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Advanced Engineering 2021

NEC Birmingham(B40 1NT)

03/11/2021 - 04/11/2021

Join us in our 12th and most important edition to date, as we invite engineers and management from all (more)

Prevention is better than cure

Prevention is better than cure Condition monitoring is not always a priority for engineers who are pulled in so many different directions and have limited resources. But if implemented correctly, condition monitoring can help you avoid a 'fire fighting' culture and benefit for a 'prevention is better than cure' approach. Dr Steve Lacey of Schaeffler explains.

The key to effective condition monitoring (CM) is to understand CM itself before looking at the individual monitoring techniques. Equipment not being fitted correctly or machines not being used for the purpose they were originally designed for are just two examples of problems that can lead to false readings and a poor understanding of what is happening.

It is important to have a good relationship between the engineers on the plant and your CM partner. There is little point in doing CM if the actions recommended to you are not followed up. Second, don't try to do too much too soon. It is important to build up the portfolio slowly but effectively so that everyone is onboard at the outset. Third, you need to decide if you are doing the CM yourself, whether you have a dedicated CM workforce or if you are going to do CM as an ad hoc activity.

Once these foundations have been laid, it is then a case of deciding on the right tools and techniques for the plant being monitored. There is little point in trying to fit the plant to the CM equipment; rather, the CM equipment must be aligned to the plant. The one tool or technique that makes the difference is always the one that works best for the application or environment in question. For example, vibration monitoring is best suited to monitoring high speed applications because it is easier to obtain more detailed information compared with acoustic emission (AE) monitoring techniques, which are more suited for slow rotating equipment generally above 80rpm.

Where there are several monitoring positions in one location (for example conveyor rolls in steel mills), thermal imaging may be the preferred technique because it is quick and easy to implement and data can be obtained immediately. Finally, a greater percentage of faults and breakdowns are caused by equipment that is not properly aligned or balanced, for example belts, motors and gearboxes, which, when properly aligned, can also offer significant energy savings for plant engineers.

The latest CM systems are being used to monitor a diverse range of industrial equipment, including pumps, compressors, fans, motors and more recently wind turbines and ships. Schaeffler's latest CM device, FAG SmartCheck, is a unique, ultra compact unit that can be used to monitor vibration and temperature, as well as a range of other machine and process-specific parameters such as pressure and flow rate. By monitoring these parameters, users are provided with a broad basis of information in real time, which enables the accurate assessment of machine condition. Due to its patented self-learning (Teach-In) mode, the device's alarm thresholds are adjusted automatically. After set up and commissioning, the unit operates autonomously. The relevant machine parameters are measured and saved continuously in the system, creating a substantial database of historical data over time.

Bearing defects in electric motors can be detected early by monitoring vibration and noise levels. German company Schorch Elektrische Maschinen und Antriebe, for example, required a reliable, cost-effective method of monitoring bearings and other parameters such as temperature, load and speed. This comprehensive source of data would provide continuous information about the overall condition of the motors, including difficult-to-access machines or ones installed in remote locations. In order to provide information about the long-term condition of machines in the field, access to historical data was also needed. Schorch therefore installed the FAG SmartCheck device on the drive motor of a piston compressor. Further parameters such as room temperature and motor housing temperature were recorded and correlated with the vibration signals to enable intelligent process monitoring. However, the customer's main priority was the vibration measurement results, which gave an early indication of any damage to the rolling bearings.

Other OEMs are also benefiting from CM. For example, on vacuum pumps, FAG SmartCheck is helping to identify imbalances, incorrect shaft alignments and bearing damage. These critical operating conditions, if left undetected, could lead to the stoppage of a complete production line.

Due to their flexibility, CM devices can be attractive solutions for machines that are installed in remote locations, for example flood control pumps in reservoirs. Here, measurement data from the pumps can be accessed remotely using secure, remote internet connections. Operators are reliably informed about the condition of their machines without having to be on-site and if necessary can take immediate counter-measures if alarm thresholds are exceeded.

Similarly, wind turbines in remote locations are also benefiting from CM. In 2012, wind farm developer and operator Fred.Olsen Renewables (FOR) installed five FAG WiPro s condition monitoring systems from Schaeffler on five wind turbines at Crystal Rig wind farm in Scotland. These systems continuously monitor the condition of the main rotor bearings, gearbox and generators, with Schaeffler providing remote monitoring services on a 24/7 basis. Since the CM systems were installed in May 2012, Schaeffler has picked up several faults in the generator bearings and identified early problems with some gears on a planetary gearbox. These faults were confirmed by FOR using fibre optic cameras (endoscopes) to look inside the gearbox.

Remote CM is also proving useful in the marine sector. Whilst CM has been used in marine applications for many years, typically using data collectors operated by ships' staff, the advent of larger, more complex machinery, particularly on vessels such as large LNG carriers, has led to an increase in demand for automated, online CM systems. The major advantage here is that remote monitoring and advice can be readily provided by fleet technical management, OEMs or shore-based CM specialists. Higher workloads and the reducing number of staff on modern ships also make remote monitoring more attractive. In the event of an alarm condition, an automated monitoring system will typically provide alarm text for the duty engineer in the engine control room and an automatic notification to the remote monitoring facility. Trend and analysis data can also be transferred ashore for diagnostic purposes.
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