Date: 2022-11-06 20:23:52
Optimizing the efficiency and extending the life of axial and centrifugal fans while reducing the risk of unplanned downtime and lost productivity with industrial-internet-of-things and edge-computing technologies.
Note: This article appears in the 2022 edition of AMCA inmotion magazine.
By MICHAEL SCHLEMMER
Designed to move air and granular media in manufacturing settings, industrial fans and blowers can operate amid some of the harshest indoor environmental conditions imaginable, including extreme temperatures, high levels of vibration, and heavy accumulation of dust and debris. If not effectively maintained, even the most ruggedly constructed equipment is subject to premature wear and failure.
With advances in remote fan monitoring and predictive maintenance, plant workers are empowered to make smarter decisions about fan health based on real-time performance data, avoiding costly unplanned downtime and lost production and reducing power consumption.
The Present and Future of Fan Maintenance
Industrial-internet-of-things (IIoT) and edge-computing technologies have transformed the face of industrial asset maintenance, and their adoption is rapidly accelerating. In fact, Allied Market Research expects the embedded-analytics market to more than double—increasing from $25.13 billion in 2016 to $60.28 billion in 2023—in seven years’ time.1
The approach leverages smart-sensing technologies for monitoring an asset’s key vital signs, such as temperature, vibration, and energy use, changes in which can be early indicators of wear. Sensors connected to the cloud upload asset conditions and performance in real time. This enables early detection of failure and faster response. The goal is to provide actionable data and insights to maintain the performance and increase the reliability of a fan.
What Is Remote Condition Monitoring?
With remote condition monitoring, sensors installed at key points on equipment identify critical changes in performance from baseline metrics. For example, vibration sensors installed on a motor shaft measure vibration patterns during startup, wind-down, and normal operation. These vibration patterns are compared in real time to a baseline. While some level of vibration is to be expected in heavy industrial equipment, as fan bearings wear or if misalignment occurs, vibration will increase. Sudden changes in vibration are an early indication of a mechanical problem. Once vibration exceeds an established threshold, a remote monitoring system can alert maintenance personnel. This allows maintenance technicians to resolve mechanical concerns before the concerns escalate.
The cost savings associated with a remote-monitoring program can be significant. Through early detection of problems, users can prevent equipment from failing, avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in unplanned-downtime and lost-production costs. Meanwhile, keeping vibration levels in check can extend the life of equipment, yielding long-term maintenance- and replacement-cost savings.
Vibration monitoring is just one example of remote monitoring for axial and centrifugal fans. With airflow monitoring, particle sensors can track the volume of dirt and debris in an air stream. With power monitoring, current and voltage sensors can continuously monitor power inputs to optimize energy consumption and identify inefficiencies requiring attention. Each of these monitoring techniques provides long-term benefits to a system.
Advantages of Remote Monitoring
Despite assumptions concerning the cost of IIoT technology, implementing remote monitoring often requires only a minimal additional upfront cost, but pays for itself by reducing overall maintenance costs, preventing downtime, and optimizing fan performance. Following are a few practical examples of how remote monitoring is being used in industrial facilities and the value it can provide:
Eliminating human error. Traditional maintenance relies heavily on manual processes, such as inspection, measurement, and record-keeping. By nature, these processes are prone to error: Data can be incorrectly captured, inspections missed, and results misconstrued. With remote monitoring, data is continuously captured and analyzed. This intelligence can be used to quickly and accurately pinpoint causes of concern and initiate an appropriate response.
Reducing maintenance and operating costs. Unplanned downtime and resultant lost productivity as maintenance technicians scramble to identify and fix problems can cost an owner millions of dollars a year. Remote vibration and temperature monitoring helps to avoid unplanned downtime by flagging problems well before they cause failure and enabling a quick response. For example, gradual increases in vibration can be an indicator of uneven dust loading on a fan’s impeller. If left unchecked, uneven dust loading can negatively impact fan performance and result in premature wear and unexpected failure. With remote monitoring, users can see vibration trending upward and respond proactively, avoiding any major damage to equipment and disruption of operations.
In addition to lowering maintenance costs, remote monitoring helps to reduce power consumption. For example, with remote airflow- and pressure-monitoring technologies, maintenance personnel can visualize a fan’s efficiency metrics in real time and quickly identify when the fan is using more power than normal or necessary. With energy a major operating expense, optimizing fan power consumption can result in considerable long-term savings and significantly improve margins.
Enabling more proactive maintenance. Traditional preventive-maintenance plans depend on interventions performed at predetermined intervals. This is a time-tested approach that can be extremely effective for some types of equipment. For equipment operating in harsh industrial environments, however, a lot can happen between maintenance visits. As a result, many plant owners are turning to proactive-maintenance capabilities enabled by remote-monitoring technology.
Remote-monitoring technologies essentially make four types of analytics possible:
- Descriptive—Descriptive analytics tells what happened. It describes past events/occurrences, provides insight regarding how to handle future situations, and allows one to draw comparisons. Condition-monitoring technologies automatically mine and aggregate machine-health and performance data to find patterns and meanings.
- Diagnostic—Diagnostic analytics tells why something happened. It helps one understand root causes of events and behaviors, identify correlations between variables, define anomalies, outline factors, and determine how variables are related.
- Predictive—Predictive analytics tells what will happen and why. With predictive analytics, machine-learning algorithms are used to foretell possible failures.
- Prescriptive—Prescriptive analytics tells the optimal course of action in real time. This automates critical decision-making and speeds response.
Remote-monitoring capabilities empower maintenance teams to be proactive, rather than reactive, in managing and maintaining axial and centrifugal fans. This allows maintenance teams to improve the efficiency and extend the life of the equipment and reduce the risk of unplanned downtime and lost productivity, realizing significant cost savings in the process.
- Allied Market Research. (2017, June). Embedded analytics market expected to reach $60,281 million by 2023. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/Embed_Analytics
About the Author
Michael Schlemmer is heavy-industrial (HI) sales manager, aftermarket, for The New York Blower Co.
Remote monitors measure shaft-collar pressure and air temperature, transmitting and calibrating the data in real time. Photo courtesy of The New York Blower Co.
A simple user interface (shown) and Web-based interface (not shown) help to monitor airflow, temperature, pressure, and humidity. Photo courtesy of The New York Blower Co.
Vibration sensors installed on a fan motor measure root-mean-square vibration velocity while monitoring temperature and vibration. Photo courtesy of The New York Blower Co.
A flow sensor installed in a fan duct helps to monitor, control, and diagnose potential problems with airflow. Photo courtesy of The New York Blower Co.
A smart-sensor monitoring system collects data on collar temperature and pressure. Photo courtesy of The New York Blower Co.