Finding fault underground

AMERICA-based company Innovative Utility Products (IUP) is looking to enter the Australian longwall market with its cable fault detector product – the Fault Wizard.
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John Smith and Mike Lester demonstrated the Fault Wizard at National Coal Show 2006 in Pittsburgh in June.

Angie Tomlinson

Published in the December 2006 American Longwall Magazine

The Fault Wizard is already well-established in the United States with well over 200 units operating in the country’s mines. IUP is now looking for distributors in Australia to help expand its market. The Fault Wizard currently has CE Marking, the European health and safety product label, approval.

A compact, 24kg portable unit, the Fault Wizard uses time domain reflectometry (TDR), or radar, to locate problems in the line that cannot be easily found by sight. The TDR technology is not new, according to company representative Mike Lester of Skaff Engineering, but the way in which the unit operates to quickly find problems and let the operator know about them is.

Cable troubleshooting begins with simple connections to an isolated cable. The Fault Wizard then sends a pulse down the cable to the problem and reflects back, giving the unit its data and an easily-read distance to the operator.

“We can figure out distance to open circuits, arcing faults, and dead shorts … very accurately, within a few feet,” Lester said. When the information readout appears on the screen, a sound is produced at the problem area – often loud enough to be heard over working equipment – that directs the user to the precise fault point.

The Fault Wizard is able to do low- and high-voltage tests and has a capacity of 10kV (good for cables up to 35kV rated), which Lester notes will not cause damage to a cable in good condition. Additionally, the unit can work on a cable up to 3km in length.

The unit is battery operated and can be stored underground when not in use.

With longwall faces getting wider, another advantage of the unit is its ability to be used at the headgate or tailgate, though Lester notes typical use is at the former.