Behind the Scenes of ECI Engineering…
The final product may look like a conveyor system that runs smoothly in a factory, a garbage truck that picks up & dumps neighborhood trash cans, or an oil rig that is able to move 1000’s of pounds with synchronized controls to “walk” to its next drilling location. All these appear to function effortless and smoothly but required hours upon hours from experienced engineers to create.
It starts with listening.
In order to design an effective solution, the engineer must begin by taking the time to fully listen and understand the application needs. Often, automation projects originate with a goal to accomplish a task more safely, with less labor or with reduced costs. The engineer must understand not only how the application currently works, but identify the desired results and how those results will be measured. Setting the criteria for accomplishment up front allows Elite Controls to understand when they’ve reached a solution that will be deemed successful.
Secondly, automation must provide a return on investment. Once the engineer understands the application needs, it’s then important to understand the value to the customer as to avoid “over-designing” a solution that is too complex or costly to be useful to the customer. This might mean evaluating several different design options and levels of automation as well as considering different vendors for the products and software.
Once the basic design requirements and proposed products have been confirmed, work can begin to bring all work together: mechanical, electrical and software design. If designing automation for a brand-new system, Elite Controls will help to specify and select the mechanical, hydraulic as well the electrical components of the machine. This can ensure that the mechanical and electrical systems work are compatible and will work within their operational limits. The HMI (human machine interface) is typically the face of the machine. A well-designed user interface that allows an operator to effectively control and monitor all of the functions of the machine can be important to the success of a machine. A successful HMI design will involve the customer, programmer and the operators working together to layout the control elements and data on the HMI screen. In hydraulic systems, accounting for differences in pressure and speed during start-up and throughout duty cycles can be essential to successful equipment design. Selection of sensors for key components come into play during this stage as well. Knowing how the various systems work together is critical to identifying a successful design and Elite Controls engineers have the broad base of knowledge needed to understand how the various systems work together.
The engineer lays out drawings and diagrams, then works to source specific components, usually for a prototype version of the equipment. Upon completion of the panel build and software design, the system is installed on a customer’s equipment and the process of testing begins. Equipment must be tested for safety requirements, operational requirements and usability by operators in the field. Elite Controls recommends considering preventative maintenance measures in the field, remote troubleshooting and reviewing instruction guides for operators before equipment can be deployed.
The role of an automation or mechatronics engineer at Elite Controls becomes a delicate balance between creativity to develop a new way to operate and rigorous attention to detail of operational desires, product specification and safety procedures.
The next time you see conveyor belts in a plant, watch your neighborhood garbage truck operate or hear a drilling rigs operating, we hope you can recognize the large amount of effort needed to create the systems which bring us important resources. Please contact Elite Controls for your next automation project.