor's housing to eliminate this kind of vibration. "Constrained layer damping" is also used.

These principles apply to all sizes of machines, from model airplane motors to 4 MW wind turbines with "a dump-truck load of magnets," Hendershot said. Some motors have complicated stator configurations that make balancing even more difficult.

What's the remedy? "High-speed induction motors need to have specially designed rotors" to minimize vibration, said Hendershot, who went on to explain various methods manufacturers use to mitigate vibration. Bearing noise can easily be detected with a Fast Fourier Transformation, or FFT analyzer, for example. Perforations in housings can reduce vibration in forced-air-cooled motors.

"You'll see a lot of manufacturers recommending that you do high-speed balancing," Hendershot added. Why, one might ask, does balancing an electric machine matter? "Not only is noise annoying," Hendershot said, "but vibration also indicates unwanted structural problems that can shorten the machine's life." HEV's and alternative energy The CWIEME conference concluded with sessions on electric vehicles and solar and wind energy, and the fact that electric vehicles were the subject of the conference keynote might give some indication of the program's priorities: this is a group that looks forward, not backward.

Ian Wright, CEO of electric vehicle design firm of Wrightspeed and a cofounder of Tesla Motors, explained in his keynote presentation why commercial fleets of trucks offer the greatest promise in converting to electric power.

One of Wrightspeed's clients is the commercial shipping company UPS. Research has shown that a $1 increase in a gallon of diesel fuel shaves $1 billion off UPS's bottom line. "This is fundamentally the reason we're doing trucks and not cars," Wright explained. Companies with large fleets of trucks have the incentive and the financial wherewithal to finance the design and construction of a fleet of vehicles.

Wrightspeed's "mantra," Wright said, is to make a vehicle that doesn't compromise performance; driving it should feel like driving a diesel truck. "If you want this technology to take off, you can't ask your customer to compromise." Wright went on to explain the efficiency of hybrid-electric trucks. The first 30 to 40 miles of driving, he said, is derived from power from the grid. Regenerative braking helps resupply the battery with electrical power. UPS drivers tend to make a lot of quick stops, which is one reason commercial trucks are a good application for this hybrid-electric technology.

Imagine a day when electric vehicles are powered by electricity generated by solar and wind power. That was the scenario conjured by Wright's presentation along with the presentation that followed, which examined the effect of wind and solar power introduced into the grid in the western U.S.

The speaker was Dr. Kaveh Aflaki, senior IT analyst at ComEd Solutions, a unit of Exelon Corp., and the region he covered encompassed the Midwest to the Pacific Coast and the Canadian border to the Mexican border. His research has shown the likely effect of wind and solar power if introduced into this section of the grid.

Some 20% of the electrical power generated in this region could be wind-generated by 2030, Aflaki said, and about 32,000 potential wind generation sites in the region have been identified.

Aflaki developed four simulations to determine the consequences of various combinations of wind, coal, and gas. He performed a smaller study to look at the introduction of solar power into the grid. One of the questions he hoped to answer: "If we want to retire coal or gas, which should we retire?" One of his findings was that "Southern California is an amazing area for adding solar," while Northern California offers numerous locations well suited for wind power generation. Another conclusion was that the likely contribution of wind energy to the grid in his various scenarios was more than 20%. Also, capacity factor is the most important variable in projections of wind and solar energy output. * By Kevin Jones, EA Senior Editor (c) 2013 Barks Publications

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