Drives and transmission systems builders Technidrive is winning more and more large scale control and automation projects thanks to the installation of a demonstration and test rig at its new headquarters in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Founder and Managing Director John Coulter says he is astonished by the effect the rig is having on his business.
“We build control panels and I’ve always noticed that when we’ve got one near completion, our engineers play with it and use it as a demo rig to show just about all visiting customers the capabilities of various technologies. Often what they are demonstrating seems quite mundane to us, but to process engineers it can be a revelation. For the first time they actually see something work and realise that it would be useful somewhere in their plant.”
Technidrive was founded in 1998 and has been growing steadily ever since. Last year it moved to new premises and Coulter at last had space for his cherished demo rig.
“Inverter technology has really taken off in Northern Ireland during our time, so we have formed a very strong bond with our supplier Silverteam and their principal Hitachi Europe,” say Coulter. “I asked their advice about a demo rig, and they had the brilliant idea of giving it extensive simulation capability. At first I thought this sounded horrendously expensive, but what they meant was to include a touchscreen HMI with graphics capability and a decent-sized memory.”
The HMI is the central element of the rig, and is programmed with several typical applications, such as batching and mixing stations, conveyor systems, packaging machines, cascading pumps and wind turbines. With these many customers ideas can be explored directly; while other concepts can often be set up in a matter of minutes.
The rig includes many other technologies related to automation, such as drives, motors, PLC’s, sensors, soft starters, light curtains, etc. These can be incorporated into simulations, or tested individually.
“The rig is definitely winning us sales,” says Coulter. “Other factors in our current success include the new premises having all our stock – £1.5m worth – on display; the location giving us access to a wider industrial base and the national motorway network; and not least the new government is working hard to strengthen the Northern Irish economy by consolidating our manufacturing base. The last three months have been our best ever, but I expect them to be eclipsed by the next three.”