A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

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Testing any generator to see if it will stand up to an earthquake is never easy…

…but if that generator weighs some 80,000 pounds and has an engine that’s 8 feet tall and 14 feet long, it’s especially challenging.

No wonder Cummins Power Generation employees were pleased to learn late last year that after months of planning, logistics and testing, the QSK95 generator set had passed the “shaker table test” for seismic certification.

Part of the Cummins Power Generation team preparing the QSK95 generator set for shaker table testing in 2015.
Part of the Cummins Power Generation team preparing the QSK95 generator set for shaker table testing in 2015.


That certification included the International Building Code (IBC), California (USA) Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) and compliance with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 344 Test Procedure.

“Seismic testing and certification are required in some states in the U.S. and in some applications such as nuclear plants, but they are also becoming more popular among the owners of mission critical equipment such as data centers and hospitals,” said Manish Virmani, Business Director – Mission Critical at Cummins Power Generation.

The QSK95 generator produces 3.5 MW (megawatt) of power, enough to deliver reliable, mission critical power protection without interruption to data centers, hospitals, water treatment plants and more. During an earthquake, it’s especially important to keep those kinds of facilities up and running.

The actual shaker test took place on a specially designed, three-axis shaker table about four feet off the ground in March 2015 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, Illinois (USA).

Cummins QSK95 Shake Table Testing
The QSK95 generator set is placed on the specially designed, three-axis shaker table about four feet off the ground.


Cummins had personnel at the site from March 2 to March 27, 2015, with the majority of setup taking place in the first week and then the actual testing in the remaining three weeks, said Charles Knealing, Product Design Engineer – Group Leader at Cummins Power Generation.

Planning the test, however, began months earlier and included a long list of activities such as:

  • Designing and fabricating specially for the test an exhaust hood capable of removing 25,000 cubic feet per minute of air at 900 degrees Fahrenheit from the test cell making it possible to run the generator at full power.
  • Installing remote monitoring equipment to eliminate the need for personnel to be near the shaker table during testing.
  • Developing a computational fluid dynamics model to evaluate air temperatures throughout the facility to ensure the building was capable of handling the expected temperature rise.
  • Designing a spill collection system capable of containing a spill of engine coolant if one occurred.

Testing and teardown alone took one month and five full semi-loads of parts, test equipment and tools shipped to the site not to mention a QSK95 generator from Cummins Power Generation’s headquarters in Fridley, Minnesota (USA).

While all that might sound excessive to the casual observer, it becomes much more understandable when you see the large generator being tossed about during the actual testing to simulate ground activity during an earthquake.

Words alone can’t do it justice, so check out the video below to see for yourself.


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