Evolution in condition monitoring
Condition monitoring of rotating equipment is a long established practice in many hydrocarbon-processing plants with a goal to detect, analyse and correct machinery faults to optimise maintenance intervals, extend production schedules and avoid unplanned downtime.
Critical machinery (turbines, compressors, large motors) is normally equipped with online condition monitoring and protection systems but the balance of plant equipment (motors, pumps, and fans) generally is not. This machine category represents well over half of the rotating machine population and consumes a significant percentage of a maintenance budget. Often, these machines are monitored with portable data collectors as, historically, it has been either impractical or uneconomical to install and maintain a permanently wired system. However a new breed of wireless condition monitoring systems proposes to bridge the gap between the cost of wired and portable systems.
Portable systems have been traditionally wired between the instrument and sensor, although with advances in wireless connections and request from users on the grounds of health and safety, we can now use wireless connection from the vibration sensor to the portable vibration data collector. Portable systems are still widely used for the bulk of condition monitoring of equipment but there are many areas that would benefit from a wireless transmitter. Examples include areas where it may be considered too dangerous to take data, or machinery that may be running intermittently and is often not available during the time that the operator takes readings.
The potential to improve efficiency through condition monitoring has driven the development of a new wireless solution from SKF. The SKF Wireless Machine Condition Sensor is ideal for monitoring machine components in locations that are difficult to access, and uses its wireless technology to solve a series of issues that could not be addressed with wired systems. Crucially, the product has ATEX Zone 0 certification, which means that it can be used in hazardous environments, and has significant benefits in many applications throughout the petrochemical, oil and gas sectors. The SKF Wireless Machine Condition Sensor collects data on three key machine conditions: temperature (indicative of lubrication issues, increased friction, rubbing, etc.); overall machine condition (vibrations caused by misalignment, imbalance, mechanical looseness, etc.); and rolling element bearing condition (allows damage detection and diagnosis of source as ball/ roller, cage, inner or outer raceway).
SKF Wireless Machine Condition Sensors communicate with each other, and with a wireless gateway, creating a mesh network. This type of network and communication protocol is ideal for monitoring rotating machinery because it can function in areas where traditional WiFi communications are not present. If a node is unable to receive signals directly from the WirelessHART gateway, it will instead send and receive its data through a nearby node that can pass the data to and from the gateway, ultimately creating the mesh network.