100 Australian Engineering Leaders Featuring Ampcontrol Co-Founder

This year Engineers Australia turns 100. In celebration they are showcasing Australian Engineering Leaders who “pushed boundaries, defied odds, and came up with innovations that no-one could have imagined 100 years ago”.

At Ampcontrol we’re proud our co-founder Peter Cockbain is featured in the Engineers Australia publication “Anything is Possible 100 Australian Engineering Leaders”. The book celebrates 100 Australian engineers past and present who have made a difference.

Peter is featured as a leader in manufacturing and strong champion of the Australian advanced manufacturing industry as well as one of the founders of the international business that is Ampcontrol. He’s in esteemed company, featured alongside engineering leaders such as Sir Peter Nicol Russell whom Australia’s highest recognition of individual engineering achievement is named and Sir Ernest Fisk who introduced Australians to the airwaves.

Peter joined Engineers Australia in 1966 and started volunteering around 50 years ago to return some of the benefits that Engineers Australia had given him. Peter’s voluntary contributions include National President of Engineers Australia in 2006, a member of the University of Newcastle Council, the Engineering Faculty Advisory Board and the University Student Services Board, a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, Senator Kim Carr’s Future Manufacturing Industry Innovation Council, a Director of Standards Australia and Chairman of the Standards Development Committee. In 2015, he received a Member of the Order of Australia honour for his significant contribution to the mining and energy sectors and professional organisations. Find out more about Peter’s voluntary roles.

Congratulations to Peter and all of the 100 Australian engineers past and present, who have the honour of being included in this publication.

Ampcontrol Finalists in the Hunter Safety Awards!

Celebrating its fifth year, the Hunter Safety Awards have announced the 2020 finalists who have demonstrated positive approaches to Work, Health and Safety (WHS) in their workplace. Ampcontrol is represented as finalists in three categories.

  • Best WHS Improvement Award (Large Organisation)
  • Best Health and Wellbeing Award (Large Organisation)
  • WHS Champion of the Year – Carolyn Parish

The Hunter Safety Awards was launched in 2016 to highlight and acknowledge companies and individuals within the Hunter region who demonstrate best-practice and innovative approaches when it comes to workplace health and safety. Find out more about the 2020 Hunter Safety Awards 

Let’s get flexible – how plug and play cables could be the secret to securing mining communications

In a world of deeper mines, rising energy costs and infrastructure shortages, mining companies remain under exceptional pressure to control costs, heighten efficiency and improve safety performance. Although there is no single easy solution, it is becoming increasingly apparent that technology will play a growing role in the mining industry of the future.

As the fourth industrial revolution progresses, data connectivity is taking a more pivotal role – information from sensors, data-heavy automation solutions and data analytics must be conveyed across large distances and through challenging environments. The mining industry is deploying automation technologies at a rapid rate, meaning the demand for flexible and high-bandwidth communication is soaring.

Fiber optic networks are a critical enabler of this bandwidth, providing a bridge between devices, data processing units and control systems which are increasingly being adopted across many sectors. With fiber optics come additional benefits including immunity to electromagnetic fields, galvanic insulation and future-proof advantages with regards to bandwidth extension. But mining environments pose a risk for the physical integrity of these networks.

With mines reliant on their communications infrastructure for essential safety systems and the critical link between operations underground and those working on the surface, network failure is not an option. So how can mining companies ensure high-performance, quality, reliable and long-life solutions that enable seamless underground communication networks?

 

Rapid and easy to deploy 

In mining, production depends on full and continuous availability of the network to ensure reliable communication with sensors, between machines and workers. Any damage to a mine’s fiber optic network, therefore, translates into significant expense and potential safety hazards. Hitherto, fixing damage was time-consuming and dependent on the arrival of a qualified fiber optic technician with suitable and calibrated termination tools and components.

Today, while network failure and damage cannot be avoided altogether, mining companies are able to massively reduce downtime as a result of network outages. This is due to a new solution created jointly by HUBER+SUHNER and Ampcontrol to enable rapid deployment of fiber optic networks in mines.

Leveraging the extensive experience of HUBER+SUHNER in providing solutions for optical connectivity in harsh environment conditions and Ampcontrol’s renowned expertise in providing integrated electrical and electronic equipment and power solutions for mines in Australia and elsewhere, the harsh environment reticulated fiber optic solution – H3RO – enables fast deployment of fiber optic networks in mines. The solution is based on standardised components that can be combined in a tool-box like manner. The solution’s modularity implies it is flexible in design, allowing for dynamic and easy modification and expansion of network architectures. This is critical in mines, where the network topology changes continuously as the mine grows/moves along. Also, because mine workers are frequently unskilled in communication technologies, simplicity of use and robustness against mishandling is essential.

Putting the theory into practice

The benefits brought by solutions of the two companies have been experienced by many mining customers, one reference case being an underground gold and copper mine in Western NSW, Australia when an existing communications cable was severed.

H3RO was deployed from an existing FOBOT (fiber optic break-out terminal) panel for a distance over 1 km along the roof, through a number of vertical drops and into another existing FOBOT enclosure. The solution’s plug and play cables and modular components made it the ideal choice for the fast deployment of cabling for this work. The IP68 connectors and bulkheads allowed a neat, maintainable solution that integrated seamlessly with off-the-shelf IP68 bulkheads and pigtails to match the existing patch panels.

Due to the modular installation and low-loss connectors, network expansion and recovery from similar incidents in the future is now hassle-free. The entire cable run consists of a quantity of four 260 m 12-core H3RO cables, making swapping any section out easy, rather than replacing the entire run or requiring expensive and time-consuming fiber field splicing in the mine’s harsh environment. The H3RO cables allow the addition of break out terminals (BOTs) at any cable joint allowing standardised and flexible network access/extension as requirements evolve.

H3RO components are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities, all items are tested and shipped with quality reports. This offers a more cost effective, reliable and risk-free solution to field splicing in an underground mine where constraints such as time, darkness and the dirty working environment all affect the quality of the job.

Find out more about H3RO 

Replacement Transformers On The Road To Western Australia

During the latter part of 2018, Ampcontrol was approached to supply a range of drop-in replacement transformers as part of a major upgrade of an iron ore mine in Western Australia.

This mine was looking to source reliable and robust equipment that was proven under onerous site conditions, including various levels of harmonics, ensuring continuity of supply and maximum product lifespan. Ampcontrol’s proven transformer designs and manufacturing credentials made us the ideal supplier.

In 2019 Ampcontrol delivered 20 transformers to the project ranging from 1000kVA 33kV to 10,000kVA 33kV all designed to suit existing mounting positions and cable connections within 5mm tolerances.

Production has been staggered to minimise site shutdown requirements and will be ongoing into 2020 when another 31 transformers will be manufactured, as well as routine and type testing to AS/NZS 60076, in our Tomago NSW transformer facility.

Measuring the response time of gas detectors

Just twelve months after completing his university studies, Ampcontrol Graduate Engineer Thomas Steigler will travel to Tokyo, Japan, next week to deliver the findings of his research work to the international IEC Gas Detector Standards Committee MT 60079-29.

Thomas has been studying innovative ways to measure the response time of gas detectors, and has developed a test procedure that is three to five times more repeatable than any previously used methods. This is significant as repeatability is the most important attribute of any performance test.

The results of Thomas’ work will lead to revisions in the international standards for gas detectors. These same standards will eventually be adopted in Australia, against which Ampcontrol’s Gasguard products will be measured.

Group Engineering Manager Ian Webster said “The invitation extended to Thomas to present his work is an honour for any researcher, let alone one who has only been working in the area for eight months.” He added “It is also a great credit to Ampcontrol that its Graduate Program allows and encourages young professionals to engage in ground breaking research that benefits both the company and the gas detection industry globally.”

Outstanding Supplier Finalist

We’re excited to be a finalist in the NSW Minerals Council 2018 Industry and Suppliers Awards.

Being chosen as an outstanding supplier to the NSW mining industry in our 50th year, speaks to our commitment to engineer, manufacture and support innovative solutions for coal and hard rock mining across the state.

Ampcontrol’s entry in the awards focused on the development and supply of H3RO, a reticulated fibre optic solution suitable for both coal and hard rock mining applications. H3RO has reduced downtime and minimised installation and maintenance costs across the 16 mining installations which have occurred since launch.

We look forward to celebrating with the industry and other finalists on 15 March 2018.

Find out more about H3RO

Our Award Winning Projects

Throughout Ampcontrol’s 50 year history we’ve sought unique solutions to help our customers tackle their operational challenges. We’re known for stepping outside the conventions of traditional problem solving and this has been recognised time and time again with a number of prestigious awards.

Research and Development Leads to New Products

In 1998 Ampcontrol won our first National engineering Excellence Award for the development of the iMAC monitoring and control system.

Ampcontrol’s iMAC system helps customers meet the challenges of maintaining safety whilst maximising productivity on both underground and overland conveyors.

iMAC remains an important cornerstone of Ampcontrol’s electronics product range and has a solid history of installation on some of Australia’s longest conveyors.

Find out more

We’re the First to Say ‘Yes We Can’

When challenged with an AFC that was impractical to power at the 3.3kV industry standard Ampcontrol looked outside the box.

The Blakefield South 11kV longwall was a world first and represented a significant step change for longwall mining.

Critical to the success of this project was proving the safety of 11kV electrical circuitry in a hazardous areas zone. This required extensive engineering, design review, calculation and verification testing.

Ampcontrol together with project partners Xstrata Coal and Joy Global won the 2010 National Engineering Excellence Award for this project.

Find out more

Stepping Outside Traditional Problem Solving

Seven years of research into the significant hazards variable speed drives can cause in earth fault limited networks culminated in the Engineers Australia National Innovation Award in 2013.

This project exemplified the role of engineering in developing and testing theories to solve real world problems, educating the industry and providing commercially acceptable solutions.

Find out more

Setting Industry Benchmarks in Arc Fault Venting

This project encompassed two key innovations: the development of a novel measurement method using energetic materials and the development of a composite high speed rupturing vent.

Motivated by the need to ensure higher levels of safety for personnel, plant and equipment in the vicinity of live electrical enclosures, this project exemplifies Ampcontrol’s commitment to safety.

This research and development won Ampcontrol a 2015 Engineers Australia, Newcastle Division, Engineering Excellence Award.

Find out more

Celebrating Multi-Disciplinary Design

Ampcontrol are committed to enhancing our products and delivering unique solutions to ours customers challenges. That’s why when it was time to re-design an outdated phone we started with the end user, what they needed and why.

The result was the VoiceCom Phone a lightweight, user friendly, robust and reliable phone for day to day and emergency communications.

The VoiceCom Phone has set a new standard in quality and performance of product design and was awarded NSW Good Design Selection in 2015 and the Hunter Manufacturing Awards Excellence in Product Design Award in 2017.

Find out more

The Evolution of Ampcontrol: From Start Up to Success and Beyond.

Join Ampcontrol Co-Founder and Company Director Peter Cockbain as he explores the evolution of Ampcontrol from start up to success and beyond.

The Ampcontrol story is one full of twists and turns, technological firsts, impressive growth and global reach, founded on a simple yet rock solid foundation of innovation.

In this presentation Peter will explore the highs and lows of Ampcontrol’s 50 year history and provide an insight into what it takes to develop a company that engineers innovative solutions.

Event details:

Hosts: Engineers Australia – Newcastle Division

Date: Wednesday 14 February 5:30 – 8:30

Location: 25 Bull Street Newcastle or via webinar.

Register now

About Peter Cockbain

Peter Cockbain is a leader, innovator and influential mentor in the electrical engineering field. Peter is Co-founder and Company Director of Ampcontrol, a preeminent national and international manufacturer of electrical and electronics products for the mining, renewable, infrastructure and industrial sectors. It is Peter’s vision, energy and determination to continuously improve and innovate which is supported by Ampcontrol’s investment in research, development and commercialisation practices that have seen the company thrive over the last 50 years to become the multi-national success story it is today.

Peter is a past National President of Engineers Australia and has served as a board member of Standards Australia, the University of Newcastle Council and the Prime Ministers Science, Engineering and Innovation Council. In 2010 Peter was named by Engineers Australia as one of Australia’s top 100 influential engineers for his commitment to innovation and in 2015 became a Member of the Order of Australia for his significant services to engineering.

Mechanical Analysis of a 25MW Turbine

Ampcontrol was engaged to analyse machine vibration on a 25MW turbine at an alternative power generation facility in QLD.

Achievements

  • Machine balancing
  • Identification and rectification of an oil whip issue
  • Quick implementation of a solution, minimising downtime

The Project

A 25MW turbine at the facility was experiencing high levels of vibration after being returned to service from overhaul.

Ampcontrol’s mechanical team attended the site and balanced the turbine. After balancing, the turbine ran with a very low level of vibration, significantly less that before overhaul.

The vibration level of the turbine remained low until reaching half load, when the vibration spiked unexpectedly and the machine tripped.

Ampcontrol reviewed the overhaul work and data from the vibration spike and trip. The fault was identified as an oil whip caused by the bearing being unloaded by the partial arc steam admission to the turbine. Exacerbating factors included the bearing journals being machined during the overhaul to the minimum diameter allowable and a combination of the as left alignment of the machine and the very good balance condition.

Oil whip as a result of increasing machine load such as this is uncommon. Commonly oil whip is a condition seen during transient machine operation, as an oil whirl latches onto a shafts natural frequency.

Our analysis indicated that this oil whip was being caused by the bearing being unloaded due to partial arc steam admission. This is where, at lower loads, steam is supplied through multiple valves opened sequentially to minimise throttle losses.

The machine design consisted of two main steam valves opening one after the other providing steam to just under 50% of the inlet.

Analysis of the machine dynamic characteristics indicated that if the sequencing of the inlet valves was reversed the unloading that peaked at 50% load would be reversed and bearing stability would be increased.

Ampcontrol proposed a machine configuration change that would rectify the problem and the OEM of the machine carried out this modification with minimal downtime.

Once the solution was implemented the turbine ran to full load for the rest of the season without any further vibration issues.

Find out more about our Mechanical Analysis and Testing Services