THE EXISTING EXPERIENCE
Detecting potentially damaging Partial Discharge (PD) in electrical substations, cables, and other high voltage equipment was typically carried out using modified devices, coerced into PD surveyance functions. These kits were bulky, cumbersome and not ideal for use in the field. They also required significant amounts of time to manually analyse the data and make sense of the results.
HOW HAS IT CHANGED?
Field workers now have a dedicated, portable device that makes onsite PD surveillance a whole lot easier. The PDS100 has over four hours battery life and gives instant graphical readings that can be archived for later analysis. This technology is housed in a shock-resistant casing that can be confidently carried out into rainy weather and survive occasional mishandling.
Low cost, in-house ingress protection testing made it possible to tweak the design before putting it through external and often costly, formal IP testing. The device is rated to IP64.
The PDS100's commercial success came off the back of a warm reception from the industry, both in the UK and abroad. It became National Grid's standard tool for all in-field RF surveillance.
Making a Watertight Case
Partial Discharge or 'PD' is a phenomenon that occurs in high voltage equipment, such as electrical substations. Essentially an electrical discharge or spark, it can lead to the breakdown of insulating materials and eventually the complete failure of the equipment. The early detection of PD is crucial; especially at substations where power is being distributed to a whole region or section of a city.
In the past, the onsite detection of PD was carried out using modified devices, essentially shoehorned into this role. Not originally manufactured for this purpose, the kit was heavy, unwieldy, and power hungry, making it unfit for use in the field. It also placed onus on the field worker to spend significant time collecting, recording and tabulating the results of readings.
The PDS100 was the result of a collaborative effort, led by a team from Glasgow Caledonian University. It is portable, shock-resistant and waterproof up to IP64, making it ideal for use in the field. It was the first device of it's kind, designed specifically for this purpose and placing priority on the needs of the end user and the environment in which they work. As such, it completely changed the way that PD surveys are carried out, saving time, manpower and expense.
The PDS100 brings a raft of functionality together in one device, and the technology that powers this was developed by the team at GCU. Housing this technology in a single handheld unit, that could confidently be taken into the field, was the primary task given to Fearsome.
The design considered a number of misuse scenarios, including field workers dropping the unit onto hard surfaces or throwing it negligently into the back of their vehicle. It also had to cope with rain, which in our own fair city of Glasgow is not hard to find, if you wish to carry out some realistic prototype testing.
In addition to the main casing, Fearsome had to consider the various attachments that could be used in conjunction with the PDS100. These would need to be plugged in whilst still maintaining a waterproof seal. Low cost, in-house ingress protection testing was carried out using prototypes and early production samples. In this way any necessary design tweaks were carried out before taking the casing through more costly, formal IP testing.
Since its launch, the PDS100 has become the standard tool used by National Grid for RF surveillance of all power transmission and distribution equipment. Such was its welcome by the industry, on an international level that Doble have used the same basic design for their PDS200 and DFA300 products.
Following on from this project, Fearsome were asked to carry out some similar design work with Doble's DFA500. This time the equipment would be incorporated into a Peli Case, so that it could be carried around on site and only opened when in use.
In a similar vein to the PDS100, the DFA500 had to house critical technology in a manner that would withstand the elements. Also, having defined a particular visual ID for the PDS100, any subsequent devices within the same range would have to carry the same Doble family brand aesthetic.