Working out the fakes

In recent times, the off-shore manufacture and importation of counterfeit gear units and motors has increased significantly. Advancements in reverse-engineering techniques have made the unlawful partial replication of leading drive technology brands more achievable than before. Overseas manufacturers, which are located in regions with an inherent disregard for international patent and copyright law, are pairing with unscrupulous local importers to introduce inferior drive technologies to the Australian mining and minerals processing market.

While industry is making in-roads into combatting counterfeit drive technologies, suspect units are still being identified across Australian mine sites. Once installed, the damage is done, with inevitable replacement costs placing burdens on the mine operator. Catching manufacturers, importers and on-sellers of gear unit and motor copies before sale could save end users from inevitable breakdowns. Vigilance from the wider motor and drive solutions community is essential.

Gear units and motors are susceptible to replication, as they incorporate an easily copied housing. While many gear units and motors incorporate innovative housing designs, it is the materials used and quality of the internal components – eg bearings, gears, rotors and stators – that dictate the level of performance.

?The counterfeit unit might look like the ?real thing?, but it will not perform to the same level,? says SEW-Eurodrive?s managing director Robert Merola. ?SEW incorporates technology in our latest developments that makes counterfeits virtually impossible.?

Counterfeit drive technologies can impact on the bottom line of end users. While they may be inexpensive, trouble looms if they are responsible for driving a process essential production line. Given that the counterfeit unit will not be manufactured to the same standards as original trusted motor and drive solutions, it will be more prone to breakdown and require increased levels of maintenance. When the counterfeit gear unit or motor malfunctions, the mine can lose money at an alarming rate. The small capital cost saving associated with the purchase of a counterfeit unit is soon absorbed by inefficient operation, breakdowns and maintenance.

?End users are often unaware that they have purchased a counterfeit until they call us to inspect a fault, only to be told that the unit is not genuine, parts are not interchangeable and that we can?t help them without replacing the whole unit,? says Robert Merola. ?The main reason industry trusts SEW-Eurodrive products is its service and support.  Also, without consulting and start up assistance from SEW, even genuine products can?t be used to their full potential.?

While optimised operational performance is paramount, environmental performance must also be considered. By law, all motors imported into Australia must be Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) compliant. Counterfeit three-phase induction motors are not MEPS compliant, leading to ongoing operational inefficiency and an increased carbon footprint. More worrying is if the counterfeits have been stamped MEPS compliant – a deliberate act to deceive.

End users can avoid the pitfalls of counterfeit drive technologies by buying direct from the manufacturer, authorised reseller or OEM. However, if the drive technology is provided as part of a machine package, purchasers are urged to request serial numbers of the gear units and motors prior to the sale. For SEW-Eurodrive technologies, end users can phone in serial numbers to confirm that they are genuine products. Tracking model numbers in this way gives buyers immediate recourse against the seller if necessary.

The Australian mining and minerals processing industry is encouraged to be vigilant by reporting suspect drive technology dealers and machine builders. By working together with industry, motor and drive providers can discourage counterfeiters from meddling in the Australian market.

SEW-Eurodrive is committed to identifying and shutting down parties that attempt to clone the company?s technology. If an official request to desist fails, legal action is instigated. Industry too must take this hardline against drive technology ?copy cats? in an effort to safeguard Australia?s mining and mineral processing industry from breakdowns, inefficiency and downtime.  

Source: SEW-Eurodrive/Relate Technical Communications

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