Electrical Connections - What They Are, How They Fail And Ways To Manage Them.


Bryan Slade & Richard Stuart
PyrOptic Pty Ltd

Paper Authored by

Richard Stuart
Engineer at PyrOptic Pty Ltd

Bryan Slade
Engineer at PyrOptic Pty Ltd

Electrical connections are the backbone of the assets we manage. While generally highly dependable, failures can and do occur with resultant effects such as compromised safety, lost production and equipment damage.

It may be surprising that aspects of connections are still not fully explained, or that typically less than 1% of the mating surfaces provide the path of conduction. If a connection does not succumb to effects such as thermal cycling or vibration, subtle chemical reactions occur which ensure a finite life. Often connections don’t get the attention they deserve, on average they are highly reliable, especially over a plants midlife cycle providing a false sense of security and ample opportunity for complacency. This often results in maintenance and inspection routine cutbacks without applying any alternative risk mitigation strategies, yet a single failure can wipe any perceived savings straight off the books.

This paper will provide a glance into the world of electrical connections by exploring some fundamental contact mechanics, failures mechanisms and strategies (both old and new school) that can be used to manage these assemblies in an effort to help maximise the safety and reliability of electrical assets.

In 2017 Richard and Bryan co-founded PyrOptic Pty Ltd to commercialise an new, inventive technology for detecting failing electrical contacts and connections.

Richard Stuart holds an honours degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Newcastle, NSW and started his career in generation at Eraring Power Station over 15 years ago as an apprentice electrician. He has worked in maintenance, I&C, market compliance, asset management and team leader roles within Eraring Energy, Origin Energy and Snowy Hydro.

Aging assets, failures, major plant upgrades, a changing energy market and the ever increasing push for improved business efficiency have never failed to provide learning and development opportunities through his career to date.

Bryan Slade holds an honours degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Newcastle, NSW and has over a decade of experience in power system design, automation, project management, construction and commissioning. He has delivered these services across a broad range of business from multinational mining companies to public utilities. Bryan currently works as the principal projects engineer for Newmont Mining at their Tanami Operations site.

Large scale projects from design conception through to commissioning are filled with with problems and complexities providing priceless experiences, fueling his passion for a challenge right throughout his career.