Coast Guardsman uses ingenuity to boost efficiency
Posted by PA2 Cynthia Oldham, Friday, March 16, 2012
Post written by Pety Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lindberg.
The Coast Guard uses many devices to execute their mission to assist mariners in identifying dangerous waters during fair and foul weather conditions. The FA-232 foghorn is one of these devices. The horn creates a 122.7 decibel unidirectional signal and can be heard as far as a half mile away. When maintenance is needed, it is repaired by the Command, Control and Communications Engineering Center Electronic Repair Facility at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore.
Like most mechanical items, the main body has internal components. The driver is one of these components, which is made up of a 7000 gauss magnet and is vital to obtaining a half mile range blast. This magnet is about 140 times stronger than an average refrigerator magnet. When the level goes below 7000 gauss, it is sent to the ERF and the drivers are sent to the manufacturer for repair. It usually takes two weeks to get the magnet back and costs the Coast Guard around $400 per driver.
To eliminate this costly and timely process, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Lawrence, a member of C3CEN ERF’s Short Range Aids to Navigation department, developed a magnet reconditioning system that alleviates the need to send the foghorn drivers to a contracted non-Coast Guard facility for routine maintenance saving the Coast Guard an estimated $15,000 annually.
The road to finding a solution to the process began with Lawrence taking a trip to Houston to meet with the chief engineer at the repair facility to see if there was an alternate way to fix the drivers.
While observing the manufacturer’s magnet recondition center, he began to develop a test rig in his mind. He noticed any attempt to replicate the system would cost more than $5,000 and increase safety requirements at the unit to include a ventilation system and acid spill zone for the multiple lead acid batteries.
Lawrence knew he had to come up with a solution that wouldn’t cost the Coast Guard more money and wouldn’t increase safety hazards at the workplace.
“With these concerns in mind, I decided a capacitive discharge system would create the same amount of power required to recharge the magnets while not requiring major alterations to the unit,” said Lawrence. “By repurposing solid state loran transmitter parts, I created ERF’s magnet recondition system.”
The magnet recondition system creates 160 volts at 485 amps in one millisecond. That’s enough electricity to power 776 light bulbs in the same time it takes to blink your eye.
“I created the system so it only had enough power to give the magnet a short burst of energy and raise the level back to 7000 gauss.” said Lawrence.
The ability to do these repairs within the Coast Guard has cut down significantly on turnaround time and costs, allowing the drivers to be ready to ship out to the fleet when a replacement is needed.
After creating the prototype, the ERF has recharged 12 units, during a two-month period, with 100 percent effectiveness saving more than $5,000. Based on the average repair rate of 40 a year, the savings are estimated to be more than $15,000 annually.
Lawrence hopes to instill his creativity and ingenuity on some of the younger technicians at the ERF.
“Even if it is something so small, strive to create something each day,” said Lawrence. “You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”