Monthly Archives: February 2016

Touchscreen Repair: When to Replace, When to Repair?

Posted February 24, 2016 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Industrial Electronics Repair

When you talk about touchscreen repair, it’s more than just another piece of equipment. What if you had to sit and look at a cracked or barely readable computer monitor all day? Or what if your television were blurry and dim?

Parker CTC is a candidate for touchscreen repair

Parker CTC Industrial Human Machine Interface (HMI).

That’s what a machine operator suffers through when his touchscreen begins to fail. The human machine interface, or HMI, is the point where man meets machine in industrial controls – the touchscreen. Like most electronic devices, they can and do fail.

What parts fail on touchscreens? What parts are worth fixing? And should you consider buying a new one? All great questions.

Touchscreen Fail Points

Most industrial touchscreen interfaces have four main parts, and failure can occur in any of these parts.

  • touch glass panel
  • the display
  • the main board
  • the power supply

The touch glass panel is the most the common fail item. This is not surprising as it is the section people touch. There are two main reasons they fail and require touchscreen repair. The first and most obvious is when they are physically broken. The second is when the resistive material between the layers of the screen break down from heat or age.

Displays also fail. The modern displays are made of two parts: the liquid crystal display (LCD), and the backlight. Both can fail. The backlights are normally either florescent lamps or LEDs. Like light bulbs, these light sources have finite lifetimes (the LEDs having a longer lifespan). The LCD can fail, too, but not as often as a backlight.

The main board can be as complicated as a computer or as simple as a driver for the display. Either way, they can fail just like any other electronic device.

The power supply, often found on the main board, might be the most important part. Without the power supply, nothing else works. Power supplies normally use electrolytic capacitors because of their small size and cost. Unfortunately, electrolytic capacitors have a drawback: Like lights, they have a finite lifespan.

Yay! Touchscreen Repair is Possible

The good news is almost any failure in a touchscreen HMI can be repaired. The biggest thing that causes a HMI to be unrepairable is a faulty or ruined program. If the program is corrupt and you don’t have a backup, well, that could be an ender.

When would be a good choice to buy a new HMI instead of repairing? first reason is a combination between cost and time. Some HMI’s that were produced in small volumes just do not have parts available. Even though these parts can be custom made, the cost is usually not worth it.



Another reason to buy a new HMI is when your entire system is being upgraded and the choice of a newer HMI (versus trying to upgrade or repair the old one) provides you with newer functionality the old ones just don’t have.

James Nairn is a repair technician for Innovative-IDM in the Houston repair depot. He is also a member of the President's Club for excellence in serving customers and teammates. You can reach him at

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Electrical Control Panel Failure: 6 Prevention Tips

Posted February 23, 2016 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog, UL508A

Tags: ,

Electrical Control Panel failure is one of the dreads of plant maintenance managers. Usually, the control panels in a manufacturing plant are not just electrical in nature; they usually incorporate programmed PLCs and motor drives that require industrial field service beyond the scope of most general electricians.

electrical control panel failure: fried wires

Industrial electrical panel failure has many causes. Yet many are preventable.

Regardless of age, electrical control panel failure occurs for various reasons. Knowing what to look for first can help you avoid major electrical control panel failure before any major production or safety issues arise. Here are some common reasons for electrical control panel failure:

Power Spikes and Surges

Many manufacturers design their electrical control panels without line reactors or surge suppressors to guard against electrical spikes and surges. Unexpected electrical events from the power company or the elements can damage panels, leading to lost controller programs, faulted VFDs and damaged electronics. Sadly, much of the damage can be instantaneous. If you have AC drives in your cabinets, you probably should consider exploring how line reactors can help your maintenance program.

Tripped breakers or blown fuses

Depending on how an electrical circuit is protected, an overload will cause a breaker trip or a blown fuse. If your electrical system is acting funky, check for tripped breakers or blown fuses first. These circuits are isolated so the control system could appear to be functioning normally but part of the systems process won’t function.

Cut or grounded wires in the conduit systems

Electrical contractors will often use Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) conduit or flexible conduit in places where they be stepped on or damaged by contact. When damaged, the conduit can separate from the wires and cut into them causing them to ground on the conduit or cut in half. This can cause tripped breakers, blown fuses, shorted power supplies and unexpected machine operation that could seriously injure personnel. To prevent this, perform routine inspections of conduit systems.

Tripped overloads on power circuits

Most motor starters are protected using an overload set to the Full Load Current of the motor. If the electrical load on the motor is excessive or the motor windings short, the current will exceed the motors rated full load amps causing a trip. In most cases, the overload is wired using the neutral so when trouble shooting, measure from the neutral on the contactor and not the ground. Additionally, most overloads have an indicator on the front that alerts you when it’s tripped. Correct the problem and then use the overloads reset button to reset the device.

Loose or disconnected wires

Many manufacturers use screw terminals to fasten their electrical wires. These types of terminals are susceptible to vibration that can cause loosening over time, eventually leading to an open circuit that is difficult to troubleshoot due to the appearance of a connected terminal.  Regularly inspecting your screw terminals for tight connections will prevent this. Alternatively, many companies, including Innovative IDM, offer spring clamp terminal technology that won’t loosen and rarely has to be checked.

Carbon build up on relay or contactor contacts

Carbon naturally accumulates on contacts that arc when opening and closing. Over time, carbon will cover the contact, blocking conductance through the contactor or relay. An easy way to check is to energize the relay and use a volt meter to measure across the contacts to verify the contacts are conducting. If voltage is read across the contacts, you’re OK. If not, there’s your problem:Use contact cleaner to remove the carbon or replace the component if beyond cleaning.


Adam Ring


Electrical control panel failure can be mitigated by following the above troubleshooting measures. While complete failure is not inevitable, maintenance professionals also should keep abreast of the latest technologies and consider modernizing their equipment with a retrofit.

Adam Ring is an engineer at Innovative-IDM and heads up the contract manufacturing division. Ring also is one of the company's founders and original panel builder. You can reach him at

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Industrial Drive Repair: Replace or Repair?

Posted February 19, 2016 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog, Electronics Repair, Industrial AC Drive, Industrial Electronics Repair

Tags: ,

Industrial drive repair is an important discussion point in most manufacturing facilities. Often, the discussion is whether it’s worth repairing a VFD. Or just buy a new one.

Industrial Drive Repair

Industrial drive repair can be a tricky decision. When should you repair vs. when should you go ahead and replace the VFD? Read more to find out.

VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) have decreased in price over the years. And with standard VFDs, it’s often economical to replace rather than repair the VFD. A reputable VFD repair company will tell you up front when a drive just isn’t worth repairing.

Many VFDs ARE worthy of repair. Here are some examples where repairing and AC drive might be preferable to replacing it.

When Industrial Drive Repair Makes Sense

It’s a specialized VFD. Some plants have machines worth millions of dollars that have small, very specialized VFDs. Due to communication bus issues, spacing issues (or other application specific reasons) it’s just not feasible to replace them. Innovative-IDM and other reputable repair depots can repair these specialized VFDs and keep the machine running.

It’s a large horsepower unit. The larger the HP, the more likely it is that repairing the VFD is a better option than replacement. For one thing, the installation costs alone on a large HP VFD can be significant, often exceeding the repair costs. We see significant numbers of high horsepower VFD repairs at our repair shop.

Servos. Servo drives are, in general, expensive. They also tend to have application specific software and communication protocols and are often great candidates for repair.

There are large numbers of the specific VFD in the facility. Once you have spares, your maintenance personnel have experience on the units. Now you can use a drive repair company for backup; it might make more sense to stay with what you have and just repair the VFD s rather than replace with new.

We have many customers in this situation. They weigh the cost of the VFD repair, against the TOTAL cost of replacement, which includes things like spares, personnel training, etc.

So, what goes wrong with VFDs?

In general, VFDs are quite reliable. But like any piece of machinery, they have common break points that cause problems, such as:

Loose connections. Don’t laugh, it’s a major cause of VFD downtime. Check simple stuff first. Is a plug on the main circuit board loose? Check your connections before trying a more complex VFD repair.

Cooling Fans. Major cause of problems in industrial drive repair. Some VFD s will let you know about this, but most won’t until you begin tripping on over temperature. The overheating can, and almost certainly will, cause major issues long term. Check your fans often.

Electrolytic Capacitors. These have relatively short lives compared to other components. Overheating shortens it even more.

Power Semiconductors. These are less common, but drastic failures. If this happens, do NOT just replace the IGBT or Diode, find out why if failed. Or, you’ll likely just be replacing it again as soon as you power up.

VFD Software or programming. Was it running before you tried changing a parameter? Then put it all back to where it was and see if that fixes it. Don’t automatically install factory suggested software revisions until you back up what’s running. In general, if it’s running fine now, leave the programming alone.

Circuit boards. These are much less common industrial drive repair failure than one might think, but is often the first thing suspected when an inexperienced technician begins to repair a VFD.



We give firm VFD repair quotes at IIDM and provide free evaluations in our shop. Email me and I’d be happy to discuss your individual situation, or pass you along to one of our technicians for further discussion about whether it’s worth repairing your variable frequency drive, or replacing it with a new one. BTW, did you know that IDM stands for Industrial Drive Maintenance? Isn’t that the kind of repair company you want for your industrial drive repairs?

Marc Phelps is manager of the Innovative-IDM repair facility in Houston. You can contact him at

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Buzzard’s Bar and Grill Hosted by Production and Warehouse Staff

Posted February 18, 2016 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Employees, IIDM Behind the Scenes

Thanks to the Production and Warehouse staff for hosting and preparing lunch on Monday. Every month in 2016 a different department will host a Buzzard’s Bar and Grill with the help of the Dallas Culture Improvement Agency.

Keep Clam and Culture On!


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Culture Improvement Agency Dallas Team

Posted February 17, 2016 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Employees, IIDM Behind the Scenes


Say Hello to the 2016 Dallas CIA. The Culture Improvement Agency (CIA) is comprised of Innovative-IDM volunteers who help steer the evolution of our culture through: Events, Recognition & Morale, Communication, New Hire Onboarding and Community Outreach. There is a CIA team in both Houston and Dallas.

Dallas Culture Improvement Agency

Dallas Culture Improvement Agency. From left: Jesse Simental, Chad Kauffman, Michael Mueller, Anabel Simental, Gina Arredondo, Omar Mediano.



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EtherCAT Means Devices Can Communicate, No Matter the Manufacturer

Posted February 16, 2016 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog, Omron, Yaskawa

Tags: , , , ,

EtherCAT can connect to all manufacturers

Design engineers love EtherCAT because of its ability to mix and match between various components from different manufacturers.

When choosing an Ethernet communication platform for industrial machine control, it’s hard to ignore the virtues of EtherCAT. Its ability to mix and match between various components from different manufacturers makes EtherCAT a popular choice among integrators and design engineers.

EtherCAT is the fastest industrial Ethernet technology and has unmatched bandwidth utilization. This makes it an excellent choice for machine control, according to the EtherCAT Technology Group.

Omron’s NJ machine automation controller offers EtherCAT as a built-in communication network. And thanks to EtherCAT Technology Group’s testing for device compliance, users are assured that a certified device will work with other certified devices. This means users can confidently mix and match vendor EtherCAT certified hardware.

For instance, you can pair an Omron NJ controller with Yaskawa VFDs and Yaskawa servomotors, both of which have received EtherCAT conformance certification. This type of multi-vendor system might cause headaches on many other networks. But with EtherCAT, a skilled integrator can have these devices talking very quickly.

How to connect an Omron NJ to a Yaskawa EtherCAT servo amplifier

  • First, download and install the EtherCAT ESI from from Yaskawa. The ESI file is a free .xml format file Yaskawa created and published in accordance with EtherCAT standards. This file contains all the information needed by an EtherCAT master (the Omron NJ) to successfully control the EtherCAT slave (the Yaskawa amplifier).
  • Next, add the ESI file into the Omron ESI library. It can now be used by Omron’s NJ programming software, Sysmac Studio.
  • Inside Sysmac Studio you now need to add the Yaskawa device to your EtherCAT network map. This can be done by dragging and dropping the image form the library onto the network (this is only possible because you successfully loaded the ESI file). You will need to match the node address setting on the Yaskawa amplifier rotary switches to the node you assign in the software.
  • Finally, you need to map the communication objects such as the control and status word. This is easily done using the Detailed Settings within the axis of Sysmac Studio using the drop down lists provided.
Matt Meeker


That’s it. Within minutes, you can have functioning communication and control between an Omron NJ controller and a non-Omron EtherCAT device.

Matt Meeker is one of our customers' most highly-sought after resources for automation and controls systems advice. Matt also teaches classes on PLC programming at all of our branches or onsite at manufacturing facilities. You can reach Matt at

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