Life-saving sensing solutions

By | 2018-10-08T09:40:27+00:00 October 8th, 2018|Management feature|
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By Dineo Phoshoko | Photos by Ex Solutio Engineering

Ex Solutio Engineering, a proudly South African company, was established in 2011 when the founding members realised that there is a need for a good, intrinsic safe (IS) power supply to be used in South Africa’s complex underground mining industry. 

A properly designed safe power supply that provides a noise free (or clean) output voltage is the foundation for the patented gas sensing and communication system the company developed. The system was designed to automate the process for ensuring early warning systems to detect life threatening and environmentally hazardous conditions within an irreplaceable atmosphere containing toxic gases.

I.S. Power Supply

The I.S. Power Supply with a UPS. Image credit: Ex Solutio Engineering

In the past eight years Ex Solutio Engineering has built a credible record by working with companies like Sasol Mining, Sibanye Gold and Anglo-American South Africa at world class facilities like CSIR’s Kloppersbos explosion and fire testing facility.

“During the testing of our technologically advanced sensors in parallel with other companies, we are often the only company that produces real time results,” explains Ashley Erasmus, Ex Solutio Engineering director.

Intrinsically safe (IS) power supply

Intrinsically Safe equipment is designed to operate in the complex and highly regulated hazardous environment. “The Ex Solutio Engineering power supplies are different to others that are already available on the market,” says Fernando Pita, technical director at Ex Solutio Engineering.

Most of the power supplies available on the market lack consistency, as soon as load increase the voltage dip. A typical design trade-off with IS power supplies occur when the load increases (current), and the output voltage decreases. Ex Solutio Engineering offers intrinsically safe power supplies that remain constant regardless of any additional loads to the power supply.

“We made one design that caters for an entire range as long as it falls within the IS specifications,” explains Pita. This critical feature differentiates the company’s power supplies from other power supplies on the market that require different design for different output. The small but powerful power supply has been certified to supply power up to 1.2km in a hazardous underground environment.

“During the testing of our advance sensors in parallel with other companies, we are often the only company that could produce real time results.” – explains Ashley Erasmus, Ex Solutio Engineering director.  

“If you don’t have the correct power supply, any device connected to that is not going to function properly,” says Erasmus.

Innovative monitoring systems

Following the power supplies, the company designed and assembled the first training simulators at one of Anglo American South Africa’s mines in Rustenburg. The simulator was able to reproduce the conditions of different environments in the mining industry, such as smoke, fall of ground, misfire, drilling and water hazards.

The company expanded its offering to patented gas sensors, which have a minimum rating of IP54 mounted in a durable steel enclosure for protection against harsh environments in the mining industry. Ex Solutio Engineering designs and assembles a variety of certified gas sensors. They even obtain system loop certification for the clients, which is required in any hazardous environment. The sensor signals are processed by the MEMS (Multiple Environmental Monitoring System) and is designed for use in harsh mining environments.

The Dual Sensor Unit

The Dual Sensor Unit from Ex Solutio.. Image credit: Ex Solutio Engineering

This system is not limited to mining alone as the unique features make it suitable also for industrial and commercial control applications as well. “We looked at the entire solution from sensors, to control devices, to the control room, to power supplies so as to provide a complete solution in a simple platform,” explains Pita.

The units are configurable via a card system to handle various inputs from gas sensors to analogue and digital signals (which offer inputs and outputs) to monitor and control just about anything. The compact design allows the unit to be installed anywhere.

MEMS are designed to meet different customer needs. The MEMS duo (two- card option) or MEMS quatro (four-card option) use the same cards so there are no special requirements when ordering for one or the other. This makes the system simpler to use and expand as the two-card and four-card options are interchangeable.

For additional flexibility the unit offers a RS485 repeater and expansion ports on the MEMS duo and MEMS quatro to allow them to be daisy chained. MEMS can be daisy chained up to 32 units – this accounts for 512x 4-20mA (32x 16x 4-20mA) signals.

“The system is very flexible to ensure it works for any special need from the client,” says Erasmus. He adds that the system is constantly evolving. To date, Ex Solutio Engineering has supplied over 200 MEMS units to various mines across South Africa.

Technical audits

Over the past few years the Ex Solutio Engineering team’s experience with early warning systems in environmentally hazardous conditions within an irreplaceable atmosphere containing toxic gases, was often used to do technical evaluations on underground fire detection systems. Customers started to ask for help with audits to a point where the team realised that there is a need in the market for proper audits done with the correct testing equipment.

These technical audits are now also included in the offering from the company and has been proven over the past few years as very useful in mining environment to ensure that advance warning is up to standard to ensure that lives are saved.

Ex Solutio offers underground fire detection system performance / compliance audits on:

  • Fixed installations (Based on T90 Sensor Response Criteria)
  • Portable and transportable gas sensors
  • Sensor position mounting criteria
  • Power supply monitoring
  • Controller monitoring
  • Training simulations
  • Cabling compliance assessments
  • Data acquisitioning and interpretation

An effective and dependable team

Highly dedicated engineers work on designing and building the products at Ex Solutio Engineering. Initially the team started out with just two people but has since grown and now the team includes an assembling team responsible for programming and calibrating and a field service team. All the team members are often on mine sites doing installations, giving technical assistance, doing technical audits and designing special configured systems to meet customer needs.

Over all, the Ex Solutio Engineering team is made up of committed and hardworking individuals that have more than 50 years industry experience combined.

“Our expertise in the environmental, ventilation monitoring, data collection and transmission comes from years of experience in the field,” explains Erasmus. It is because of such experience and the high level of expertise that mines entrust Ex Solutio Engineering with conducting the evaluations and doing the installations of various products.

As a certified company, Ex Solutio Engineering equipment is been manufactured under the ‘Mark Scheme’ from MASC, and is annually audited by MASC. “This ensures that not only do we supply safe equipment in the hazardous area, but that we also have a robust design and manufacturing system that brings clients comfort and support during any DMR audits,” adds Erasmus.

Ex Solutio Engineering

Ex Solutio Engineering

Tel: +27 (0) 11 869 1062

Address: 29 Schoeman Street, Florentia Alberton, Gauteng