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Wireless sensors enable automated machine monitoring

SKF, a company which offers solutions for the bearing business, has released a compact and cost-effective vibration and temperature sensor, which monitors the condition of rotating parts on heavy machinery.

Designed mainly for use as part of a SKF rotating equipment performance (REP) solution, the SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 enables customers to reduce unplanned downtime as well as maintenance costs.

“Industrial plants are under increasing pressure, and as a result, production hours are increasing.

At the same time, our customers need to avoid unplanned downtime, while reducing their capital investments.

Enabled by the new SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 they can easily get started with a fee or performance-based contract, and access automated predictive maintenance and reliable rotation on their operating budget,” Chris James, product line manager at SKF, said in a release.

Powered by long-lasting batteries, the cost-effective sensors can be deployed in large numbers to automate data gathering on machine health

Powered by long-lasting batteries, the cost-effective sensors can be deployed in large numbers to automate data gathering on machine health, a process typically carried out by technicians with manual portable devices.

When mounted to a bearing housing, this data can be wirelessly sent to a host computer network, where it can then be forwarded to cloud-based analysis services at SKF REP centres.

The system relies on a “mesh network,” which allows the sensors to relay data between one another.

The data can be routed around radio obstacles, such as pipework and liquid storage vessels, that create signal blocks for conventional line-of-sight systems and sent over greater distances than would be possible using a single device.

The SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 has been designed to achieve a tough ingress protection rating and is expected to work reliably when exposed to environmental hazards such as dust, dirt, oil, grease, contaminants and flying debris.

“Critically, the sensor gathers data consistent with our manual data-collector, particularly when it comes to detecting early-stage bearing defects.

Although severely damaged bearings are relatively straightforward to detect, by that stage they are close to failure – the key is to find defects early, so that corrective action can be planned in good time with minimal disruption,” James adds.

While, extracting the tiny signals of an early-stage defect from background noise is difficult, the SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 uses SKF’s technology to achieve this.

“Any condition monitoring program is only as good as the measurements it takes. SKF has been executing predictive maintenance contracts on a large scale for decades, so we know how a wireless device needs to perform, and the result is the SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1,” James says.

“However, wireless devices in themselves do not deliver reliable rotation – that is achieved with the combination of analysis experience to provide machine insights and mechanical engineering competence to support execution of any corrective actions.

And now delivered via new fee and performance-based business models, customers have a new way to achieve and pay for improved rotating equipment performance.”

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)