Automated Process to Replace Medium-Voltage (MV) Joints

29 Submissions
128 Views
$50,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation

Challenge overview

OVERVIEW

A2A, the Seeker of this Challenge, is looking to automate—as much as possible—all the operations related to medium-voltage (MV) end-cable preparation for electrical joints.

Every year, A2A operators replace thousands of MV joints due to their failure. This type of operations involves a strong manual component related mainly to cutting the various shields and layers of insulation that make up the entire cable. The aim is to expose the conducting material and place the actual joint between the two cable ends paying attention to clearances; re-insulating the assembly completes the process.

Most importantly, these operations are critical to ensure the expected service life of the entire joint and to avoid further intervention in the weeks or months that follow.

The objective of this Challenge is to replace manual operations for MV joint installation with an automated process that would ensure maximum quality with minimal intervention of field operators.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted. Awards will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposal by A2A. For this Prize Challenge, Solvers are required to transfer all rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) in their proposed solution, to be awarded. A2A is willing to consider non-exclusive IP rights for a partial award.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on September 19, 2023.

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ABOUT THE SEEKER & ELIGIBILITY

The A2A Group is the largest Italian multi-utility, at the forefront of territorial services and technological solutions. We design smart and sustainable cities, with respect for the citizens, we are protagonists of energy transition, and we implement the principle of the circular economy in all our activities. With a far-reaching strategic plan, we manage the generation, sale and distribution of electricity and gas, district heating, waste collection and recovery, e-mobility, public lighting, and the integrated water services.

Employees of A2A are ineligible to receive an award for this Challenge.

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THE CHALLENGE

The purpose of this Challenge, sponsored by A2A, is to develop an automated process to replace medium-voltage (MV) joints. MV joint is a connection between two medium-voltage cables, that is, cables used to transmit electrical power with an operating voltage of 6.4kV, 9kV, 15kV, and 23kV.

Every year, A2A operators replace thousands of MV joints due to their failure. The following are the main characteristics of the replacement process:

  1. The process includes two types of cable:
    • MV cable with extruded insulation and copper (Cu) shield: (A)RG7H1RX or (A)RE4H1RX 12/20 kV (so-called "extruded” cable). Cable (A)RG7H1RX has a Cu tape shield; cable (A)RE4H1RX has a Cu wire shield.
    • MV cable insulated with impregnated paper and lead shield: (A)RC4HLRX 12/20 kV & 15/20 kV & 18/30kV (so-called "paper” cable).

Two types of MV joints are possible: “extruded–extruded” cable (with Cu tape or Cu wire shield) and “extruded (with Cu tape or Cu wire shield)-paper cable (with lead shield).” (“Paper – Paper” cables are no longer used.)

     2. The process typically takes place outdoors and requires excavation to reach underground cables where the operators work to replace MV joints either directly inside the excavation pit or at ground level.

    3. The process requires two (2) operators.

    4. For each MV joint, the process needs to be replicated three times to complete the entire 3-Phase/3-Cables MV junction.

    5. The time required to replace one complete 3-Phase/3-Cables MV junction is about 2h.

The current process is performed manually—however, supporting tools such as cutters, pliers, etc. are usually used—and includes cutting various shields and layers of insulation that make up the entire cable. The aim is to expose the conducting material and place the actual joint between the two cable ends paying attention to clearances; re-insulating the assembly completes the process.

Please see Attachment A (access to all attachments requires you to first sign in and accept the Challenge Agreement) for detailed installation instructions of all steps involved in the procedures, Attachment B for a “printed template” typically used by operators to check the correct cutting dimensions for the end-cable preparation, Attachment D (derived from Attachment A) for simplified installation instructions to have a quick view of the process, and Attachments C with a series of video examples of various operations (with captions in Italian).

Although these manual operations are not particularly complex, they do require strong compliance with the related technical requirements since the expected service life of MV joints is highly dependent on the quality of the joining process.

The objective of this Challenge is to replace manual operations for MV joint installation with an automated process that would ensure maximum quality with minimal intervention of field operators.

This video shows an example of a machine capable of preparing the ends of MV cables: https://ulctechnologies.com/technologies/electric-cable-end-preparation-machine/. Although this machine is only a lab prototype, it does show how some of the operations listed above can be automated using commercial components and automatic procedures.

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS & ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA

To solve this Challenge, the Solvers are asked to develop a document that describes the layout and detailed characteristics of the proposed automated system layout, along with its components, and accessories, with a specific focus on operations related to end cable preparation (cutting operations).

Due to complexity of some operations, A2A is willing to consider not only fully automated solutions but also "hybrid" ones that still minimize manual intervention by operators and ensure the highest quality of the joint.

By "hybrid" solutions we call all systems that include automation components (e.g., electrical motor, actuators, etc.) or mechanical/electro-mechanical components (cutters, grippers, presses, etc.) combined with manual steps (as some of the individual operations may be difficult to fully automate).

Regardless of the specific approach, all successful solutions should meet the following Solution Requirements:

Must have:

  1. The process must be inherent to end cable preparation, specifically to cutting the cable and various layers of insulation and sheathing. Please see sections “Cable preparation with impregnated paper insulation” and “Cable preparation with extruded insulation” in Attachment D and cutting dimension in Attachment A and B.
  2. Because cutting dimensions may vary by a few millimeters depending on the type of joint manufacturer, the proposed process must be adjustable (automatically and/or manually).
  3. The proposed system must be able to be used—and to be installed at the field site—by only one (1) field operator.
  4. The proposed system must be transportable via a cargo van (e.g., FIAT Ducato). In case it is necessary to power the components of the system, a connection to a generator or van battery set should be provided.
  5. In case the system needs to be assembled on the site, each individual component of the system should weigh no more than 20 kg.
  6. The system must be able to operate in the open environment at the roadside or inside dug holes with the approximate dimensions: 2.5m by 0.9m with a depth of 1.5-2m.
  7. The time required to replace one complete 3-Phase/3-Cables MV junction should not exceed 1.5-2h.

Nice to have:

     8. In case it is necessary to power the components of the system, the power should come from environmentally friendly energy sources to reduce carbon footprint (e.g., using solar panels).

     9. While focusing on the end cable preparation—as stated in the Requirement #1 above—the proposed process would ideally automate all or some of the following operations listed in Attachment D: “Junction body positioning,” “Connection,” “Restoration of shielding and electrical continuity of the metal shield,” and “Restoration of external protection.” Please see Attachment A for specific dimensions and technical consideration.

    10. At the end of the operations, a software system should be capable of making a report in digital format in which all the operations that have been carried out were listed: operator name, date and time, number of operations completed correctly, duration of individual operations, possible warnings, etc.

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) from 4-6 are accepted.

 

Things to avoid:

Software-only solutions with the purpose of supporting and/or guiding the operator during the MV joint replacement.

This is a Prize Challenge, which has the following features:

  1. The best solution in this Prize Challenge has the opportunity to win the award of $50,000 for meeting all solution requirements, as solely determined by A2A.
  2. Awards will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposal by A2A.
  3. For this Prize Challenge, Solvers are required to transfer all rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) in their proposed solution, to be awarded. A2A is willing to consider non-exclusive IP rights for a partial award.
  4. A2A may also issue “Honourable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary awards.

YOUR SUBMISSION

Please complete the submission form.

The submitted proposals must be written in English and should include:

  1. An Abstract and optional conclusion of the proposed solution.
  2. The system layout and drawings with dimensions, technical characteristics, description of components and assemblies.
  3. A detailed description of how the system works and how the interaction with the operator would take place, along with the explanation of which operations have been automated and which remain manual.
  4. A detailed description of the process flow, including also on-site transportation, positioning, assembly, and disassembly.
  5. Estimation of cost of the proposed solution. If commercially available components are used, please include their cost too (if available).
  6. Estimation of required maintenance costs, year by year, of the system (if available).
  7. All relevant supporting information, such as data, drawings, publications, or references that would help A2A evaluate the validity of the submission.
  8. A2A may wish to partner with the Solver at the conclusion of the Challenge. Please describe your expertise and include a statement indicating your interest in this opportunity.

Notes:

  • If commercial solutions/components are used, please indicate the brand and type.
  • If you use solutions taken from or inspired by patents or based on other solutions from other Industries, please indicate the patent number or the reference.

Find out more about participation in Wazoku Crowd Challenges.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on September 19, 2023..

Late submissions will not be considered.

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, A2A will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s) according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submissions.

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