We have all heard of the trials and tribulations our National Electricity Provider face when it comes to conducting day to day maintenance. Often, planned and unplanned maintenance outages are scheduled to support the country ensuring electricity availability as far as possible. Not many of us know the kind of work required behind the scenes to keep the lights on. At Grinding Techniques, we are fortunate to be a partner to the electricity industry. Very involved in their work, we can share a little insight into the cutting and grinding processes they go through when dealing with a maintenance outage.
One of the most common unplanned outages is referred to as a tube-leak. When a tube has an imperfection, or has worn so thin that pressure generated by the steam within causes a blow-out or explosion within the boiler, serious loss in efficiency is caused.
Working on boilers and steam systems come with its own challenges. When having to work at a height of 50m above the ground in a space no bigger than a bathroom cupboard with the task of cutting a piece of pipe 6m in length with a 9-inch angle grinder and virtually nothing supporting the pipe on either end, one can only imagine the complexity of such a task.
The vibrating piece of pipe from lack of clamping coupled with such a small working area providing only limited air circulation and low artificial lighting with the constraints of your protective gear providing but a lifeline at 50m above ground, poses the unplanned and unthinkable when having to race against a deadline of three to five days and dealing with failure of equipment that needs replacement.
Unsupported workpieces being cut in constrained space, at almost impossible angles, with arguably one of the most dangerous power-tools available to man, is a recipe for disaster if the artisan is not trained properly. We often criticize, but rarely understand the level of commitment, skill and patience these artisans possess. Much credit needs to go to these training schools where trainers spend hundreds of hours preparing artisans for the job at hand. They build simulators and conduct numerous tests, spend hours on theory and practical examinations. No effort is spared in the quest to prepare them for the challenges they are certain to face on the line.
These dedicated pipe fitters, welders and boilermakers are unsung heroes in a world forgotten in the electronic era.
It has been a privilege for Grinding Techniques to develop custom products for these hard-working people during the past decades. Our products provide easier, smoother cuts that are safer than ever before providing increased cuts per wheel to save thousands of Rands and man hours in the job at hand. As a result, less down time in tool changes amounts to a tremendous increase in productivity. A smoother cut in an environment where the job cannot be supported makes the operation safer, as there is a smaller likelihood of the wheel being gripped by the job ending in wheel failure – this and other big bore applications brought forth the development of the renowned Superflex 230×2, 5×22, 2 XR cutting disc.
A further development was the Superflex IPDS product range that successfully removes build-up in seconds. Once the pipe has been cut, mineral build-up on the inside of the tube needs to be removed. Our IPDS product removes this build up in seconds rather than minutes -adding to increased productivity on the line. Having proven themselves on this application, our IPDS points are available in more than one shape and size, to facilitate the different pipe sizes.
Grinding Techniques also introduced new innovative technology in cutting big-bore pipes with the latest abrasive product designs. Resulting in not only reducing cutting time significantly but also minimising the preparation time required prior to welding by several hours – all due to a reduction in change of the molecular structure of the material as we limit heat input during the cutting process.
The first “free-hand” 350mm cut off wheel was designed with these applications in mind. The Superflex 350x4x25, 4 ZA24P wheels work with an incredible rate of cut, and come with a very high safety rating. The machines used with this wheel have been available in other parts of the world for quite some time, but we have only been introduced to them fairly recently in South Africa. We believe that introduction of these machine will be seen more and more in the near future.
By introducing all of these innovations we as Grinding Techniques believe our contributions to a better productivity environment assist in the reduction of operator fatigue and improve concentration levels. Which in turn will assist all the key players in the electricity industry to keep the lights on.