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Digital Infrastructure: The Future Of Condition Monitoring

Digital Infrastructure: The Future Of Condition Monitoring

Components equipped with sensors are central to the drive systems used in machines and equipment. They record data and are key in facilitating digital services, and enable the reduction in machine life cycle losses and life cycle costs. Contributed by Schaeffler

How can sensors help in monitoring rolling bearing performance? Condition monitoring systems help to monitor rolling bearing degradation, and assessment is performed on the component’s criticality and reliability to identify common failure modes.

Such sensors are able to detect changes in components and can sense degradation in advance, enabling the change of components before a failure occurs.

Digital Infrastructure As A Solution

A digital infrastructure that is easy to use helps manufacturers take the step in digitising most, if not all, of their processes. An example of such an infrastructure is the Smart EcoSystem by Schaeffler, with components that are equipped with sensors, application-specific solutions, and cloud-based services. With a digital infrastructure in place, manufacturers and operators of machines and equipment can use and apply the Internet of Things in practice.

From components equipped with sensors through to digital services, the system offers a cloud-based hardware and software infrastructure. The flexible architecture of a system such as this gives manufacturers a simple and application-oriented point of entry into a range of digital services offered by the system, which can be expanded at any time.

Martin Schreiber, regional sales management, Schaeffler, Asia Pacific, said that with the new technology approach of digitalisation, the company intends to create additional value for manufacturers, operators, and end users by offering joint developments in the area of smart components integrating sensors and evaluating units.

Fundamental Enablers

The rolling bearing, its mechatronic derivatives, and the corresponding domain expertise provide the central source of information in this field. Components equipped with sensors are central to the drive systems used in machines and equipment—they record data and are the fundamental “enablers” for these digital services.

The FAG Vario Sense is a new rolling bearing system that is based on standard products and can be configured in a modular fashion with various different sensors. It enables nearly every bearing position to be equipped with sensors. This represents an important step towards a future in which not only complex systems but also simple assemblies and machines will have easy access to digitalisation and the Internet of Things.

Data Analysis Of Components

The recorded data are transferred via a flexible gateway to the cloud—conventional applications may not be able to access the interfaces, but a flexible gateway eases the transition by presenting cloud storage in a way that applications can use.

The sensor-enabled rolling bearing system can then be made usable in the form of digital services. For example, automated rolling bearing diagnosis and remaining useful life calculation can be used to provide precise information on the condition of the bearing and thus of the machine being monitored, which in turn allows specific actions to be recommended. It will even be possible to use real load data to make adjustments to operational machine processes in real time.

Vibration Monitoring

The rolling bearing system is also cloud-capable, allowing a point of entry into the digitalisation of machines and equipment based on vibration monitoring. The latest version of the system uses  a message queue telemetry transport interface to provide a direct link to the system’s cloud or to any other platform based on IBM technology.

It is also possible to communicate with other cloud technologies via the system’s gateway or other alternative gateway solutions using an object linking and embedding for process control/unified architecture interface. The connection between the SmartCheck and the Smart EcoSystem’s cloud is remarkably easy to make via smartphone—by scanning the relevant product’s QR code or using the free app.

This gives the operator access to services such as the automated rolling bearing diagnosis, which is based on the vibration data that the system has gathered from rolling bearings as well as shafts and other rotating components. Depending on the contract, the customer receives access to the condition data, partially-automated recommended actions or, in the case of more complex machines, a connection to the customer service centre which provides specific and individual recommended actions.

For the next stage, it will also be possible to use the SmartCheck to record speed and torque and to classify such load data. In the cloud, a rolling bearing calculation tool (called Bearinx) is then used to compare the real load data with the fundamental load data used during the design phase, and the rolling bearing’s remaining useful life is then calculated on this basis. A potential application for this technology will be in the railway industry.

“For the implementation of digitalisation, such collaborations with manufacturers and operators of machines and equipment are key so the Internet of Things can be used and applied in practice with application-specific solutions,” said Mr Schreiber. “The prerequisite however is a holistic and standardised infrastructure from the sensor through to the cloud.”

From Sensor To The Cloud

The rolling bearing is ideally suited for gathering information, since it is located at the heart of the application’s flow of force and thus exposed to all of the loads that occur. By providing domain expertise in specific applications (made available via the cloud), this gives manufacturers a chance to achieve maximum degree of capacity utilisation and optimise product quality.

The prerequisite for this is a holistic and standardised infrastructure from the sensor through to the cloud.

The rolling bearing is ideally suited for gathering information, since it is located at the heart of the application’s flow of force and thus exposed to all of the loads that occur.

A sensor-enabled rolling bearing system that is based on standard products can be configured in a modular fashion using a range of different sensors, which allows any bearing position to be equipped with sensors.

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