Processing Magazine

How to protect your controls against deadly power surges

May 21, 2007

Lightning is an unpredictable event that can not only kill or seriously injure people, but can also damage homes and other properties. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, lightning causes more than 26,000 fires in the United States every year, resulting in an estimated $5 billion to $6 billion in property damage.

Power surges—often caused by lightning strikes, electronic device malfunctions and sudden changes in a power distribution system when the flow of electricity is interrupted, then started again, or when energy stored in reactive components sends electricity flowing back into the system. Power surges can damage electrical equipment, including computers, by arcing components or wiping out saved data.

THOR SYSTEMS is a company that reduces the risk of such damage to equipment and property. The company develops Transient Voltage Surge Suppression (TVSS) systems that reduce or eliminate harmful transients, surges and electrical line noise, thus preventing damage to sensitive electrical equipment.

THOR SYSTEMS has turned to Hoffman to make sure that every TVSS system coming out of its Richmond, Va.-based factory is protected in a Hoffman enclosure. THOR SYSTEMS chose Hoffman as its partner during the development stage of the products, when it was quickly apparent that the product configurations would need quality protection.

Without a proper enclosure, a catastrophic event could cause fires and/or corruption of other associated electrical distribution or control equipment. The list of unwanted scenarios that might result includes production delays, lost productivity, reduced sales, litigation, tarnished company reputations and diminished brand equity.

THOR SYSTEMS’ key focus is on three types of electronic system failures: catastrophic failure, usually caused by arcing components or destroyed printed circuit traces; system degradation of sensitive electronic components and chip sets, which continuously weaken until components fail; and system disruption power quality disturbances, which are responsible for most of the unexplained and more elusive system lock-ups, data errors, communication errors and slow system operation faults.

Hoffman sales representative Dave Whetzel was called in to guide and suggest solutions to address THOR SYSTEMS’ concerns about product protection.

“Bob Van Sickle of THOR SYSTEMS was looking for a quality manufacturer to meet all of his enclosure needs in a convenient and cost-effective way,” Whetzel said. “We discussed Hoffman’s custom modification enclosure solutions, which were made to fit his product needs exactly.”

After careful consideration, THOR SYSTEMS concluded that Hoffman provided the best overall custom enclosures. THOR SYSTEMS utilized Hoffman’s modification services for its CONCEPT® enclosures and aluminum boxes. Hoffman delivered modified enclosures as specified, enabling THOR to use them upon delivery, without having to make modifications themselves. These enclosures house THOR SYSTEMS’ surge suppression products that protect service entrances of large facilities, as well as primary and secondary building distribution systems. These systems can include large computer rooms and data processing centers, as well as manufacturing process control, small-business data processing and individual residential equipment.

“Hoffman provides us with the peace of mind that our surge protection equipment is being guarded so that an organization’s critical entry and exit points as well as its electronic controls are safeguarded,” said Van Sickle, who is president of THOR SYSTEMS.

Hoffman’s CONCEPT line was chosen because the enclosures are designed to house and protect sensitive electrical or electronic components from outside influences such as dirt, dust, oil, water or other contaminants.

“We chose Hoffman’s custom enclosures because of their quality, size, construction and outstanding sales support at all levels,” said Van Sickle.

Hoffman enclosures house THOR SYSTEMS’ two primary TVSS product configurations: TSr and TSn. The TSr Series uses Hoffman CONCEPT fabricated steel enclosures (20” x 16” x 8”). This product furnishes the highest level of transient and electrical noise protection and is typically applied at critical applications in the most severe electrical service entrance and main distribution locations. The TSn Series product is a compact, high-performance, non-replaceable surge suppression system, which uses Hoffman’s “Compact” NEMA 4x cast-aluminum enclosure.

“The customized boxes that Hoffman provided work very well for us,” said Van Sickle. “They provide the industrial construction and quality consistent with the THOR SYSTEMS surge suppression products.”