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Wireless mesh sensors monitor rotating machines

27 March, 2020

SKF has announced a compact vibration and temperature sensor that monitors the condition of rotating parts on heavy industrial machinery automatically. It says that the SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 sensor will allow users to cut both unplanned downtime and maintenance costs. They will also be able to collect data more frequently – over hours and days, instead of weeks and months – from locations that were previously inaccessible, using fewer technicians.

The battery-powered sensor, designed mainly for use as part of SKF’s REP (Rotating Equipment Performance) system, can be deployed in large numbers to automate the collection of data on the health of machinery – a process usually carried out manually by technicians using portable devices. When mounted on a bearing housing, the sensor can send the collected data wirelessly to a host computer network, which can forward it to cloud-based analysis services at SKF’s REP centres.

The system uses a mesh network to relay data between the sensors. This allows the data to be routed around radio obstacles, such as pipes and storage vessels, that can block signals for conventional line-of-sight systems. It also allows the data to be sent over longer distances than would be possible using a single device.

“The mesh network is self-forming, which makes it easier and quicker to deploy than other wireless communications technologies such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,” explains SKF product line manager, Chris James. “It is also innovative in the way it manages available bandwidth and the power consumption of the sensors, which leads to a long enough battery life to meet the needs of multi-year service contracts.”

The IP69K-protected sensors have been designed to work reliably even when exposed to dust, dirt, oil, grease, contaminants, flying debris, temperature changes, wind, rain, and high-pressure hot water washdowns.

SKF’s wireless sensors allow vibrations and temperatures from rotating machinery to be monitored automatically

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

But extracting the tiny signals of an early-stage defect from background noise can be difficult. The new sensor uses an acceleration enveloping technology to achieve this.

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

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