Reliability of electrical power is the name of the game at EDM.
There are seen everywhere – overhead power lines – the most common method of power transmission for large quantities of electric energy. Power lines often consist of multiple small conductor strands attached by electrical compression connectors.
Compression connector failures can create significant risks to the dependability of aging power systems. Improper cleaning of conductor strands may result in higher resistance splices, which then can lead to premature failure. The traditional method of cleaning of conductors prior to splicing required line crews to spend significant time and effort wire brushing each individual conductor strand – a tedious, manual process that increases construction and maintenance costs, and if not performed properly can decreases the reliability of connectors.
To alleviate these risks, EDM International collaborated with Avid Product Development to design and manufacture parts for ConductaClean®, a tool to help utility transmission and distribution workers clean overhead conductors prior to the installation of compression accessories.
ConductaClean: Designed for 3D Printing
Avid Product Development took care of the mechanical design, prototyping, and 3D printing (additive manufacturing) of the final thermoplastic parts for ConductaClean.
To reduce the cost of goods sold, EDM and Avid agreed that components for ConductaClean would be designed for 3D printing. Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) not only significantly simplified the assembly process, but also eliminated the need for a two-step injection molding process for the spinner cap.
Originally developed for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing, initial prototypes were slightly permeable. The solution to porosity opportunely arrived with the acquirement of Avid’s first HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) industrial-grade 3D printing system.
Along with redeveloping the proper press fits for the bearings and reverse engineering the connection point between the battery and main housing, Avid’s engineers rapidly optimized the design for Multi Jet Fusion technology. One modification was hollowing the handle, trapping just enough powder material inside to feel solid, without impacting its mechanical properties.
Producing the parts from MJF High Reusability PA 11 (nylon) and applying a protective engineered coating finish provided the strength necessary for the finished product at the price point EDM requested.
“3D printing has become a wonderful low-cost option for smaller companies like ours” — Neil Hurst, Product Engineering Manager at EDM
Six months of combined design optimization and electrical testing resulted in the commercial release of ConductaClean and marked the first MJF production runs for Avid. The compact and portable design of the tool allows line crews to operate wherever the connector is most efficiently made, whether on the ground or up in a bucket. Ultimately, improving cleaning and reducing man-hour demands by making line crews more timely and efficient in the splice-making process.
A Close Working Relationship
Since playing a significant part in getting ConductaClean designed and manufactured, a close relationship has developed between the two companies. Avid Product Development continues to produce components for ConductaClean. EDM turns to Avid for the design, prototyping, and production of several of their products.
“Because we’re a smaller firm, product development is one part of a much bigger picture and Avid fills a very important niche for the design and production of smaller products.”
Having a partner with Avid’s experience has been a great advantage for EDM. “This relationship with Avid is likely to last a long time,” Hurst concluded.
Comprised of engineers, scientists, biologists, and business people, EDM International, Inc. provides innovative solutions for the utility industry across America and internationally. Spun out of research at Colorado State University in 2000 by four professors, EDM has become a leader in the electric utility industry with headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado and offices in San Diego, California and Billings, Montana.
The company takes a customized approach in helping their clients stay ahead of utility problems and avoid power outages. As Hurst said, “We look for the needs of the customer and we try to meet those needs as best we can. We listen to them, collect their feedback and come up with something that meets that need.”