Turning Current Measurement Upside Down
Some solutions are so obvious that to see them clearly you have to start fresh and look at the problem from a completely different angle. In the case of the TightSight display on Ideal's new 700 series of 600A and 1,000A industrial clamp meters, it meant looking at safe current measurement from the bottom up.
Because the display is typically on a clamp meter's face, it can be tricky — and dangerous — to read when you have to reach to the back of a cabinet or above your head to clamp on to a cable. In addition to a standard display on the face, Ideal's new meters sport one on the bottom, making it possible to view the reading in real-time without putting your head or any other part of your body in harm's way.
When the company began a series of focus groups in April 2003 to figure out what drove electricians crazy when it came to measuring current, Jim Gregorec, group manager of the test and measurement division, didn't know what kind of answers to expect. He posed questions to groups of industrial and commercial electricians about which direction the clamp should open and how big it should be, but the discussions continued to drift back to how difficult it can be to measure current in tight spaces. “It was one of those things where they had decided to just suck it up and accept the fact that it was part of the job,” he says. “But it still bothered them.”
Gregorec also learned from the focus groups that electricians wanted as much functionality from a test tool as possible. So in addition to its current measurement capability, the meter also serves as a multimeter for measuring voltage, resistance, capacitance, and frequency.
As the plant engineer and maintenance supervisor for Perfect Equipment in La Vergne, Tenn., Nick Nokes considers himself a very hands-on member of the electrical team. He spends the majority of his time on the plant floor, and even though he doesn't regularly put himself in precarious positions to read his clamp meter, he could still benefit from the new display. “I wish somebody would have thought of that before,” he says. “A lot of meters have a hold feature, but that's not real-time. If you're looking at it and trying to diagnose the problem in a high-current area, it's much better to see it in real-time than a snap-shot for just a split second.”
Nokes had the opportunity to test the meter long before it became available to the public. A representative from Ideal brought a sample of the 600A meter to the Perfect Equipment plant in May, and Nokes put it to work right away. “I clamped it on to a 400A service cable and just flipped open the end cap and looked at the display to get the reading,” he says. “It was great because I didn't have to get a step ladder out to get up and look at it.”
He didn't get to keep the meter he test drove, so he's eager to buy one when they become available next month. “It's an idea that somebody should have come up with a long time ago,” he says.
Visit www.testersandmeters.com for more information.
- Audible and visual high-voltage indication over 30VAC/DC on all functions
- CAT IV-600V and CAT III-1000V rated
- One touch backlight button for green display illumination
- Tapered jaws with hook tip for wire separation in tight locations
- Data hold button and offset thumb wheel for one-handed operation
- Large numbers and symbols in the display