Monday, October 23, 2017

ERJ is a fly on the wall

Cobwebs on the roof of a barn
I am sometimes fortunate to be able to listen to successful people talk through their thought processes.  Today was one of those days.

The person doing the thinking is a very successful, local livestock producer.  He was buying some high efficiency lights for a couple of his barns.  He had taken working models out to each of his barns and tried them in various positions and was ready to place his order.  He was buying several that looked like this:

This is the top of the unit.  Retail price is somewhere between $100-and-$200 depending on Wattage and whether it is residential or industrial grade.
And several that looked like this:

Price is somewhere between $250-and $325 depending on Wattage.
As he was shopping the cords, brackets and other mounting hardware, you could see the wheels turning in his brain.

He asked the merchant about mounting options for the top unit that would discourage birds from building nests on top of the unit.  His concern was that bird nests would cover up the slots that allowed cooling air to convect through the unit and cool the LED drivers.  Hot LEDs are not happy LEDs.

The merchant suggested various mountings, including mounting it at a 45 degree angle so there are no horizontal surfaces.

The farmer was initially good with that solution but a brain in motion tends to remain in motion.

He started thinking about other "biologicals", specifically bugs.

We have Asian Ladybugs which over-winter in warm, dark spaces like the top of that lamp.  Barns tend to be rich in flies.  Where you have flies you have spiders.  Where you have spiders you have spider webs.

The top unit is vulnerable to clogging up with Ladybugs and cobwebs.  The bottom unit will happily churn out high efficiency Lumens even when it is 3/4 full of seagull poop due to the aggressive, heat rejecting fins.

When he whipped out his pen, he bought all of the deeply finned, more expensive lights similar to the one shown in the lower image.

This guy did not become successful by making stupid decisions.


The risk is in the rage
I believe that media figured out that outrage is as addictive as highly spiced food.  Both start out as a form of virtue signaling.  Eating Thai food confers a certain man-of-the-world aura while outrage on behalf of others confers a certain nobility.  Then  it becomes an addiction as we crave the rush and the peppers burn out the taste buds making regular food seem tasteless.  
And like highly peppered food, outrage is rarely conducive to peaceful digestion.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Three Ss

A perfectly ordinary Jeep in mid-Michigan.

And you never know when you might need a shovel.
According to the owner, the clamps are cam-shaft bearing caps from a 2.4 liter Ecotech engine.

The rack itself started life as shelving in a beverage cooler that the owner welded together.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Indian Corn

Corwin Davis of Bellevue, Michigan was an old-style truck farmer.  He sold sweetcorn, melons, squash, nuts...and "Indian Corn".

He sold directly to customers so he had constant and concrete feedback about what his customers found appealing.

Corwin said that the "magic" mix for Indian Corn, now known by the more politically correct term of "Ornamental Maize" was between 60%-and-80% yellow kernels followed by white, red and blue in decreasing amounts.

For example, 70% yellow, 15% white, 10% red and 5% blue would meet his formula.

Indian Corn is a "flint" corn.  It is primarily a hard, horny starch with a tiny nugget of puffy, opaque starch in the middle.  The horny starch is pearly/translucent.  The opaque starch is white and reflects light back through the pearly layer.

Blogging will be light this weekend due to family commitments

Friday, October 20, 2017

Another Thursday in Production

We were flying along producing about 400 units an hour when, after four uneventful hours of production, the system started faulting out.

The closest maintenance person went through the usual procedures.  He laboriously unloaded the work-in-process, lowered operating parameters to process initiation values, re-instructed the operator (me) to slow down.  After four or five minutes of effort, he got the machine fired back up.  And it promptly faulted out again.

The process was repeated and the machine faulted out AGAIN.  The old timer was at lunch.  He was called.

Over-load vs Over-temp
If you are like most folks you are going "Ah-ha! They overworked the machine.  They kept focusing on increasing throughput and broke the machine."

There are two pieces of evidence that make that root-cause unlikely.  The machine worked fine for four hours!  Why didn't the machine fault out in the 14,400 seconds that we were pouring the coal to it?

 Modern machinery measure load as current.  Approaching stall causes "in-rush" current because the inductive component of the load disappears.  In-rush currents are typically two or three times operating current.

The other piece of evidence was that the machine did not take off under zero load.  All the material had been pulled off the system.  All start-up parameters were set to zero.  And the maintenance guy still had to fiddle with it another four or five minutes.

The other possibility was an over-temperature condition in the motor.  The reason the maintenance guy's routine worked is because it gave the motor some time to cool off.

How to check it out

Well, for one thing the case of the motor was hotter than a popcorn fart.
This is a typical industrial, electric motor.  Notice that the cooling air does percolate through the stator and rotor.  Rather, it cools from the one end and through the case.  Also typical of high duty-cycle, industrial motors, this motor has cooling fins cast into the motor casing.

Another thing was that it was kicking out almost no cooling air.

The motor is in an inaccessible position.  It is difficult to see this end of the motor.
The motor in question is not in an optimal position.  Organic mud collected on the air intake and probably gummed up the fan blades.  Air flow was still weak, even after the air intake screen had been cleaned.

A couple of longer term fixes would be to clean out the cooling end of the motor, re-orient the motor so the cooling end was farther way from the cruddy mist.  A nice touch would be to find a collar of clamp-on, extruded heat sink material.  I did not measure the OD of the motor can but it looked like about 8".  Any leads from my readers will be much appreciated.

The final part of the puzzle is "Why did it run four hours?"  The probable answer is that the organic mud shrank when it dried out.  Four hours of soaking up mist caused it to swell enough to drive the final nail in the coffin.

This motor is plenty of motor, it just needs some TLC and to be spun away from the dirt.

Fake News Friday: Part II

Links found between athletic ability and poor academic performance.

A small study in France found a link between eye dominance and dyslexia.  Lack of a dominant eye was associated with dyslexia.  The researches speculate that dominance is important in discerning similar letters like "b" and "d".

Lack of eye dominance is similar to being ambidextrous, where there is no clear "handedness".  That is, the person who is ambidextrous can dribble, shoot, pass or "juke" with equal facility with either hand.  A player who can only dribble or shoot with one hand is much, much easier to defend than a player who can do so with either hand.

Malcolm Gladwell, in studying hockey, determined that competitive, team sports stratify athletes at a very young age.  The most promising 8 and 10 year olds go to "camps" and find mentors not available to less gifted 8 and 10 year olds.  While the originally less gifted 8 year old can learn to dribble with equal facility with either hand, the ambidextrous athlete can do so from day one.  The less gifted never have the opportunity to catch up.

It is unclear why "handedness" evolved.  It is clear that it would have become extinct if it did not offer a huge competitive advantage.  Some possibilities include:
  • Hygiene:  Separating the eating hand from the wiping hand.
  • Vestigial origin: Incrementally increasing brain size could only support the increased dexterity on one side of the body
  • Tool use: Tool like spears and bows put enormous demands on one side of the body.  Funneling activities to one side resulted in hypertrophy of one side allowing larger spears, longer range and deeper penetration.

Fake News Friday

Dramatic decline in flying insect biomass linked to decreases of anthropogenic atmospheric sulfur.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.

"This confirms what everybody's been having as a gut feeling - the windscreen phenomenon where you squash fewer bugs as the decades go by," said Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in The Netherlands.
"This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries.''

Photo credit Jan Smith
The study is based on measurements of the biomass of all insects trapped at 63 nature protection areas in Germany over 27 years since 1989.  The data includes thousands of different insects, such as bees, butterflies and moths.