An App for Everything..

lora batesIn our modern Smart Age it appears there really is an app for just about everything, even DIY and home improvement. So, whether you’re looking for do-it-yourself project guides, calculators, colour matching, or even just clever interior design ideas and inspiration, there are lots of options for your mobile device. Here’s our top picks to get you going.

WikiHow

This is like Wikipedia but for the DIY set! WikiHow provides you with thousands of “how-to” guides ranging from tech and life hacks, quick repairs, DIY and even craft and upcycle projects.  Ever wanted to learn how to clean and maintain a drain, a rain barrel, or to frame a jigsaw puzzle? Videos, illustrations and instructions all of which can be searched and browsed.

iFixIt

An excellent DIY-oriented app, focused on do-it-yourself repairs. iFixIt includes repair guides for numerous categories of devices, from cars to smartphones, tablets and common household appliances and furniture. iFixIt’s guides take you through the process of breaking open devices, diagnosing problems and even making repairs and part replacements. Users can browse by category or device and if you don’t have the right parts or tools you need, the app helpfully includes links to an online store.

SnapGuide

Easily among the most visually attractive of the  “how-to” apps, featuring numerous projects, repairs, recipes and hacks that come loaded with detailed instructions and full-page photo guides. Users can view featured guides, check out a variety of topics from gardening, automotive, arts & crafts and other projects, as well as popular and recently uploaded guides. Users can comment on, like and share guides, or even create new guides of their own.

iHandy Carpenter

iHandy Carpenter takes advantage of your iPhone or iPad’s built-in sensors to turn your device into a handy set of tools. The surface level and bubble level bar let you check flat surfaces, while a plumb bob allows you to check the verticality of walls. A steel protractor lets you measure angles of up to 180 degrees, while an onscreen ruler enables small measurements in both inches and centimetres. Try it here for free!

RoomPainter

Take the guesswork out of paint matching and room planning with RoomPainter. Just snap a photo of your room and upload it through the app; RoomPainter processes your photo, analysing lighting and room layout to allow you to create accurate previews of how your room would look like painted in a different colour.

RoomScan Pro

Another app which uses your smartphone’s motion sensors to quickly scan and record your room and floor plan layouts. Simply tap your smartphone on the wall and wait for the beep, repeating on each wall and door frame that you want to record. Once done, RoomScan takes into account your movement through the room and recorded wall sections, intelligently drawing walls based on your recordings for a quick floor plan. From there, you can manually edit dimensions, input architectural symbols, and combine room plans into complete floor layouts. Users can save floor plans into images, PDF and DXF files.

Houzz

Also known as the “Wikipedia of Interior Design”, Houzz is a social network dedicated to architecture, interior design and home improvement. The official Houzz app serves as a massive repository of articles, discussions and photographs that budding home improvement mavens and interior design addicts can consult for inspiration and help. Whether you’re looking for DIY ideas, design inspiration, interesting pieces of furniture or simply want to get in touch with local professionals or talented amateurs, Houzz has something for you.

And if all else fails and you really can’t Do It Yourself……

Handy

Sometimes, you just don’t have the time, or a home improvement or repair job can just be beyond the skills of even the most dedicated DIY’er. This app allows users to book professional, background-checked house cleaners and handymen, view the progress of the booking and pay securely over the phone. Whether you need help cleaning up the house, setting up the AC or other bulky appliances, or need plumbing or electrical work done, Handy’s got you covered.

What is a “Smart Home”

Right back in 1923, the genius Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier (1887–1965) described a house as “a machine for living in”. Slowly, as the 20th Century progresses, this vision became more of a reality. First came convenient electric power which gradually stripped away the drudgery for household chore; washing machines and dishwashers, vacuum cleaners all began to find their way into our homes as the century progressed. By the 1950s, transistors made electronics more affordable to the mass market and appliances started to a degree to control themselves, via built –in sensors and programming.

Despite these early innovations, it is only now in the 21st Century that Corbusier’s vision truly takes on meaning, as the fully automated “smart home” becomes a reality.

Thanks to the internet it is now not only possible, but relatively easy, to set up almost any domestic electrical appliance to be controlled from anywhere in the world. Add to this the “Internet of Things”, and pretty soon all sorts of web-connected devices and machines will be communicating with each other and using automation to run yet more of our lives and our smart homes.
So what exactly is a Smart Home?

Imagine a central computer installed in your home which is wired up (or connected wirelessly) to various electric and electronic devices or appliances and can switch them on or off depending on pre-defined circumstances; set your heating to come on at certain times in different months, or depending on the ambient temperature; set your lights to come on at home when a sensor detects it is dark. Getting the idea?

Most homes already have what could be defined as “smartness” in existing appliances; most modern washing machines can be pre-programmed and central heating systems are likely to be thermostat controlled or include timers. Maybe you even have an automated robotic vaccum, that constantly crawls around your floors sweeping the dust?

Whilst these things are examples of home automation, they don’t really go far enough to be considered part of a smart home. The Smart Home concept takes things a step further by introducing centralised control, constantly monitoring the multiple appliances in your home and switching appliances on and off according, just as you would do yourself. So if , for example, light levels fall at dusk, it will lower blinds and switch on lights automatically. Or imagine moving between rooms and lights and music coming on as you move around.

Not everyone will be able to afford a Bill Gates style state of the art smart home built from the ground up, but we can all incorporate a bit of the smart home ethos into our homes.  Check with your local Electrician UK wide.

Industrial Robots; Revolutionizing Factory Automation

Image Oliver Brandt freeimages.com
Image Oliver Brandt
freeimages.com

The technological advances brought by industrial revolution were seen as the biggest achievements in the history of mankind where new and advanced manufacturing and assembling methods and processes were introduced. But who knew that the biggest revolution is yet to come. With the advent of industrial robots, the whole process of manufacturing has undergone a transformation. The use of robots has replaced many old industrial processes and practices and introduced automation into the industries. This has bore innumerable advantages to the industrial domain with promising impacts on the productivity and efficiency levels.

With the help of industry experts www.dualtec.co.uk, let’s talk about the industrial robots in detail; how they perform, and the efficiency levels they operate on. Moreover, the ways to measure the efficiency of the industrial robots will also be highlighted in this article.

How industrial robots perform:

Across industry manufacturer, robots are employed mainly at the manufacturing and production line where a task is expected to be repeated over and over again. The most frequently used industrial robots are SCARA, Cartesian, Fanuc, Delta and Six axis robots. The design, programming, movements, and control system varies from the type of robot being used. The industrial robots mainly contain robotic arms and control systems mounted together through the range of 2-6 joints that help to stretch the functions of the robots in different axis and directions.

While one may think that robots are the real automatons, but they are the products of human programming that are programmed to perform same task over and over again, while others may require robots to identity key processes and carry some actions to complete the tasks.

How to measure the efficiency of Industrial Robots:

Before employing the automation of robots in the industry, the manufacturers tend to look at the different aspects and parameters to choose the most viable and suitable one for the processes. The working envelope i.e. the reach of the robot within an identified space is the first thing that speaks volumes about the suitability of the robots within an industry. Aspects like compliance, speed, accuracy, repeatability, the freedom of movement of axis are also the defining features regarding the performance of the industrial robots.

Benefits of Industrial Robots

Without a doubt, the automation brought about by the robots has been the turning point for industrial processes. No matter how difficult or easy a procedure may seem, the rightly programmed robot can perform the task within a few time’s span. If a comparison between the manual labor and robots is made, the latter outperforms in terms of efficient performance, output delivery and quality of work.

While some may argue that the introduction of automatic machinery such as industrial robots, conveyor belts and lifting machinery has reduced the jobs for humans by a great deal, this point is overweighed by the efficiency and accuracy with which these machines operate; thus, this notion is subdued under the greater wellbeing of human development.

Alongside the output, the manufacturers can benefits from this cost cutting technology. The costs of production decreases once the a few robots replace hundreds of employees, and deliver the outputs within a specified time. With robots, the manufacturers do not need to fret over the motivation levels, intervals, overtimes or working conditions. Industrial robots come with the adroitness, flexibility and efficacy that sets the bar higher for the manual labor to reach.

So, above a few reasons why every other industry is introducing the industrial robots at their assembly lines, achieving their goal increase productivity and reduced costs. Once again, we are struck with the industrial revolution, but this time, its greater and exponential in terms of impact and results.

 

Essential Tools for Electrical Engineers

Newly graduated electrical engineers, or the aspiring ones, should know about the essential tools that they should have in their ‘arsenal’ before they start any engineering project. The lack of these essentials tools can be a hindrance in the completion of the projects while raising the overall cost.

Here you can learn about a few important tools that an electrical engineer requires, before embarking on an engineering project.

First things first, you should know that there are many different types of software tools that can help engineers in their endeavors, however, this article will be describing the hardware tools that are essential for any engineering project you may start up.

Soldering

The most common process that you will be going through over and over in a lot of projects is soldering; the joining of two metals using another metal. You will require a soldering iron/gun, solder and solder sucker.

Soldering Iron/Gun

The soldering iron and soldering gun basically perform the same function, the latter being more powerful and accurate. You should inspect your needs before you decide one or the other. Whichever one you decide to use, you will be using it to melt the filler to assemble different circuits and wiring. You can use the soldering iron/gun to build, repair or install many different types of electrical components and it is a must-have for any electrical engineer.

Solder

It is usually made of a metal that has a very low melting temperature; lead or silver are commonly used. This metal is melted with the help of a soldering iron/gun to complete a connection or connect two other pieces of metal.

Solder Sucker

When you begin your project, you will soon learn that you will need to disconnect or break connections just as many times as you will have to complete them. This will require you to have a solder sucker in your utility belt. The solder sucker is used in-tandem with a soldering iron or gun. The iron will melt the connecting metal away and the solder sucker can be used to suck the excess metal away so that you can have a clean working area. The aforementioned process is also called de-soldering.

 Cutting Tools

You will be dealing with a lot of wires in your project; they will be the basic component in all your devices. So naturally, you will require the right tools to deal with them. The two of the most important tools for dealing with wires are wire cutters and wire strippers.

The wire cutters are used to cute wires accurately without damaging the wires. If you use improvised tools for cutting wires, you will leave them unusable. So, do make sure that you have right sized and shaped cutter for the job you are taking on.

Almost all electrical wires are covered with some form of insulation; you will need the help of wire strippers to strip that insulation and expose the required length of the wires.

Measurement Tools

Find some good measuring devices before you begin work on your engineering project. A couple of good ones to have are Multi Meter and an Oscilloscope.

Multi Meter

Multi Meter is one of those multi-purpose devices that should be on your person at all times;at least whenever you are working on engineering project of any kind. It is a portable device that can be used to measure current and voltage, among other things. A Multi Meter will help you diagnose a multitude of problems in different kind of devices, whether you are creating one or repairing one.

Oscilloscope

Oscilloscopes can help you measure the fluctuations of electronic signals in electrical device. Get a digital one or an analogue one, whichever suits your requirements.

Breadboard

Breadboards can be the birthing place for you next big scientific innovation. They can help you create experimental models of devices and are reusable.

Now that you have all the information about the essential tools that you will require in your next project, get to building. Do remember that there are many other project specific tools that you may require to finish your device; so research the experiment in length before getting started.

Troubleshooting Programmable Logic Controller Networking Problems

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) have taken the basic role in large-scale industrial setups. Therefore, having the basic knowledge of their troubleshooting has become more important than ever. The process of troubleshooting starts with the correct identification of the problem. Inexperienced troubleshooters are prone to make mistakes at this step by mistakenly taking one or more symptoms of the problem for the problem itself. Doing so only delays the problem to a later date, causing it to grow meanwhile.

It is often seen that a process develops multiple small issues over time and as a result continues to function but fails to match the standard efficiency level. Then, the whole system breaks down due to a small problem. The system breakdown itself should not be considered as the basic problem; but those small glitches, which add up to reduce the overall efficiency and eventually lead to the breakdown.

Troubleshooting programmable logic controllers

The troubleshooting steps have been written below in bullets for better and easy understanding.

  • Keep the main power at 120 VAC
  • Ensure 24V power is available
  • Inspect the problem area
  • Ensure sensor operation is good in the problem area
  • Note sensor inputs to the PLC
  • Observe if altering the sensor state changes the input LED on the PLC to switch on or off
  • Find the input on PLC ladder diagram that controls the output
  • Check that output LED is switching on and off with corresponding input
  • Ensure output voltage is accurate and responds correctly to the input
  • Identify the output device and check voltage reaches the device and fluctuates with input
  • Make sure that output device is operating accurately
  • The performance of an input or output module may be poor in one circuit while perfect in other circuits
  • The modular internal circuit becomes a fuse and can be affected by a field short circuit if all the field circuits are not fuse protected
  • Replace the modular circuit if it is demaged
  • Shut down PLC main power and 24V power before changing any module
  • Identify the problem in the field circuit and replace wires if a short circuit is found
  • Even if the problem is found with the wires, check the device for short circuit and electrical and mechanical operation. Change the defective device and ensure the whole circuit is working perfectly. Place the circuit in operation and check again to ensure module and circuit are working fine.
  • Replace supply module if there is no output in power supply module.
  • Replace backplane as it may go bad.
  • Occasionally, the Reset key switch can be used to reset PLC. Make sure switching the PLC off does not affect other sub-set programs. Enable a restart by turning the key to the extreme right. Hold the key for 15 seconds and then, turn it to extreme left and wait. Return to the middle position.
  • The PLC may have a latch relay with no reset. In such a situation, the key switch reset does not affect the latch. Switch the power on and off to reset the latch and restart the program.
  • Sometimes, turning the main 480V power on and off is necessary to reset all the circuits.

Generally, the PLC works as a part of a control circuit and a complex system that contains motors, safety controls, controllers, and other controls. The system is supplied with 120VAC by a 460V/120V by a transformer. Some of the elements that are critical to solve maintenance related issues include a ladder diagram, wiring diagram, manufacturer’s Manual and troubleshooting skills.

PLCs may prove to be difficult when it comes to maintenance or repair; but it is due to their complex nature that in turn contributes to their functionality.

Things To Keep In Mind While Outsourcing Electrical Engineering Process

It is true that outsourcing your electrical engineering processes is hugely beneficial, and many of the biggest firms are taking steps towards it. But if you are still wondering whether to embrace this trend or not, then you are not alone. Outsourcing your electrical engineering processes is easy enough, but to maximize profits and success, you have to consider many different aspects of this practice. This is the only way for you to adopt it seamlessly in your firm and not face any ill effects.

The Value

Most engineering firms focus only on cost reduction when they turn towards outsourcing. The reality is that you have to look at the value of outsourcing your engineering process rather than just looking at the cost you will be saving.

A successful engineering firm requires access to the best engineering minds, so you need to look at the human resources you will be gaining by outsourcing. Most of the time the cheapest option is the worst option you can choose for your firm; you will save money on various ends, but you will be losing much more collateral in the end.

Direct your personnel towards vetting the people that you will be working with and the talent that you will be incorporating in your organization. The engineers that you outsource the projects to will be adding true value to your company and ultimately help you gain more success.

Collaborate

Another important factor in determining whether or not you will succeed in your outsourcing venture is your collaboration with the people that will be working with you. Most electrical engineering processes are highly delicate and even the slightest of mistakes can become the cause of a huge loss. So, sharing of information between you and the talent abroad is very important. Make sure that the agency you are dealing with allows you to communicate with the engineers directly, so you can get the necessary information across accurately.

Data Security

In the modern engineering industry, your success hinges on the next big thing your firm is creating. No thanks to the modern means of communications, this means that there is a big gap in your security when you outsource your electrical engineering processes. This in no way means that you should turn away from outsourcing; this only means that you should pay a lot more attention towards protecting your sensitive data.

Implement the most stringent data security measures you have access to, and involve your outsourcing vendor in the process while ensuring that they have your complete confidence. Only share the most critical of information with the engineers and include a term in your agreements with the vendors and engineers, which make them suffer a part of the losses you may have as a direct result of data loss.

Non-Essential Processes

One of the most important reasons why companies are choosing to outsource their electrical engineering processes is so they can focus on more business critical parts. You can perform an evaluation and outsource the elements that won’t disturb the daily procedures in your firm and which will allow you to save money, time and effort. At times difficulty is also a factor in determining whether to outsource a process or not. You may be finding it hard to import a raw material or the right tools and the country you outsource your process to may have that material or tools in abundance.

Firm’s Growth

An essential element that firm owners overlook while outsourcing their electrical engineering processes is the potential growth and reach of their firm. When you are tapping into the talent of another party, you also have the potential of breaking into that market and grow your customer base.

Keeping these points in mind while outsourcing your electrical engineering process will aid you in overcoming various flaws and maximize the potential success.

Inspection Checklist for Automated Factories

Partial or full automation is all the rage in the world of manufacturing plants these days, and why wouldn’t it be? With the biggest benefits of automating factories being huge reductions in production and labor costs, there is also an obvious increase in the productivity and efficiency of the factory.

All in all, anyone who can manage to implement automated manufacturing systems in their factories should go ahead with them. But be advised, there are some risks involved when you install automated machines in your factory. These risks can be mitigated by adopting a simple inspection checklist and ensuring that the checks on the list are performed regularly without missing a single one. This will make sure that your employees avoid any dangerous mishap. Care is always better than cure. Here are some of the most important points that one should include in their inspection checklist for automated factories:

The Work Area

Even in a fully automated factory, there are workers who are present on the floor at all times, so the first thing on your list should be the inspection of the work area. Check for any substances or materials that could cause the workers to trip or slip. Instruct workers on exit procedures in case of an emergency and where the exits are on the floor.

Safety Equipment

The workers present on the floor will need to interact or operate the machinery from time to time. They need to be well-versed on the safety procedures to follow while working with the machinery. They should know which safety equipment – gloves, safety goggles, etc – to use and where that equipment is stored on the floor.

The Machines

The machinery installed in the factory will require most of your attention when you are following your inspection checklist. Remember, in a fully automated factory, there are a lot of moving parts and failure in a small part of the system could compromise the whole process. Have the maintenance workers perform regular checks of the machines to detect faults.

Loading and Unloading

The loading or feeding and unloading mechanism of your automated system needs to perform at the optimum level at all times to ensure the highest level of productivity. The rates at which the loading/unloading machines are operating with directly affect the production numbers that you can achieve. The maintenance staff has to keep these machines working seamlessly by keeping them in sync and checking the fluid and moving parts regularly.

Include a Preventive Plan

You will need to introduce a preventive maintenance plan to keep the automated factory in commission even when there aren’t any workers present on the floor. This plan will even keep the machines operating overnight without supervision if need be. The staff you entrust this plan with, should follow it to the letter and never miss a beat; that is the only way it can be effective.

Monitoring

If you follow the checklist above, you will minimize the issues that arise in an automated factory. However, you can never expect the factory to run smoothly all the time. There are always going to be some issues that may catch you off guard. This is why you should ensure your control panel builders incorporate some type of remote monitoring system for the automated factory. You can setup the system in a way that it sends an alert to you cell phone or computer if and when something goes awry at the factory. The same alert system can be implemented on the phones of your maintenance staff so they can take care of the issue as soon as it arises.

Follow this simple inspection checklist along with some pertinent advice to make certain that your automated factory avoids any road bumps. The information above will also help you with handling situations that may sneak up on you, so you can steer clear of huge amounts of down times and keep your losses to a minimum.