Archive for April 2015

5 Reasons to Add Lighting Solutions to Your Manufacturing Lines

April 28, 2015

Hi, my name is Andy Lewis with Innovative-IDM, and today I’d like to speak with you for a couple of minutes about a variety of lighting solutions that you can utilize for your plant floor, for your industrial facility.

We carry a line called Patlite and they have a wide variety of novel solutions to allow greater through-put, production visibility, enhanced speed at which maintenance is done and responded to, increase operator performance as well as, in general, give you an idea of where issues may lie in your plant and where they usually happen.

What’s great about lights? They light up, they’re bright, and they draw attention. Say for example, you have a plant floor with about 100 CNC’s; the plant manager is always interested in knowing when they make money, when they’re down, how much time it takes to go from loading a CNC to another part coming out and making money.

Enter the Patlite stack light. For example, green means that the machine is in operation, it’s actually using the CNC to tool the part. Yellow might be loading, and red flashing could be, emergency, machine is down for whatever reason. You can actually tie that in to faults from the PLC in the CNC machine.
Another example, say for example, you’re using an automated welder and you don’t want people to walk into the area where they might get an arc flash or something like that. Well, you can have visibility and safety for your customers and not only your operators by having this on outside the door, so they know that they are walking into a dangerous environment.

You have maintenance guys constantly going into panels. Panels could be eight foot tall with components all the way down to six inches from the ground. Lighting isn’t always the best in this situation. What’s pretty convenient is the magnetic strip on the back side here, and lit up with LED lights that won’t break on you if it falls. This will give better transparency and view ability for your maintenance guys.

Finally, one cool thing that Patlite is really good at is noise. What I mean by that, is they can tell a CNC operator “This step just finished, now load the CNC machine.” Or “Please press the start button.” There’s a variety of different alerts and instructions that can be provided.

If Patlite seems like a good fit for you, please go to for more information. Innovative-IDM is Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.

Why You Should Use Safety PLC

April 23, 2015

I’ve heard a lot of talk recently about safety PLCs. When should I use a safety PLC and when should I just use individual safety controllers? Well a lot of that has to do with your particular machine that you’re trying to guard.

If you have multiple zones on a machine, for example there’s 3 or 4 different doors that can be opened in order to clear a jam or maybe there’s some covers over different components that are spinning or possible pinch points, you’re typically going to protect those with some sort of safety device. Maybe it’s a safety switch or safety light curtain, each one of those are typically going to have a controller tied to it in order to monitor it and check for faults and ensure if someone opens a door or removes a cover that the machine stops in a safe manner.

If you’re dealing with a large machine where there may be multiple zones or multiple covers that you want to be guarding at the same time, you might choose to shut down only part of a machine if a certain event happens. In that case you can use a safety PLC. Just like its counterpart, the regular programmable logic controller or a PLC, you can wire in various inputs which would be like safety interlock switches, safety mats, safety light curtains and actually write a program that decides how to respond when it gets an input from one of those devices. For example, you can have a guard on one end of the machine open and it shuts down just that portion of the machine while it leaves the rest of the machine free to run.

Typically the breaking point is if you got more than 3 safety controllers on a given machine you probably want to start looking at a safety PLC. Very, Very, easy to implement, easy to program, and gets the job done.

If you’d like to learn more about how safety PLCs could help you in your application, take a look at We would be glad to help and remember we are Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.

4 Ways to Reduce VFD Downtime

April 15, 2015

Variable frequency drives are probably one of the greatest inventions in modern automation.  If you aren’t using one of these things yet, trust me you will be soon.  They are always getting less expensive, easier to use, the applications are virtually endless.  Now you can control the speed and the direction of the motor and save money at the same time.  These things are instrumental in a lot of different applications and therefore, their uptime is critical.  As you may know if you ever had to replace one before, it could be a little cumbersome to replace.  It’s always really a race against the clock, because it almost certainly means a motor somewhere is not running which is probably meaning some downtime for you.

So the first thing you always want to remember about VFD uptime is that heat is the number one VFD killer, or heat is the number 1 killer for any piece of electronics for that matter, especially VFDs.  These components you have to remember have high voltage running through them, so it could be 480-600 volts if you are in the Canada market running through them and they produce a lot of heat.  There are fans inside these things that are designed to cool them.  They also have massive heat syncs on the back that are used for heat transfer to the cabinet or surrounding pieces to keep them cool.  The one thing you always have to remember is you need to let your VFDs breathe.  They have to stay cool.  Keep the fans running, always keep the fans running.  The first thing that you are probably going to see that will fail on a VFD is the fan, because it’s always running.  Anytime the VFD is on, the fans are running constantly.  So you need to make sure you have spare fans on the shelf, you know how to replace them, and you maintain them.  Make them part of your preventative maintenance program.  Check and make sure they are running. Also, the heat syncs themselves can get very dusty, and that dust can build up a lot of that heat so that it can’t transfer heat properly and they will get too hot.  Always clean your heat syncs.

1. There are fans forcing air through the internals. Dust can build up just like a PC at home.  What do you do to mitigate that?  You get a can of compressed air and blow that stuff out of there every now and then.  Make sure that you keep a VFD cool and it will always be happy.

2. You want to protect your drafts from heat and contaminants, such as dust or particulate that may be in your air because of whatever process is going on in the nearby environment. You want to make sure the cabinet that these are installed in or at least the environment of the room they are in is a controlled environment.  Make sure it’s not going to get too hot.  If you are going to put it in a cabinet make sure the Nema or the IP rating of the cabinet is suitable for that environment to keep the contaminants from getting to this piece of equipment.

3. You always want to use proper electrical filters whenever possible. There are filters that are designed for use of both line side, which is between the power company and the drive, and load side, which is between the drive and the motor or the load.  There are inductive and compassitive type filters as well as RFIEMI type filters that are designed to help these things, help protect these things from power spikes, electromagnetic noise that may damage the input or output side of the drive or electronics.  So always try to use proper electrical filters.  It may cost you a little more in the beginning but you will be a lot better off in the long run because it will prolong the life of the VFD itself.

4. You always want to properly maintain the load that this motor is connected to. For instance, if you are not properly maintaining a motor and the motor burns up and the insulation melts inside the motor because it gets too hot, maybe because you didn’t grease a barring.  It could cause a short.  A short is going to damage the output of this drive and could cause the drive itself to fail.  So make sure you are always properly maintaining downstream equipment, the load that the drive is hooked up to.

If you have any more questions about this always feel free to contact us.  We have application specialists that can help answer questions as far as how to properly size them, how to properly size the cabinets that they are installed in, the environments they go in, as well as the electrical filters I mentioned, best practices to use when installing those.  You can also find a lot of information on our website  This is where you will find our knowledge center.  There is going to be white papers best practices listed there that you would want to use when selecting drives and components both upstream and downstream from the drive to help increase uptime.  After all Innovative-IDM is Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.

Clean Electrical Panels Save Money

April 7, 2015

Hi, I’m Adam Ring with Innovative-IDM. Have you ever walked up to a control panel and it just looks like a complete rat’s nest in there? Have you ever wondered, what would be the value of having a nice clean control panel and how can that save you money?

Well, there’s three main reasons. Number one is that it’s going to last longer. Number two, it’s going to be a lot easier to troubleshoot in the end. And number three, it’s going to be a lot easier to repair if something were to break.

Now, let’s take a closer look. Inside this panel, you’ll notice that there are labels on every device that identify it according to what it’s called out on the schematic. Also, every single wire that terminates into a terminal block, has a label on the wire that actually matches the label on the terminal block. So, if that wire were to ever come out or you had to replace a component, it can be very easy to make sure that it gets placed back in the right location.

Also, if you take a look at the general wiring in this panel, you’ll see that everything is very nice and neat, very organized and just has a very nice look to it. When the wires transition from the inside of the door panel, you notice that there’s spiral wrap that adds an extra layer of protection, so that if the wires rub against the door from being opened and closed, it makes sure that it doesn’t wear through the insulation ad cause electrical problems.

Finally, you’ll notice that there’s also stainless steel hardware that’s mounting each of these devices to the panel and that’s what will give it that extra longevity, so that it doesn’t break down over time due to corrosion. So remember, a clean panel is more than just looking good; it’s going to help save money, by lasting longer, being easier to troubleshoot and easy to repair.

So if you’d like to learn more about how Innovative-IDM can help you build clean control panels, visit our website: And if you like, we can actually have you in for a tour and show you around the place. Remember Innovative, Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.

How to Remove Water From a Pneumatic Air Line

April 1, 2015

Hello, my name is Chad Kauffman and I’ve been in the pneumatics industry for nearly 20 years now. Through my years I’ve visited many, many different types of plants and facilities, and a very common problem that I get asked about quite a bit, is “how do I get the water out of my air lines?”

Especially in the south this time of year, it’s a common problem for everybody as the temperature warms up. Air gets heated up and compressed in the compressor, gets out into the normal atmosphere of a plant and a facility, cools down a little bit, water forms, before you know it you’ve got water running through your air lines and all kinds of problems soon thereafter. So it’s a common and very costly problem that we all experience. It can cause major damage to your equipment, to your air tools, to a lot of the other components on the machine from the pneumatic valves, to the pneumatic actuators, to the pressure switches, sensors, etc.  Big problem, and costs can really skyrocket in that quite quickly.

One question we get quite a bit is “I have basic filtration already on my equipment or in my facility, why am I getting air in my airlines.” The answer to that is most filtration is designed to remove particulates and not necessarily moisture. So what we’ve got is a very nice solution that’s called the AMG micro mist separator manufactured by SMC Corporation.

This unit is a point of use filter that is strictly there to remove water. It removes up to 99.9% of all moisture in an airline. Again it is a point of use product. You put it right where you need it, where you have water issues. It pulls the water out and gives you clean dry air, keeping your tools up and running, reduce down time, etc. It’s very economical, typically cost is under $100 and it’s a great solution for point of use problems you are having in your airline. If you are in a facility where you are experiencing a more serious water problem where you’ve got water through all of your airlines in the entire facility, we would probably come out and recommend a series of filtration at the compressor, followed by an air dryer. An air dryer is a little bit more expensive but it is going to provide your plant with clean dry air, reduce your downtime, and save you a lot of money on replacement components.

If you would like more information about the AMG or the air dryer or the other services that we offer please go to innovative and click on the knowledge center, after all we are Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.