Protecting assets and the enviroment



 

Andrew Keefe, the product manager for impregnation products at Elantas represented in South Africa by Wilec, spoke to Energize during a recent visit to South Africa. Keefe was in the country to visit the company’s sole distributor in South Africa, Wilec, and local customers. He also addressed delegates at a technical briefing, hosted by Wilec, at Emperors Palace. He said changing people’s mindsets can be very challenging.

Andrew Keefe

What are impregnation products and where are they used?

Impregnation products consist of resins and varnishes. They are used in electric motors and transformers to protect electrical equipment from insulation failure. A resin is applied to the electrical conductors used in the armature and field coils of large electric motors to enhance the overall insulation properties of these windings. The resin dispels water, withstands high temperatures, resists acids and prevents physical movements of the conductors within the coils. This adds years to the working life of a motor.

How does this protection work?

Electric motors and transformers are often exposed to thermal, electrical, ambient and mechanical stresses. These stresses result from the harsh environmental conditions in which many of these electrical devices operate. Resins and varnishes add an extra layer of protection to the existing insulation on armature and field coil conductors, increasing dielectric and mechanical strength; as well as improving the Ohmic resistance, and thermal conductivity of these conductors.

How popular are your resins in the electric motor manufacturing and repair business?

Elantas enjoys a very large market share in the resins market. We are, without doubt, the dominant player in this field. We have achieved this through the acquisition of companies which make excellent products and by improving these products even further by investing 5 to 6% of our annual turnover in research and development.

How much is that in monetary terms?

Well, the company’s turnover exceeded €120-million in 2016, so the amount allocated to research and development will probably be about €6-million this year.

What are your plans for the sub-Saharan market?

Elantas and Wilec have have served this region together for over 30 years. As Elantas’ sole distributor in the region, Wilec will introduce our new generation of resins for traction motors which offer improved characteristics and better performance, and are more environmentally friendly.

In what way is your new resin more environmentally friendly?

Our latest generation is designed to give off less harmful emissions during its use and curing. Not only are the emissions in the new resin less harmful to human beings, but the quantity given off during the handling process has also been greatly reduced.

Would you consider local manufacture of your resins?

Elantas has manufacturing facilities in many countries. We prefer to manufacture our resins where they will be used because this ensures that we have control over the process and can offer direct support to our clients. However, for this to be economically viable, the market must be big enough to support such an investment. At present, the sub-Saharan market for these products is not big enough to warrant the company setting up a local plant in this region.

Does this mean that you have to visit South Africa frequently to support customers?

I visit South Africa at least once a year, but not for customer support. The team at Wilec are competent and capable to provide the support its customers need. My visits to local customers and Wilec’s offices usually involve product updates and client training. As new, young, engineers enter the workplace and start making decisions regarding motor repairs, we want to ensure that they are aware of the latest products and that they consider new approaches to the protection of the motors they repair.

How do you see the future of motor manufacturing and repair?

Automation will play a big part in the repair and manufacture of motors. Already, new processes and procedures adopted by some of our clients have reduced the time taken to coat and cure the field and armature windings of a large motor from four hours to 30 minutes. Automation not only increases the speed of the process, but also ensures a better finished product. However, automated systems require sufficient work to make them economically viable.

What are the greatest challenges in this industry?

It is important that we change mindsets and habits. Not every motor is given the correct resin to suit its particular application. This results in early failure so that the motor has to be repaired again or replaced.

Also, some motors have been working in certain applications for many years and were built according to specifications which are no longer deemed appropriate. In such cases, designs and specifications have to be changed to accommodate the latest generation of resins. This is a major part of my job: making sure that engineers and those responsible for the setting of specifications update these specifications to ensure that when motors – especially older motors – are repaired in accordance with the latest specifications, which should include the use of our newest generation of resins.

Send your comments to energize@ee.co.za

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