Fun Fact Friday: Manufacturing Process

Fun Fact Friday: Manufacturing Process

One of the lesser known services that Encorus Group offers is control systems engineering design. This discipline is relatively broad, so Senior Electrical Engineer Tom Gilmartin elaborates on when control systems engineering is widely used, which is in the manufacturing process.

A manufacturing process can be thought of as a lineup of equipment in a factory used to produce a product. The product can be anything, from orange juice to airplanes. The process usually includes equipment such as pumps, motors, fans, robots, conveyors, and the like. Typically, a process engineer designs how the system is to function, determining how much of which item (water, chemicals, parts, powder, etc.) has to move where in the system.

Once the process engineer has defined the process, mechanical and electrical engineers step in and design a system to perform the process. This might include sizing equipment, designing electrical feeds, laying out the process physically and fitting it into a building.

With the process defined, and the power and mechanical equipment selected, the controls engineer is called in to finalize the process. The controls engineer, with some help from others, selects instruments necessary to make measurements on the process, such as flow, pressure, temperature, etc. The controls engineer designs communications and wiring to allow all the instruments and devices to communicate to an industrial computer. The computer is programmed to run the process, and to monitor its operation. This often includes a “human machine interface” (HMI), typically a computer screen and keyboard, which provides a visual representation of what is happening in the process as it runs. Controls engineers will start up and test the process, adjusting programming as needed to produce the product correctly.

After the process is functional, it is turned over to plant personnel and run by plant operators. Normally the system will operate for 10 years or more, cranking out its intended product. Once the system begins to fail, the procedure of creating a new manufacturing process begins again.

If your company has a requirement for control systems engineering design, contact Director of Engineering Design Services Tom Gilmartin, PE, PMP, LEED AP, at (716) 592-3980 ext. 124, or at tgilmartin@encorus.com.

Fun Fact Friday: EIFS Inspections

Fun Fact Friday: EIFS Inspections

One of the many services offered by Encorus Group’s Civil Materials Testing & Inspection Group is EIFS inspections. According to ASTM international, EIFS, or Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, are an exterior wall system that consist of an insulation board attached to the substrate, a base coat, and a protective top coat. These systems offer constant insulation, and allow architects to design buildings without the added concern of choosing materials for insulation purposes.

EIFS were originally only used on commercial buildings, but have found their way into residential buildings as well. According to the EIFS Industry Members Association (EIMA), EIFS generally consist of:

• A water-resistive barrier (WRB) that covers the substrate
• A drainage plane between the WRB and the insulation board that is most commonly achieved with vertical ribbons of adhesive applied over the WRB
• Insulation board typically made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) which is secured with an adhesive or mechanically to the substrate
• Glass-fiber reinforcing mesh embedded in the base coat
• A water-resistant base coat that is applied on top of the insulation to serve as a weather barrier
• A finish coat that typically uses colorfast and crack-resistant acrylic co-polymer technology
EIFS claddings are becoming increasingly popular due to their energy savings and reduced environmental impact. EIFS can reduce air infiltration by up to 55% compared to wood or brick cladding. In addition to this, EIFSs are durable, aesthetically flexible, and are fire resistant.

Most EIFS do not have drainage systems, therefore if the moisture level becomes high enough, the substrate is subject to rotting, leading to the failure of the EIFS. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), there are several things to look for when examining an EIFS for moisture damage. Things noted by the ASHI to observe visually include, dark streaks at the bottom corner of the windows and where the ends of the gutters meet, obvious signs of physical damage such as dings or holes, and exposed mesh, the EIFS touching the roof shingles, and wrinkles in the EIFS. Another thing to observe is the condition of the caulk around the windows. If the condition is poor or non-existent, it is highly likely that there will be moisture damage to the EIFS. If the EIFS gives way and feels squishy, it may be loose or there may be a moisture build-up.

It is important to identify any issues with an EIFS, as it can save money and time in the construction process. If your construction site has EIFS that require inspection, contact Jeremy Lake at (716) 592-3980 ext. 133, or jlake@encorus.com.

Fun Fact Friday: Petrographic Testing

Fun Fact Friday: Petrographic Testing

When building any type of structure, it is important to make sure that the materials you are using are structurally sound to guarantee the integrity and longevity of the structure. Some of the most common materials that are used in modern construction are concrete products. Testing the integrity of concrete and other concrete products is referred to as petrographic testing. A full petrographic testing procedure is composed of two separate tests: the petrographic analysis and the air void analysis.

Petrographic analysis testing is performed on samples of hardened concrete or concrete products from construction sites, or existing concrete that has been exposed to natural elements. There are several reasons that a petrographic analysis may be necessary. They include the determination of:
• The condition of concrete in construction
• Causes of inferior quality, distress, or deterioration of concrete
• Probable future performance of the concrete
• Whether cement-aggregate reactions have taken place and their effects on concrete
• Whether the concrete has been subject to chemical attacks or the effects of freezing and thawing
• Potential safety concerns in the structure
• Whether concrete that has been subjected to fire is damaged
• Factors that caused a given concrete to serve satisfactorily in the environment in which it was exposed
• The presence and nature of surface treatments
• Investigation of the performance of the coarse or fine aggregate in the structure

Samples of the concrete product are taken by sawing off an appropriately sized piece (approximately one 6-inch diameter core) from the concrete at the field site. The procedure for a petrographic analysis includes a visual examination of the sample, followed by an additional examination using a stereomicroscope. If a conclusion cannot be drawn from the information gathered in the first tests, further testing may be done using petrographic or metallurgic microscopes, x-ray diffraction, or other chemical / physical tests.

A report on the findings is then prepared. If the concrete sample was being examined because of structural failure, this report details the interpretation of why the concrete failed based on the findings.

These procedures and reports are done by a concrete petrographer. Concrete petrographers need to be knowledgeable on concrete making materials, the processes of batching, mixing, handling, placing, and finishing of hydraulic cement concrete, composition and microstructure of cementitious paste, interaction of constituents of concrete, and the effects of exposure of concrete to a variety of conditions.

The second test that is used for the full petrographic testing procedure is the air-void analysis. This test is used to determine the air content, specific surface, void frequency, spacing factor, and paste-air ratio of the air-void system of the concrete sample. Examining these factors can help determine whether the concrete was damaged by the freeze / thaw cycle.

When concrete is exposed to the elements, water is likely to settle in the air-gaps. When the water freezes and expands, it could harm the structural integrity of the concrete. Therefore, it is important to calculate the size and frequency of the air-gaps to determine whether or not the concrete would be acceptable to use in construction.

The petrographic testing process is essential to the integrity of any concrete or concrete product structure. Without it, the concrete could be subject to structural failure that could have been prevented. If you need construction materials testing and inspection, including petrographic testing, contact Civil Laboratory Supervisor Jeremy Lake at (716) 592-3980 ext. 133 or jlake@encorus.com.

Fun Fact Friday: Drafting

Fun Fact Friday: Drafting

For this week’s Fun Fact Friday, we will focus on one of the more technical aspects of engineering: drafting. Encorus Drafter Doug Acquard gave us some information about what drafting is and why it is important.

Drafting, also known as technical drawing, is the creation of accurate representations of objects, systems, or building structures for technical, architectural, or engineering purposes. Someone who is skilled in drafting is called a drafter, draftsman or draftsperson.

In drafting, objects are drawn to scale, and usually comprised of multiple views of the object or structure. They can be very detailed, and are often used for the construction or assembly of an object. For drafting systems, different colored lines represent a specific discipline, such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and structural. Though the lines are shown on architectural plans, they do not accurately represent to final product, but more as a guide for the contractor to utilize.

One might ask “why is this important, can’t I just tell a contractor what to do?” Without drafting, there would be no way to convey the same message to multiple bidders for a project, or accurately maintain a set budget. Drafting helps keep everything organized and projects on schedule.

Encorus Group has multiple experienced drafters on staff. If you require drafting services, please contact Drafting Manager Shannon Vrenna at svrenna@encorus.com or (716) 592-3980 ext. 134.

Fun Fact Friday: Photo Edition

Fun Fact Friday: Photo Edition

Fun Fact Friday: Photo Edition
Did you know that wind turbines can be 300 to 400 feet tall and weigh up to about 350 tons? Encorus has had hands-on experience with wind turbines, providing Civil Testing services for the Arkwright Wind Farm! Learn more about Encorus’s larger-than-life Civil Testing experience here.