Danfoss, which has facilities in Ames, Iowa, is a large international manufacturer of a wide-variety of hydraulic power transmission components. Many of the company’s produced products, including their intrinsically safe Pressure Control Pilot Valve, need to function in hazardous environments. Institute for Physical Research and Technology (IPRT) Company Assistance – an Iowa State University Center for Nondestructive Evaluation program that offers services to Iowa companies at no cost on a short-term basis, driven by company interaction and need – helped Danfoss meet quality goals for their Pressure Control Pilot Valve, while also saving the company over $80,000.

In order to assess the safety of their control – a component that regulates the pressure commanding hydrostatic pumps and motors that propel and manipulate heavy equipment – Danfoss approached Dave Utrata, Program Director of the Nondestructive Evaluation Group within IPRT Company Assistance.

Danfoss required assistance in two areas. The first issue concerned a coil inside the control. This coil needed a millimeter thick layer of resin surrounding it to eliminate the risk of electrical arcing. Danfoss wanted to know if they could use x-ray to find flaws in the resin.

“We felt we only needed about 12 x-rays to gain information about our fabrication processes.  A private firm in Minnesota would have contracted such work at a cost of about $3,000 for each x-ray,” said Danfoss engineer Alex Bruns. “However, when we approached Jake Auliff [who acts as a liaison between Danfoss and some external company assistance groups] he immediately reached out to IPRT to see if they could help.”

Auliff, the tribology and materials engineering team leader, had connected Danfoss with IPRT Company Assistance on numerous projects in the past. He describes Utrata as his “go-to guy” on many projects involving x-ray or ultrasound.

IPRT Company Assistance agreed to work with Danfoss on this project after discussion with Utrata. He examined the coils using radiography and taught Danfoss how they could use x-rays in the future to verify the resin’s integrity. This interaction saved Danfoss over $30,000.

In addition to inspection of the coil itself, IPRT Company Assistance also helped Danfoss determine if the wires inside of the control were at risk of getting damaged due to assembly practices. This was a concern as previous measures to meet safety regulations led to increasing the size of some parts inside the control, resulting in limited free space that might cause wires to get pinched and lose insulation.

Utrata used x-rays on the assemblies to determine their inner layout. These showed that space around some of the wires was indeed tight. Using the images, Danfoss created a new assembly process for their controls that placed the wires in a safer position. Utrata repeated the inspection, confirming that the wires were in a more secure location. 

“If we couldn’t verify that there were no pinched wires, we would have had to scrap about 20 units that needed to be delivered immediately,” said Peter Jensen, a Danfoss product group engineer. “To assign a dollar value to that, each control is about $3,000. So that was an immediate cost saving from working with IPRT.”

In addition to the nondestructive evaluation work done by Utrata and his group, IPRT Company Assistance also offers materials assistance and has a cost-sharing program that helps companies initiate research projects with Iowa State University faculty members.