Ransom Family

Random Ramblings and Happenings

South Carolina

on May 21, 2014

Andy here.

I just got back from a trip to South Carolina.  It wasn’t a long trip, but tiring.  Two years ago, our customer Thomas Pump was trying to sell a set of pumps for spraying water on saws at a steel mill.  We went through several iterations of quotes, and finally built some control panels last fall.  They installed the pumps and panels a few weeks ago, and I came there to help start things up.

Here’s what part of the steel mill looks like from the outside.

They call this place the ‘beam mill’.  They make steel beams and have to cut them to different lengths.  The saws get hot and covered with debris, so they have to be constantly sprayed with high pressure water.

Saw #1.

There’s a sort of track that the steel beams roll along, the pumps were in this space alongside it.  The whole time I was in South Carolina, I was mostly sleeping at the hotel, or standing around in this space.

They put in four 200 horsepower pumps.  One for each saw, and a backup for each saw.  From left to right, there’s the motor, then the gearbox, then the pump.

We built two big panels, and one small panel.  Each big panel had a big circuit breaker, a big variable speed drive, and a bypass contactor (so if they burn up the drive, they can still run the motor).  The small panel just has controls in it and talks to the big panels by ethernet.  The top sections of each of these big panels is a ventilation fan, that is supposed to go on the bottom of the panel.  For some reason the guys decided to put them together differently.  Basically, I told them, “don’t come crying to me if your drives overheat and fault out, or if your back gets sore from leaning over to work your unnaturally low control switches.”

The small panel has a touchscreen with buttons and indicators on it.  Eventually, the guys at the plant will tie this panel in with their existing control systems and control everything from a central location.

Inside the small panel there’s a PLC (programmable logic controller) and terminals for landing control wiring.  Each of the big pumps had two temperature probes, and a suction pressure probe, and I had to write logic to shut down the pumps if something goes wrong.

Here’s my trusty laptop.  I tested everything before we shipped the panels out from our shop in Umatilla, but I had to add a little bit of logic to make everything work the way they wanted.  Then I gave my files to the guys at the plant, so they can make any modifications they decide they need later.

Here’s one of the saws in action, Monday morning.  They weren’t cutting anything, but they were shooting water on it at about 1100 psi.  I hoped that we could have been at this point Saturday, but there were delays.  First, they weren’t finished aligning the pumps.  The motor shaft has to line up with the gearbox shaft, and the gearbox shaft has to line up with the pump shaft.  The tolerance is 2/1000 of an inch, or else the seals and bearings on the equipment will be ruined.  This was done Sunday morning, then we had to wait around for a couple hours for someone to unlock the water valve so we could fill up the tank.  We finally started up the motors around 1:00 Sunday, then they were only going about half as fast as they should have been.  We were trying to think of what could be causing this when one of the guys showed me the motor lead diagram on the motor nameplate and said, “should we have wired it up this way?”  I’m not a motor guy, but my response was, “probably.”  Anyway, by Monday morning we had all the motors rewired and started, and I finally got out of there at noon.

At one point, on Sunday, they brought in this pallet of Gatorade.  I don’t know if this is a day’s supply, or a week’s supply, but they probably go through it pretty fast when they’re making steel.

I was at the plant so much of the time, that I only had about an hour to go sightseeing.  I don’t want to complain too much, because sightseeing isn’t the reason I came there.  There’s this neat bridge that goes across the harbor at Charleston.  I walked a little way on it.

Here’s Charleston.

On the other side of the bay, they have a sort of museum.  The aircraft carrier Yorktown is part of it.

Before long it was time to get back to the airport.  I did manage to eat at my two favorite places they don’t have in Tri-Cities, Waffle House, and Chick-Fil-A.



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