SKF recently introduced a compact vibration and temperature sensor that monitors the condition of rotating parts on heavy machinery. Designed mainly for use as part of a SKF rotating equipment performance (REP) contract or fee arrangement, the company claims its Enlight Collect IMx-1 allows customers to reduce unplanned downtime and maintenance costs.
The system comprises an autonomous battery-powered wireless vibration and temperature sensor, a line-powered communication and network manager gateway, host software for data trending visualization and analysis and a mobile phone app for sensor and gateway commissioning. SKF said it can detect and process common bearing issues such as imbalance, misalignment, temperature, looseness, electrically induced vibration and early-stage damage.
The battery-powered sensors can be deployed in large numbers to automate the gathering of data regarding
the health of machinery, a process typically carried out by technicians with manual portable devices. When mounted to a bearing housing, collected data can be wirelessly sent to a host computer network, where it can then be forwarded to cloud-based analysis services at SKF REP centers. The sensor has an ingress protection rating of IP69K, enabling it to work reliably when exposed to dust, dirt, oil, grease, contaminants, flying debris, temperature changes, wind, rain or high-pressure hot water washdowns.
Based on a mesh network, the system allows data transmission to 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. Product Manager Chris James said, “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. 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 our multiyear service contracts.
“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.”
However, extracting tiny signals of an early-stage defect from background noise is difficult. The SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 uses SKF’s acceleration enveloping technology to achieve this.
James added, “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. 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.”