Keith CollinsGeneral Manager of High Speed Balance Facility High Speed Balance
I started my career in power generation on the GE® Apprentice Program in Schenectady NY. During my early years, I worked in Airfoils and Generator Manufacturing before finding a permanent home in the Generator Test Department, which included the high-speed balance of both turbines and generators for both Schenectady and Lynn. I was fortunate to come along at a time that many great and knowledgeable engineers and technicians were late in their careers and willing to mentor younger engineers. This shop training and experience are even more valuable to me than the time spent at Hudson Valley, Union, and UMUC getting a formal education.
What do you do here at MD&A?
In 2013 I joined the MD&A team as part of the construction of the new $36M High-Speed Balance facility. It was my job to commission the facility and make it operational. I chose a team and designed processes to make the facility productive and flexible to best serve our customers. I still manage the team and direct the balance activities.
What is the actual balance process and the purpose of each process step?
The balancing process has several stages with each step requiring a finer balance than the previous step. First, we balance for “Overspeed” which is taking the rotor to 110% of rated speed to proof test the components and set them in location with centrifugal force. Next, we perform any additional testing such as the flux probe test for generators that detects any shorted turns. Finally, once all testing is done we concentrate on the “final balance” this is where we reduce the vibration of the unit by correcting the mass imbalance. Properly balancing large power generation rotors requires knowledge and experience of both the process and the product. It is both challenging and rewarding to successfully balance a particularly complex rotor.
What is monitored during the balancing process? How do the high-definition (HD) cameras inside help?
During the balance, we monitor several parameters. In addition to the vibration readings which are the primary measure of our process, we monitor pressures and temperatures from all of our systems. This includes lube oil, cooling water, cooling air, vacuum, and many others. Our HD camera system assists in monitoring and troubleshooting systems inside the balance cell. Without the cameras, it would be like flying a plane using only instrumentation with no visual cues. We developed the lighting and cameras to work in the vacuum environment ourselves and it is one of our minor accomplishments in process improvement.
What is Full High-Speed Thermal Test (HSTT) capability and why is it beneficial?
A High-Speed Thermal test is a test for generator rotors in which we increase the temperature of the rotor by applying high levels of current to the winding while at rated speed. This test can only be done in balance cells specially designed for conducting the test. The HSTT is one of the best checks of the overall quality of a generator winding since it tests nearly all of the variables in the winding process in a way that is similar to the function of the unit while in service.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My real passion outside of work has always been the volunteer fire service. It is a very fulfilling experience where you can meet great people and learn new skills while serving the community. I spent nearly 30 years in upstate NY as a volunteer firefighter, including 5-years as chief of my local department, and it taught me about people, service, and community.
What is one of your favorite sayings?
In God We Trust, everything else we test.