by Lesley Brook

Onwards and upwards

Modern machines need high quality electrical control systems.

When a mechanical engineering firm was building bespoke equipment for a New Zealand food manufacturing company, they called on Senior Lecturer Mike Keppel's expertise. Mike is an experienced project engineer in automation and controls for industrial systems, for example in the food production or waste management sectors.

This particular job was for a low-tension spiral conveyor. A product infeed system takes hot products from the oven and feeds them into the spiral conveyor inside a chiller. Half an hour later the chilled product emerges from the conveyor in another department in the factory, ready for further processing and packaging. The spiral achieves height while optimising use of factory space.

Mike Keppel designed and built the entire electrical control system for this equipment, working to specifications from the engineering firm. Features include:

  • A touchscreen user interface, to select the product type for example, or the belt wash/dry function;
  • Coordination of the two motors, in the spiral conveyor itself and taking product off the top of the spiral, using sensors on the belts, so that they move in sync;
  • Emergency stop facility; and
  • Remote access so that Mike can check and adjust the software as required.

The original equipment was installed in 2020 and operated successfully in the food production company until it was destroyed in a factory fire. A replacement spiral conveyor was built and installed last year.

Mike finds that his electrical engineering consultancy work complements his teaching and vice versa. He has time as a lecturer to get a much deeper understanding of the subject matter than he would get just as contractor. He can also take real world examples of what he has done and use them to demonstrate concepts to his Engineering Technology students.