You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2013.

The South African control and instrumentation (C&I) industry currently has to comply with a myriad standards which usually increase the cost of doing business, but do not appear to add equivalent value… (more)

“It is in every country’s interest to have a long-term vision and objective. In South Africa we have the National Development Plan (NDP) and we as Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) are very supportive of the NDP and believe that is a very good objective for “South Africa Pty Ltd.” That is how Graham Pirie, until recently the CEO of CESA and now strategic advisor, started our conversation. “Having said that, the plan is ‘the what’… we think that the debate should be more about ‘the how’. How is the plan implemented? Unfortunately what we see is that the NDP vision 2030 has become a political football between various stakeholders in our society. We are unhappy with that… (more)

This panel discussion addresses the pros and cons of engineering and busines qualifications. Academics and representatives of business and professional organisations were in invited to give their views… (more)

Keith Jones is the international director of Automation Control Products whose ThinManager network management software is a leader in thin client solutions management for industrial automation. ThinManager is distributed and supported in South Africa through Wonderware Southern Africa. Keith welcomes your emails to him at… (more)

This month’s letters are on the topics of energy conservation and control and instrumentation issues at the Medupi power plant… (more)

Patenting statistics are often used as a measure of innovation. A company may use its patent portfolio to create or enhance the perception that it is a technology pioneer, a visionary or a forerunner… (more)

“Reducing our carbon footprint” is heard in the corridors of power in many companies, but do people really understand what it means and how to walk the talk? Has it perhaps become more of a marketing ploy? If I could create a new entry in the dictionaries of the world, I would describe it as “optimising for efficiency” because achieving optimum operating efficiency will go a long way to reducing the carbon footprint!… (more)

Building the room around the rack can ease cooling challenges and save money. This article discusses the issues making data centre cooling more challenging than ever and explains why starting the data centre design process with the racks rather than the room can help businesses reduce energy consumption, increase capacity and optimise floor space utilisation… (more)

Every storage vendor in the market makes aggressive claims about their products, claims that are often untestable until after a purchase is made, and returns are impractical or impossible. Those same vendors minimise or fail entirely to describe the often messy and complicated details associated with installation, configuration and expansion, or the space and energy requirements of their offerings… (more)

As well as housing important active equipment, cabinets and racks also need to protect the sensitive data contained within them. This is why sophisticated access control and monitoring technology is an essential component of any containment solution. Security ranks highly on any data centre manager’s list of priorities and it’s not difficult to understand why, especially when you consider the devastating impact that downtime or data theft can have on a business… (more)

Time-domain reflectometry, more commonly known by its acronym TDR, is not a new concept. It is widely used in the electronics industry in the measurement of impedance and in fibre cables to measure the distance of a break in the cable… (more)

The world of rotary encoders is divided. On the one side are the advocates of optical and potentiometric encoders, and on the other, the proponents of magnetic systems… (more)

In the real world, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) are in charge of the company’s wealth-creating processes; it’s the heaviest of responsibilities and they do it extremely well. So why not use these same principles everywhere in the company?… (more)

The benefits of Moore’s law have resulted in increased performance and reduced cost for electronic products for more than half a century. The development pace and proliferation of mobile devices have leveraged Moore’s law, growing at a projected 24,9% CAGR for 2011 – 2017 (, 3 May 2012). This trend is fueling significant silicon process developments for consumer electronics as well as pushing signal processing for features necessary to meet demand… (more)

As implementers of control technology, we are all well aware that projects are getting more complex, expensive and time to market for is definitely getting shorter. These changes, in turn, have a particular impact on the testing, installation and commissioning of software and instrumentation systems for a project. I shall refer to the software and instrumentation systems as ”the automation system” in this article… (more)

Solar charging of batteries has recently become very popular. A solar cell’s typical voltage is 0,7 V. Panels range from a 1 cell to several cells in series and are therefore capable of producing a wide range of voltages… (more)

Three South African radio amateurs were presented with the MTN Radio Amateur of the Year Awards on 4 July 2013 for innovation and excellence in their support of amateur radio in South Africa.
Deon Coetzee ZR1DE received the Garth Milne Technology award for the development of the space frame for the SA AMSAT CubeSat project… (more)

IHS raises US$522-million to build more cellphone towers
Vimpelcom set to sells sub-Saharan assets
Mobile Money generates more than than 11 000 jobs in Kenya
Zambia’s Africonnect budgets US$7-million in under-served areas
East African banks hard hit by cyber crimes
Zimbabwe telecoms disrupted in run-up to election
Ethiopia signs first half of major network expansion deal
Nigeria’s Borno state blacked out in wake of Boko Haram attacks
Rwandans take to e-tax platform despite problems… (more)

  • Jabra makes music more portable
  • Headphones tough but great for listening
  • A keyboard that is not just a keyboard
  • Gaming keyboard takes you to the next level… (more)

For about two to three years now, Eskom has been lobbying government to declare coal a strategic resource, introduce mechanisms to control the price of coal to the utility, and limit the export of coal. This is being done, apparently, in efforts to try and secure the supply of coal for power generation at prices acceptable to the utility. The lobbying seems to have borne fruit. In terms of proposed amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, the minister of mineral resources may, by decree in the Government Gazette from time-to-time, declare selected minerals to be strategic, and limit the export of the declared strategic minerals… (more)

South Africa is on the brink of introducing a system of carbon taxes, and in May 2013 the treasury published the carbon tax policy paper for public comment. The paper has indeed attracted a great deal of comment in the media. Predictably, all the comment has been negative, with criticism leveled against the tax proposal itself, the manner in which it will be introduced, the reasons given for its introduction, the levels of taxation and many other issues… (more)

Common wisdom holds that every cloud has a silver lining and that the darkest hour is just before the dawn breaks. So it seems that the electricity supply industry, which has been shrouded in dark misery for six or seven years now – and rudderless for twice that long – may be experiencing its darkest hour… (more)

It is with sadness that the AMEU secretariat reports the death of Danie Potgieter who passed away on 19 July 2013. He was a well-known and well-loved honorary member and past president of the association. He will be remembered as a humble, friendly man with natural leadership qualities and a wonderful sense of humour. He was laid to rest on 26 July 2013, in Polokwane… (more)

The industry was saddened to hear of the passing away of Wynand Viljoen, who died on 11 July 2013. He served the city of Matlosana as the director of electrical and mechanical engineering services for 21 years. Viljoen was a registered professional technologist in electrical and mechanical engineering with government tickets in both disciplines. A memorial service was conducted on 15 July 2013… (more)

Underground coal gasification (UCG) coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS) offers huge potential as a method of exploiting large coal resources on land and offshore. In addition to numerous projects worldwide, there are several projects both active and being planned in South Africa… (more)

Operational flexibility of conventional power plants is set to become more and more important in the future. This trend is already becoming apparent in the power generation market and is also reflected in the changing demands made on fossil-fired power plants by the power producers… (more)

Paper insulated cables have been in use longer than any other type of cable insulation and are still a favourite with engineers. When selected properly and installed correctly, paper insulated cables can be relied upon to provide satisfactory and trouble-free performance… (more)

I refer to your article that appeared in the July edition of Energize concerning the misleading of the (uninformed) public by Eskom on the cost of keeping the lights on. I fully endorse everything the article’s author said but I would have gone a bit further… (more)

Roger Silberberg questions some of my earlier comments regarding the possible impact of emissions from Kusile. I have now had a chance to examine the original Riekert and Koch document very carefully, and have found a number of problems… (more)

Dry type cast resin transformers have been on the market for several years and have significant advantages over oil filled ones in many applications. A local company has set up plant to manufacture resin cast transformers and has produced the first batch for delivery to customers… (more)

Transformers in service generate a characteristic sound, classified as noise by people residing near these transformers. This article explores the sources of this noise and the ways in which it may be reduced… (more)

Power Alert is a residential load management tool that is unique to South Africa. It is extremely successful in creating measurable demand reductions, and has been awarded various national and international awards… (more)

Liquid waste handled by municipal wastewater treatment plants is being recognised as a source of biofuel that can be used to produce electricity in sufficient volumes to reduce the electrical load of the water treatment plant, and even produce surplus power to feed into the grid… (more)

A study into the feasibility of a design of a portable device that can be easily connected at industrial sites to generate green electricity from expended heat energy in order to power low voltage direct current devices such as cell phone battery chargers, LED lighting, small electronic appliances, and other devices that are often powered from the USB port of a computer… (more)

AC power circuits and components are designed to cater for pure sinusoidal voltage and current waveforms. In many applications, distorted current and sometimes voltage waveforms are encountered, which can have deleterious effects on circuits and components… (more)

Modern society has become dependent on a continuous supply of clean electrical power. But the power supplied by the grid is not always clean, or continuous, and measures have to be taken to mitigate this. The first step in designing the power protection solution to do this is to understand the types of power quality problems on the incoming supply and the nature of the loads to be connected… (more)

For the foreseeable future, all explosion protected (Ex) equipment used in South Africa, whether manufactured locally or imported, will need IA certificates before it can be put into use legally. These certificates may only be issued by a South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) accredited test laboratory, or by a laboratory granted temporary permission to issue certificates by the regulator – either the Department of Labour or the Department of Mineral Resouces. Both regulators reference SANS 10108, the classification of hazardous locations and the selection of equipment for use in such locations. This document is sold together with SANS ARP 0108, owned by the regulator and containing the regulatory requirements… (more)

The “SABS mark” was formerly accepted by the South African end-user as a sign of reliable quality but, with the drive for globalisation and adoption of IEC specifications, the landscape was changed for all technologies. This product certification scheme required manufacturers to apply on-going quality control through regular inspection and testing, audited periodically by SABS inspectors with the necessary technical expertise to conduct value-adding inspections and to provide technical advice… (more)

The problem is Acid Mine Drainage. But what are the solutions? Who makes the profits, who pays the price, and who picks up the costs? The mining industry? The taxpayer? Join the public debate on 29 August 2013… (more)

There are certain situations in which the discipline of arrested employees may be considered fair: The employee was able to return to work after being released, but failed to do so for no good reason. The employee’s crime brought the name of your business into disrepute. The employee’s crime affected the trust relationship between him and his employer… (more)

A number of conflicting and confusing messages have been circulated to electrical contractors about the ECA(SA), the Electrical Contracting Board (ECB) and the Department of Labour (DoL) over the past few months. This notice explains the role and functions of these organisations to clarify any misconceptions or misunderstandings that may exist… (more)

Vector will be publishing exam questions from previous exams issued by the Department of Higher Education and Training as a service to our readers who are studying for their Engineering Certificate of Competency. This month’s paper, “Legal knowledge: mines”, was set in November 2012… (more)

The Minister of Labour has signed the Collective Agreement for the Electrical Industry. Details of the new minimum wage rates payable by employers were published in the Government Gazette on 12 July 2013 and the increases became effective on 15 July 2013. A document with more information to assist members with the implementation of the increases has been sent to all members… (more)

Last month, we indicated that a common trend in terms of trade test failures is centred round the non-isolation of control circuits despite the fact that the main circuit has been isolated. The purpose of the mains isolator is to isolate the total circuit, both the incoming feeder line (single phase or 3-phase) as well as the control circuit. If the mains isolator is off and the control circuit can still be activated, the candidate will fail. This month we look at what seems to be less lethal initially, but can have severe consequences for the electrician. The purpose of earthing an installation is to guard every electrical installation and appliance against the effects of leakage currents, static charges and lightning discharges… (more)

Past ECA(SA) national president Reg Mayne has passed away on 15 July 2013. Reg has devoted many years of his life to the wellbeing and benefit of the building and electrical industries. He has also served his community in KwaZulu-Natal as a municipal councillor for 23 years. He came to South Africa in 1947 after having served in the RAF during World War II. Here, he was employed as an electrician in Bloemfontein before founding his own business, M&L Electrical, which is still in business today… (more)

How LED technology can contribute to achieving the goals of the Clean Development Mechanism. The United Nations mandates the parameters for the off-set of GHG emission reduction goals by creating a platform for financial and technological development which is legislated and ratified at country level. One of these mechanisms is the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)… (more)

This month’s letters focus on the banning of the incandescent lamp – some in favour, some against and some pointing out misunderstandings… (more)

Variable-speed drives (VSDs) have enabled unprecedented performance in electric motors and delivered dramatic energy savings by matching motor speed and torque to the driven load requirements… (more)

The four primary options available for maintenance and service of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) products, their differences and specific advantages… (more)

The vortex shedding flow meter first emerged 25 to 30 years ago and has grown steadily as a major flow measurement option… (more)

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