Unplanned Plant or Equipment Shutdown? EMI May Be Your Issue

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Unplanned Plant or Equipment Shutdown? EMI May Be Your Issue

Equipment failure and unplanned shutdowns can be catastrophic for a business. Operational disruptions can cost facilities hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity and revenue. Missed project deadlines also damage your company’s reputation, and faulty equipment can put employee safety at risk.

When you experience equipment shutdowns, quickly uncovering the cause is a priority. However, plants often fail to explore one common culprit: electromagnetic interference (EMI). If you trace the root cause of your shutdown to EMI and locate potential sources, then your facility can create an effective plan to protect your equipment and keep it running smoothly. Read on to learn about real-world examples of EMI-based malfunctions in various industries, and how companies can resolve the problem and improve the integrity of their operations with MH&W Filter Solutions.

Understanding EMI and Its Impact

Electronics play a vital role in virtually every industry. Manufacturing and processing plants, for example, have multiple layers of electronics, ranging from industrial equipment, climate control units, and lighting systems to appliances, administrative computers, and employees’ phones. All of these systems and devices may be running simultaneously within a compact space and creating electromagnetic interference.

EMI is unintentional electronic noise that affects or disrupts circuits and electronics. It can cause humming, disrupt performance, power electronics on or off, or even cause electrical malfunctions that lead to excessive heat and create a fire risk. When equipment isn’t adequately shielded to mitigate interference, EMI can lead to significant equipment failure in diverse applications.

Semiconductor Manufacturing

Vladimir Kraz of Credence Technologies presented a paper titled “EMI Issues in Semiconductor Manufacturing Environment” in 2006 at the Taiwan ESD Symposium. In it, Kraz details the challenges EMI poses for the semiconductor manufacturing industry, such as:

  • Equipment malfunctions
  • Operational downtime
  • Parametric errors

Even the cleanrooms that manufacturers use for processing sensitive semiconductor components are vulnerable. Such problems become increasingly severe as, due to technological advancements, equipment grows more sensitive to EMI. In semiconductor manufacturing settings, intentional emissions from on-site tools, parasitic emissions, and events of electrostatic discharge (ESD) can all result in conducted, radiated, or mixed EMI, causing anything from small malfunctions to full outages.

Spacecraft Electronic Systems

July 1995 NASA Reference Publication 1374, “Electronic Systems Failures and Anomalies Attributed to Electromagnetic Interference” edited by R.D. Leach and M.B. Alexander, discusses the impact that EMI has on electronic systems critical to missions in space. Like with semiconductor manufacturing, as systems in the aerospace sector have evolved, they’ve also become increasingly vulnerable to EMI, causing various operational anomalies and system failures.

The reference publication provides multiple case histories of EMI-based challenges, giving such examples as: 

  • A preflight extraneous signal regarding the beat frequency of a Saturn launch vehicle
  • Anomalies with the Payload General Support Computer (PGSC) for Spacelab
  • Automobile, aircraft, and marine vessel systems in non-NASA contexts

Ultimately, the paper concludes that electromagnetic compatibility is essential to successful missions in minimizing EMI.

Consequences of Unplanned Shutdowns

Unplanned shutdowns, regardless of the cause or duration, negatively impact operations. When equipment isn’t working properly, production or project missions come to a halt, with plant productivity and revenue taking a substantial hit. The likelihood of missing important deadlines increases, and facilities need to spend money on troubleshooting, repairs, and overtime labor. Outages can also lead to failure in safety systems and protocols, while malfunctions can cause electrical fires and an additional loss of assets. Companies that proactively invest in EMI shielding solutions for their equipment can realize an optimal ROI by avoiding the expense and risk of liability with plant shutdowns.

The Solution

Once you’ve determined that EMI is the cause of your equipment shutdowns and operation disruptions, the next step is choosing the optimal solution to resolve the issue, such as using inductive absorbers. CoolBLUE® Inductive Absorbers are common mode chokes, which effectively suppress EMI emitting from a power supply. They reduce common mode current’s effect, keeping EMI from disrupting the electrical components within shielded equipment. As a result, protected parts and equipment run more predictably, reducing the risk of downtime, costly malfunctions and maintenance, and unsafe conditions to keep your operations on track.

Minimize Shutdown Risks With MH&W

EMI is a significant problem across industries. With CoolBLUE® Inductive Absorbers from MH&W, your trusted supplier of choke and filter solutions for effective noise filtering, you can successfully protect your systems from EMI. Contact us to learn more about our custom product solutions and how MH&W can support your operations or request a quote today.

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