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    Patent Issued for Smart grid welding system (USPTO 11173564)


    December 6, 2021 - Engineering Business Daily

     

      2021 DEC 03 (NewsRx) -- By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Engineering Business Daily -- Illinois Tool Works Inc. (Glenview, Illinois, United States) has been issued patent number 11173564, according to news reporting originating out of Alexandria, Virginia, by NewsRx editors.

      The patent’s inventors are Albrecht, Bruce Patrick (Neenah, WI, US), Bunker, Thomas A. (Black Creek, WI, US).

      This patent was filed on October 17, 2018 and was published online on November 16, 2021.

      From the background information supplied by the inventors, news correspondents obtained the following quote: “The present invention relates generally to welding, heating and cutting systems and to their operation in connection with Smart Grid connectivity and data exchange.

      “Welding systems have become virtually ubiquitous throughout industry. Such systems are currently used in all industries, including manufacturing, physical plant construction, ship building, pipeline construction, maintenance and repair, etc. While variations exist in the system configurations and their modes of operation, many such systems are strictly electrical and rely upon the creation of a welding arc to melt and fuse base metals and/or adder metals, typically in the form of rods and wires. Currently available systems include, for example, gas metal arc welding (GMAW) systems, shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) systems, etc. In conventional terms, such systems may include so-called stick welders, metal inert gas (MIG) welders, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welders, etc. It should be noted that in the present context, although references made to “welding” systems and operations, the term here is intended to cover similar and related processes, such as heating (e.g., induction heating used to support welding operations), and cutting (e.g., plasma torch systems).

      “Welding systems that rely on the creation of a welding arc have been refined to operate efficiently and effectively for joining metals in desired joints, but nevertheless requires substantial amounts of power. This power is typically provided from the power grid when the systems are connected to the grid (e.g., plugged in). However, other power sources are also common, however, including engine-driven generators, batteries, and the use of alternative sources, such as fuel cells, super capacitors, etc. have been proposed. In many contexts, the welding systems are designed to regulate the conversion and delivery of power based upon the onset and termination of welding arcs (or heating in the case of heating systems, or plasma arc creation in the case of plasma arc cutting systems). When connected to the grid, these systems may represent substantial loads. Moreover, the systems may alter the power factor of the connected infrastructure, requiring correction for efficient operation. However, to date, little or no effort has been invested in intelligently coordinating operation of welding systems with the grid, or the coordination of alternative power sources from which the welding systems may draw the needed power with power from the grid.

      “Recent developments in power production and distribution have focused on the establishment of a so-called “Smart Grid”. While the project is still evolving in definition and scope, and will certainly require years for full implementation, the concept includes the creation of an interactive power generation and distribution infrastructure in which data systems enable closer coordination of power production and loads. It is hoped that such efforts will result in a power grid that is more reliable, efficient, and balanced.

      “There is a need, at present, for improvements in welding systems that will be capable of cooperating with the Smart Grid infrastructure such that the significant loads represented by such systems can be at least partially managed along with other loads and power production assets that will be a part of the future Smart Grid deployment.”

      Supplementing the background information on this patent, NewsRx reporters also obtained the inventors’ summary information for this patent: “As described more fully below, the systems, functionality and operation of welding equipment made available by the present invention provide for two-way data communication and where desired two-way power flow between welding systems and the power grid. In terms of the loads applied to the grid by welding and similar operations, this may allow for appropriate communication and timing of the onset and termination of welding operations. It may also allow for the planning of operations, scheduling of welding-based production operations, and the monitoring of power usage during such operations. Similarly, when welders or welding systems, or even production areas or entire production facilities include power generation capabilities, control of these assets can be based upon such factors as the availability of power from the grid, cost of power from the grid, peak and off-peak utilization, etc. In short, because of welding and similar operations may represent a substantial load that may suddenly draw from the grid, the ability to communicate parameters from a Smart Grid monitoring or control entity and a welding operation will greatly facilitate coordination of power production and distribution both on the grid side and on the welder side.

      “It should also be noted that the systems, components and functionality described below are intended to be compatible with existing and future-developed Smart Grid standards, particularly those established under the direction of the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Grid Wise Architecture Counsel, the United States Department of Energy, as well as other organizations that are and will become standards-setting bodies, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the ZigBee Alliance. Such standards do and will call for the measurement of certain electrical parameters of loads and power generation equipment, the communication of such parameters to grid-side providers, the communication of information, such as power availability, power factor needs, pricing, etc. from such providers, as well as for the extraction of power from the power grid and the application of generated power to the power grid, such as by welding systems, generators associated with welding systems, storage devices, etc. Moreover, it is contemplated that at least some of this functionality will be performed automatically, without operator intervention, while other aspects may be based upon input by a particular welding operator, production management, plant management, etc.

      “Turning now to the drawings, and referring first to FIG. 1, a Smart Grid welding system 10 is illustrated diagrammatically. The welding system is designed to receive power from the power grid 12 and includes a welding production facility designated generally by the reference 14. As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, the power grid 12 will include a range of energy producers 16 that produce electrical power from a variety of resources and applies the power to the grid distribution and transmission infrastructure 18. In general, the producers may produce the power based upon any available technologies, such as fossil fuels, hydroelectric power generation, wind energy, photovoltaic devices (e.g., solar), fuel cells, etc. The producers will condition the power, typically generated in three-phase, and provide the power to the distribution and transmission infrastructure 18 through which it is delivered to all consumers and users. In the Smart Grid implementation illustrated, one or more independent system operators 20 will be active in the vicinity of the production facility 14, and may server to provide data to, receive data from, and coordinate with the facility for the usage and supply of power before, during and after welding operations. Moreover, a Smart Grid control/monitoring entity 22 may exist separately, such as a governmental or quasi-governmental authority tasked with the monitoring of power quality, the assurance of grid reliability, etc.

      “In the illustration of FIG. 1, three-phase power is illustrated as being distributed to the production facility 14, although power could be distributed to a facility in single-phase form. In the United States, for example, three-phase power is delivered at 60 Hz, although other standards may be accommodated by the system. The incoming power is received by a metering and distribution infrastructure 28 on the production facility side. This equipment allows for the conditioning of incoming power, stepping up or stepping down of voltage levels, and so forth for servicing the production facility. Moreover, the metering and distribution infrastructure is coupled to one or more monitor/controllers 30 which allow for sensing, storing, and communicating data regarding the power needs and power utilization, both to and from the facility. In a presently contemplated embodiment, the monitor/controller 30 may be capable of communicating data over the power lines, although other technologies may be envisaged, such as separate data transmission wiring, wireless data transmission, etc. It should also be noted that the metering and distribution infrastructure 28 may allow for the conditioning of outgoing power from the facility, where such power is available and suitable for application to the grid.

      “The production facility 14 illustrated in FIG. 1 may include one or multiple plants, as indicated by reference numeral 24 and 26. In general, these plants may be at the same or different locations, and coordinated utilization of power, loading of the grid, generation and storage of power on the production facility side may be coordinated between such plants. Also illustrated in FIG. 1, are a plurality of production areas, such as indicated by reference numeral 32. Such production areas may exist within a particular facility or plant, such as for specific types of manufacturing, assembly, subcomponent processing, etc. Within each production area, then, multiple processes may be carried out as indicated generally by reference numeral 34. Such processes may include welding, cutting, fitting up, grinding, heat treating, and machining, just to mention a few. Relevant to the present invention, at least one of the processes includes one or more welders as indicated by reference numeral 36. As discussed below, because welding operations may require substantial quantities of power, and may represent loads that come onto the system relatively quickly and terminate relatively quickly, coordination of their operation with other assets of the facility, as well as with the Smart Grid, information is useful in contributing to the stability of the grid, cost effective manufacturing, manufacturing planning, etc.”

      The claims supplied by the inventors are:

      “1. A welding power supply comprising: power conversion circuitry configured to receive power from a power grid and to convert the power received from the power grid to welding power suitable for a welding operation; a grid interface configured to transmit data to, and receive data from, a grid-side monitor or controller in one or more components of an energy producer or distributor; and control circuitry coupled to the grid interface and configured to control operation of the power conversion circuitry based at least partially upon the data received by the grid interface from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “2. The welding power supply of claim 1, wherein the data received by the grid interface from the grid-side monitor or controller comprises power demand data, power availability data, or power pricing data, and the control circuitry is configured to schedule the welding operation for a time when power demand is low, power pricing is low, or power availability is high.

      “3. The welding power supply of claim 1, further comprising an energy storage device configured to store energy for use by the welding operation, wherein the control circuitry is configured to control charging or discharging of the energy storage device, based at least partially upon the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “4. The welding power supply of claim 2, wherein the control circuitry is configured to command the power conversion circuitry to draw power partially, or proportionally, from the energy storage device or the power grid based at least partially upon the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “5. The welding power supply of claim 2, wherein the control circuitry is configured to control charging or discharging of the energy storage device, or drawing power from a generator or the power grid, based at least partially upon a welding schedule and the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “6. The welding power supply of claim 5, wherein the welding schedule comprises a plan for charging or discharging the energy storage device, or drawing power from the generator or the power grid, based on power-related data.

      “7. The welding power supply of claim 5, wherein the welding schedule is received via an operator interface.

      “8. The welding power supply of claim 1, wherein the data transmitted to the grid-side monitor or controller comprises power-related data, the power-related data comprising one or more of a power need of the welding power supply or a power utilization of the welding power supply.

      “9. The welding power supply of claim 1, wherein the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller comprises power-related data, the power-related data comprising one or more of a past power demand, present power demand, power availability, power factor related information, or power pricing.

      “10. The welding power supply of claim 1, wherein the control circuitry is configured to coordinate a flow of power from the welding power supply to the power grid based at least partially upon the data received by the grid interface from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “11. A method comprising: receiving power from a power grid in a welding power supply; transmitting data from a grid interface associated with the welding power supply to a grid-side monitor or controller in one or more components of an energy producer or distributor; receiving data from the grid-side monitor or controller in the grid interface; and controlling conversion of the received power into welding power suitable for a welding operation based at least partially upon the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “12. The method of claim 11, wherein the data received in the grid interface from the grid-side monitor or controller comprises power demand data, power availability data, or power pricing data, the method further comprising scheduling the welding operation for a time when power demand is low, power pricing is low, or power availability is high.

      “13. The method of claim 11, further comprising storing energy for use by the welding operation in an energy storage device, and controlling charging of the energy storage device, discharging of the energy storage device, or both, based at least partially upon the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “14. The method of claim 13, further comprising drawing power partially or proportionally from the energy storage device or drawing power partially or proportionally from the power grid based at least partially upon the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “15. The method of claim 13, further comprising controlling charging or discharging of the energy storage device, or drawing power from the generator or the power grid, based at least partially upon a welding schedule and the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.

      “16. The method of claim 15, wherein the welding schedule comprises a plan for charging or discharging the energy storage device, or drawing power from the generator or the power grid, based on power-related data.

      “17. The method of claim 16, further comprising receiving the welding schedule via an operator interface of the welding power supply.

      “18. The method of claim 11, further comprising transmitting power-related data to the grid-side monitor or controller, the power-related data comprising one or more of a power need of the welding power supply or a power utilization of the welding power supply.

      “19. The method of claim 11, further comprising receiving power-related data from the grid-side monitor or controller, the power-related data comprising one or more of a past power demand, present power demand, power availability, power factor related information, or power pricing.

      “20. The method of claim 11, further comprising coordinating a flow of power from the welding power supply to the power grid based at least partially upon the data received from the grid-side monitor or controller.”

      For the URL and additional information on this patent, see: Albrecht, Bruce Patrick. Smart grid welding system. U.S. Patent Number 11173564, filed October 17, 2018, and published online on November 16, 2021. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=11173564.PN.&OS=PN/11173564RS=PN/11173564

      (Our reports deliver fact-based news of research and discoveries from around the world.)

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