Breakdown or Breakthrough: Gaining Critical Machine Condition Insights with IoT Sensors

Fri, 03/06/2020 - 11:06

In Every Industry, The Same Problem: Weather and Wear

Every company has the same problem when it comes to their mission-critical equipment: machine condition degrades with usage, and it’s critical to maintain that equipment well to prevent unplanned downtime and extend its lifespan. The methods of fighting this problem are also the same: machinery must be regularly inspected, serviced, and occasionally replaced. On a regular schedule, maintenance staff are responsible for routine checkups on equipment such as large industrial pumps, motors, presses, conveyors, and all the different equipment that makes industry possible.

But it’s not possible for maintenance staff to be everywhere at once, and even with regular checkups, it’s all but certain that a machine will fail or break down when it’s unexpected. There’s only so much information available to a maintenance technician in the brief window of their scheduled inspection. Even very regular monitoring is often not enough to identify damage and anticipate machine failure in time to prevent stoppages. In the worst case, a machine breaking down can cause whole processes to break down, causing stoppages, lost time incidents, delaying manufacturing and leading to serious costs.

For this reason, power conscious IoT sensors are an incredibly valuable addition to any machine installation and can provide not just an insight into present conditions but a powerful indicator of the future. Easy to install and requiring minimal maintenance, IoT sensors can have a powerful impact on keeping critical systems running, and detecting equipment failure before it becomes a large and costly replacement. In this post, we’ll look at common types of failure, and how a well-placed IoT sensor can provide valuable predictive insights to minimize the cost of failure.

Scenario 1: Off Balance Vibrations vs Vibration Sensors

For many kinds of rotating machinery, a common fault source is when the rotating components become off-balance or uncentered. Even small deviations from specification can result in small vibrations that can quickly become big vibrations and create serious damage.

While a technician might miss small deviations like this, an IoT sensor has the best chance to prevent the most damage. Because it is installed in place at the source and is active when small vibrations begin, it can identify them when they start. Damage becomes increasingly worse with time once there’s a balancing issue on the rotating component. Rather than waiting until the next inspection to detect the error, a wireless IoT sensor can report the anomaly to maintenance through the internet via connection to an IoT gateway.

An IoT sensor can be retrofitted to equipment that was not initially designed with monitoring in mind, as well. Since IoT sensors are small, battery powered, and require little intervention from technicians, they can be placed on machinery and continue to deliver readings for months or years without replacing a battery, alerting to fail conditions well ahead of costly breakdowns.

Scenario 2: Failure in an HVAC System

Heating and cooling systems are populated with machinery that runs constantly, and sometimes the symptoms of failure are unrecognizable on a casual inspection. Oftentimes, the signs of failure aren’t even part of the typical inspection. For example, as long as an industrial cooler is staying under it’s threshold temperature, it may seem that the system is working as expected. But underlying measurements can tell a very different story.

For example, the motor may be beginning to fail, but drawing more current to compensate. The air filter system may not be operating properly, leading to the system working harder to circulate air. Even issues with the heat exchanger portion of the system can lead to large inefficiencies, struggling to keep temperature down.

All these conditions can be monitored by the addition of IoT sensors specifically designed to these failures. An IoT sensor can be fitted to monitor the current draw to detect a struggling motor, or pressure sensors can be placed within the air filtration system to detect differences in pressure. And in fitting these to existing systems, problems can be anticipated well ahead of when they’re usually discovered: when the refrigeration system breaks down, and when the temperature goes outside of a safe range.

Scenario 3: Oil & Gas Pumps and Reliability

In the oil and gas industry, reliable submersible pumps are a highly important and very common component. They also appear at all stages of the manufacture of products, from extraction to production, and they are a significant factor in what causes downtime in processes. They’re also under an unusual level of strain, due to the high-density materials that they move, and for this reason they are subject to a high degree of wear.

Common kinds of damage in a pump system include high pressure and high temperature. When pumps are blocked, the contents of the pump can demonstrate a high spike in temperature associated with pressurization. And the pressurization itself puts a strain on pump components, leading to unnecessary wear on motors and drive systems. Vibration in the pump system can also result.

All of these are easy to monitor via inline systems within the pipeline. A probe can measure the temperature and pressure inside the system via an external probe. This means that the moment a blockage results in unacceptable conditions, an IoT sensor can relay this information to the internet via a wireless gateway and notify maintenance workers as it happens. These early moments are critical to preventing further damage, and avoiding expensive downtime in the overall system.

IoT Sensors and Gateways – Bring Smart Monitoring to Every Industry

Laird Connectivity provides IoT Sensors and Gateways that are enabling new smart applications in every industry. Our BT510 sensors package temperature, shock, proximity, and door open/close sensors into a small for factor that communicates over Bluetooth 5. Our line of RS1xx sensors measure temperature and humidity, including with an external temperature probe that can be extended inside the measuring environment. And our RG1xx and IG60 gateways provide different ways to get that data the cloud, where you can create the applications that turn information into actions that have a big impact on your business.

Our sensors and gateways can also be customized to your application. Our product design experts can take your IoT applications from concept to reality via our capabilities in industrial design, hardware design, material design, RF testing and more. Let Laird Connectivity customize our sensors to your application’s specific needs.

Learn more about our IoT Devices.