2020 Poy Cover 5f3fdbb93028a

Breaking the Mold

Aug. 21, 2020
This year’s winner brings an affordable software option capable of drawing time-current curves for breakers, performing arc flash calculations, and more.

EC&M’s 2020 Platinum Award goes to the Design Master Electrical 8.6 software from Lynnwood, Wash.-based Design Master Software. The product — geared toward electrical designers doing design for commercial buildings pre-permit — is engineered to run inside AutoCAD and Revit, and integrate the designer’s calculations and drafting in a single program. 

“For 8.6, what we’ve put together were time current curves,” says David Robison, president of Design Master Software. “So, for your breakers in your buildings, there’s a curve for when they actually trip based upon the current going through that breaker.”

These time-current curves can be drawn for each breaker and aid in both properly coordinating the system and performing arc flash calculations, he adds.

According to Robison, one of the motivations behind developing the software’s latest update is that arc flash is becoming more commonly requested by jurisdictions for general commercial buildings. Although users can manually perform those arc flash calculations, they can now do them automatically with the software. Additionally, the product allows users to create a one-line diagram; lay out the lighting and power plans; calculate loads on panels and photometrics; and view equipment connections and motors. This latest release also features a selective coordination component, which allows users to set the breaker type and settings at each point in the system.

After the software’s 2016 release, the company decided to pursue what would become the 8.6 iteration. The idea behind it, however, dates back nearly 30 years. Robison’s father, Mark Robison, P.E., dreamt up the concept long before AutoCAD — or even the computer mouse — existed, shares Robison.

Both worked together to figure out how to implement the elder Robison’s ideas into the software and write the code for what would become the 8.6 version. Completed in April 2019, beta-testing followed shortly afterward, with the software’s final release in July 2019. Robison believes his father took some pride in seeing his son complete this 30-year-old dream.

“It’s been nice,” Robison adds. “I’ve done this for 25 years now with my dad.”

Although it was enjoyable to see this dream completed, the development process was not always easy. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to take these graphs published in PDF or paper form by breaker manufacturers, put them in a standardized format, and find a way to hand-digitize the curves so they could be understood by a computer.

“It’s actually been a fair amount of data entry, just getting the graphs and tracing them on the computer,” Robison explains. “And then the computer can then read them on the software.”

Overall, Robison believes what makes Design Master Electrical 8.6 (available as a subscription service for $990 per year, which includes technical support and upgrades) so appealing to end-users is that it allows commercial users to perform necessary calculations on their own without needing to go to the breaker manufacturer. While other companies may offer more robust, complete software packages, he says his product’s affordable cost and user controllability make it desirable for simpler commercial buildings, such as banks or fast-food restaurants.

Robison credits both his loyal customer base and innovative software for why Design Master Electrical 8.6 earned the 2020 Platinum Award from EC&M’s voters.

“It’s not like you see lots of different options for this,” he says. “You’ve got the couple that exist and that’s it, so to have new options — an option that’s a little more affordable and integrating with other stuff that they’re doing — I think would be possibly what they’re looking for.”

For more information, visit www.designmaster.biz.



From the luminaires (recessed) category, this year’s runner-up is Cree Lighting’s Cadiant Dynamic Skylight. Designed for applications where natural lighting is difficult or impossible to come by, the lighting panel uses lighting controls and color changing technology with separate sun and sky panels for an experience that mirrors the natural arc of the sun. The top LED panel represents the sky and can vary from the extreme blue of a clear day to the gray blue of overcast conditions. Inner LED side panels shift between warm and cool color temperatures, mimicking the sun’s natural dawn-to-dusk movement throughout the day. The paired SmartCast wall-mounted touchscreen provides fingertip control over multiple skylights with both standard presets and manual control.



This year’s second runner-up goes to the fittings (conduit & cable) category winner. Service Wire Company’s ServiceDrive VFD self-terminating connector provides a 360° termination method required for drive systems to operate properly. When the connector is applied to shielded VFD cables, it provides a low impedance path and addresses the effects of EMI and common-mode currents to drives, motors, and electronic equipment within proximity of the drive system. Additionally, the connectors can be used with copper tape shielded VFD cable, copper tape shielded type MC, and copper tape shielded VFD tray cable installed in liquidtight or NPT rigid conduit. When paired with the company’s ServiceDrive VFD cable termination kit, the product will help reduce or eliminate motor bearing failures.

The EC&M Tradition Endures

Established in 2001, the EC&M Product of the Year competition recognizes excellence in new product development for the electrical industry. Honoring inventiveness in product design, as well as improvements in safety and efficiency, the competition’s two-fold judging and voting process determines the most ground-breaking products of the past year that allow electrical design professionals, installers, and maintenance personnel to perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

Products eligible for this year’s competition were those introduced to the market between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019. A hand-picked panel of judges ranked the 103 products entered into this year’s contest based on a uniform list of scoring criteria, ultimately selecting 31 category winners for the first phase of the competition. These category winners were then narrowed down to just three finalists through an online poll available to our readers on the EC&M website. By casting their votes, EC&M subscribers determined the platinum, gold, and silver award-winning products of the year.

About the Author

Ellie Coggins

Ellie Coggins is the managing editor for EC&M and has more than four years of experience in the B2B publishing space covering the electrical contracting/wholesaling industry. She received a journalism degree from Syracuse University. Connect with her at [email protected].

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