The following article was written by Frankie McLoughlin of KCFM Automation Ltd (qualified electrician with access control training) as a statement of our commitment to quality on each and every gate automation job.
The purpose of this statement is to show the customer exactly what a good job is in terms of gate automation. You might have heard some people say “don’t get electric gates, they are nothing but trouble”. Quiet frankly there are a few reasons for this. The main reasons are poor installations, poor quality systems, not properly programming and choosing the wrong electric system for the job. I can honestly say that there are quite a few really good brands out there but if they are not installed right you are going to have problems. I am over 12 years in the gate automation trade and I have seen some really poor installations. I have picture proof of some of these problems, which I will document in this article.
The number one problem for electric gate failure is moisture ingress. Moisture can affect safety sensors, motor control panels and the motors themselves. When installing a motor control panel we make sure to double insulate the motor control panel. This means that two waterproof enclosures surround the electronic panel. We also use silica gel as a desiccant to soak up any moisture that may be in the air. We also install an emergency stop switch beside the panel. I have removed so many motor control panels over the years due to panels not being sealed right and also not being double insulated with a second enclosure. I have seen many panels completely burnt out due to short-circuiting caused by moisture and slugs getting into the enclosure. As you can see in the picture below we fit the main control unit junctionbox inside a second larger IP67 junction box for double protection along with a 10 amp RCBO for electrical shock protection (an RCBO will detect the slightest electrical leakage). In almost every other installation we have seen the control unit box is the only one used and the power supply and groundloops etc have been jammed into it and also without RCBO protection. I am a qualified electrician by trade and being honest I really have seen some appalling jobs.
Short circuited poorly installed gate automation panels which I had to replace:
This is how it should be done. An enclosure within an enclosure totally preventing moisture:
Another reason for electric gates failing is due to incorrectly installed mechanical stops. With almost every electric gate kit you can also get mechanical stops. These stops are installed in the motor foundation boxes as a stopping point for the gates in both the open and closed positions. Many so called gate automation installers or welders who have no electrical background simply weld a piece of steel on to the motor shaft as a stopping point. What these installers may or may not realize is that the heat from the welding transfers down the shaft and damages the seal in the gearbox of the motor. Within two to three years moisture will completely seize the gate motors gearbox. Aswell as that the moisture will travel into the electrical connections of the motors windings and short circuit the motor control panel. The DEA motor box’s we use come fully galvanized with in-built stops so that you do not have to hammer a peg into the driveway as a resting point for the gates or as some gate installers do, weld steel onto the motor shaft as a stopping point. You can see the difference between stops that have been welded and actual manufactured mechanical stops from the pictures below.
A welded piece of steel on the motor shaft which burnt out the gearbox seal (this is a very poor workmanship and it is essentially installers cutting corners on price so that they don’t have to purchase manufactured mechanical stops):
I replaced the motor with a new one and installed a manufactured mechanical stop to ensure that the problem would not happen again.
Another reason for motor failure is incorrect programming of the gate automation system. With some systems there are up to 70 parameters to be programmed into the gate system. If they are not all programmed correctly it could end up being a lot of expense for the customer. Gates where soft stop and soft start are not set up are also liable to gearbox damage. If a motor suddenly starts on full power and comes to a sudden stop in the open and closed positions then the gearboxes will suffer a lot of wear and tear over time. Also the torque settings can affect gearbox’s if not correctly programmed.
Most installers make off their motor electrical connections in the motor foundation box. This is a very quick way of installing a motor but again it is inviting possible faults due to water getting down into the sub-terrain motor boxes. We install DEA Automation systems and the motor lead is 8 meters long. This ensures that the motors electrical cable can be ran all the way back to the control unit. This avoids any possible water damage to electrical connections. We use black Tec 7 as a sealant around photocells and external electronics instead of ordinary silicone. Silicone contracts in time and peels off.
I just recorded videos of the anticrush and soft stop set ups. You can see them here on our website. http://www.galwaygates.com/gate-automation/
I hope the information that I have provided you has given you a better insight into Gate Automation.
KCFM Automation Ltd is EQA quality approved and we will stand over any warranty stated in each job.