Upgrade your Loader’s Controls Systems

For the November Drake Blog, we thought it would be helpful to inform our customers of some reasons to upgrade their loader’s electrical controls system.  To learn several good reasons to do so, we contacted Miguel Negre, Drake Controls Engineering manager, about what a loader’s controls system does, problems caused by obsolescence of electrical components, and some reasons they may want to upgrade this system.

Miguel is an excellent person to talk to about this topic.  He has worked in the Controls Group at Drake for several years and has a Bachelor of Science in Mechatronics, Robotics, and Automation Engineering.

Drake: “Good day, Miguel.  Thank you for making time for us.  Before we get deep into this topic, why don’t you provide our customers with a brief overview of a typical loader’s control system.”

Miguel: “The controls system on a typical Drake loader includes a programmable logic controller (PLC), servo drives, variable frequency drives and a safety relay system. These components work together to ensure that the loader operates properly and uses its features to their full capability, all while maintaining a safe operating condition. Failure of one of the components in the controls system can result in the loader no longer working.  This may be due to an unsafe condition in the machine or because the loader needs all the drive components to function properly.  Basically, the controls system is what allows the loader to function correctly and safely.”

Drake: “Interesting, Miguel.  We’ve heard a lot recently about electrical components starting to become obsolete.  Which common components are becoming obsolete and what impact could they have on the loader’s operation?”

Miguel: “There are two big component families where we have seen obsolescence issues recently: safety relays and servo drives. While we have been using components that are still available for the last few years, many of our customers have machines running that were built twenty years ago or more. Those machines have components that are obsolete, including processors, safety components, servo drives, AC drives, etc., which means Drake can’t get those components for our customers anymore in the event one fails and their machine quits working.  It is only a matter of time before this happens and their machine stops running.  Unfortunately, we may not be able to help them when that happens.”

Drake: That’s too bad.  If a customer decides to upgrade their loader’s controls system, what are several reasons to do so?”

Miguel: “There are many benefits of upgrading a loader’s controls system that come to mind. For starters, upgrading the electronics will allow the loader to continue running at its full capability and extend its operating life. It will also allow the loader to benefit from the advancements in electronics and safety that have occurred in the last few years, which in most cases will increase the performance and/or features available for the system. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, if our customers plan for an upgrade while their machine is still running, they can avoid a big loss of production due to unplanned downtime caused by the failure of an obsolete component they can’t acquire anymore.”

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