Released on the market by WEG, the device enables electric motors to play a protagonist role in the Industry 4.0 ambit. A technological solution that allows minimizing, or even eliminating, machine downtimes and remarkably improving the manufacturing process efficiency.
Motors are always subjected to strong stresses and long operation hours and it is unavoidable they are affected by a certain wear level. However, they unfrequently break down without warning. Usually, the signs of an imminent failure are anticipated by an increase of vibrations and by the high temperature. Parameters that, if not controlled and supervised carefully, can lead to unexpected stops, plant downtimes and therefore undesired financial losses. Consequently, the constant monitoring of vibrations, of temperature and of operation time becomes decisive as well as necessary to the ends of higher competitive edge. The timely warning of potential problems allows in fact executing the due maintenance and repair interventions, thus avoiding unscheduled interruptions. Definitively, a constant monitoring can increase productivity, improve quality and rise profits. Precisely in this context, WEG, one of the major world manufacturers of cutting-edge motors and drives, presented Motor Scan.
«We are referring to a user-friendly and effective device – explains Fabrizio Arosio, automation business manager of WEG Italia – that allows the remote monitoring of WEG motors, in order to maximise the use time and to permit both preventive and predictive maintenance activities». This technology allows in fact maintenance technicians to take informed decisions about the «health state» of installed motors and to react consequently, according to the acquired data.
From the motor to the IIoT, from Big Data to higher competitive edge
Available for frame sizes from 100 to 450, the device by WEG grants immediate usability. It exploits the Industry 4.0 digital technology, which includes Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Big Data Analytics to offer its customers a competitive edge in this dynamic and complex activity sector. Due to its devising and development, the device aims at avoiding the boring manual collection and monitoring of data, at removing the conjectures about preventive maintenance and at eliminating the inefficiency of the reactive maintenance.
«Motor Scan – adds Arosio – can predict and highlight a problem before it occurs. In a certain sense, it is as if we had a sort of crystal ball that allows knowing what will happen in the future. We believe that, preventing a problem before it occurs is the attainment of the best efficiency in terms of cost and maintenance. The device exploits the IIoT and the analysis to connect sensors and other devices aimed at collecting and analysing data in real time and besides it offers transparency in the adoption of immediate preventive actions. Moreover, our new solution helps customers in increasing the safety of their plants, remaining anyway competitive in this demanding constantly evolving sector». The sensor can be easily installed (even in a time following the motor installation) through a clamp and today it can detect vibrations, surface temperature, operation hours, speed and start/stop through a Bluetooth connection. For practical reasons, the collected data are stored in the cloud and users can exploit an available app for both iOS and Android, on their smartphones or tablets, to gain access to it. Besides, the access to data on laptop and desktop is enabled by a dedicated Web portal. A powerful analysis system allows processing data and anticipating possible hidden anomalies or problems according to the analysis of the frequency spectrum. Various warning levels, according to acceptable reference values of temperature/vibration, are pre-set, with the possibility of tracing performance curves on the basis of the collected data.
The added-value of a correct sizing
«Actually – adds Arosio – simultaneously with the installation, through the input of the univocal identification code of the single motor, the device automatically recognizes dozens and dozens of further product information, from the number of coils to their type of winding. Data that, through apposite algorithms, in the future will also enable, besides other things, to control the frequency, the efficiency and the real absorption in real time of the motor».
Moreover, these data will permit to check the correct motor sizing depending on the specific application. With noteworthy saving benefits.
«In fact, it quite often happens – further highlights Arosio – that starting from the designer’s initial sizing, to comply with the regulatory tolerances and so on, you achieve a motor used not by 100% but with much lower efficiencies. In other words, motors might be oversized or also undersized with respect to the load they are intended for. Discrepancy that unavoidably leads to some inefficiencies».
An oversized motor consumes more electric energy owing to a low power factor that increases costs. On the other hand, an undersized motor causes overheating. Therefore, it is important to monitor the motor load and to match the motor with its effective requirements, in order to improve the system performances and generate cost saving. For a certain number of years, in fact, the achievement of the energy efficiency has been the key target of industry. However, there is a concrete problem concerning the motor-load correspondence. Some energy savings must be obtained through the «right sizing». For this reason, the future evolution of Motor Scan will include the motor measuring.
Stop to vibrations, high temperatures and possible degradations of components
As already mentioned, the rise of vibrations, the high temperature and prolonged operation time of the motor can generate some risks, with undesired effects on the process where it is used. More in detail, anomalous vibrations come from electric or mechanical unbalances inside the motor. The electric causes include the variation of the flow around the stator that produces a variation of forces between the stator and the rotor, a broken rotor bar or a short circuit that involves a part of the winding. Mechanical causes include instead an unsuitable motor base and defective bearings.
«The complications caused by vibrations – points out Arosio – can for instance accelerate the bearing yielding, resulting in recesses on the tracks at the distance between balls or rollers».
Concerning temperature, some components, especially mobile parts, tend to release unusual heat quantities when they degrade. The presence of excessive heat can indicate an excess of friction, i.e. the presence of misalignments of components that rub one against the other (and they should not).
«According to some studies carried out – underlines Arosio – they estimate that each 10° rise of the operation temperature of motor windings, compared to the setup temperature, corresponds to the 50% reduction of the insulation duration of motor windings, even if the overheating is only temporary».
The effects of a protracted operation time can finally affect the fast degradation of some motor components. This occurs owing to the accumulation of overheating and stresses.
«To prolong the motor service life – notices Arosio – it is decisive, as well as important, monitoring the operation time and ascertaining that an excessive use is avoided. Moreover, the monitoring can offer the opportunity of an energy saving, permitting to switch motors off when they are not in use».
Reducing the motor operation time by just 10%, you achieve an energy saving that exceeds the one achievable by replacing a standard efficiency one with a high-efficiency execution. In short, the effective Motor Scan device not only allows eliminating the monotonous manual collection and monitoring of data but also makes preventive maintenance suppositions superfluous and actually annuls the inefficiency of the reactive maintenance. Besides, training maintenance technicians according to the particular requisites of predictive maintenance, it offers companies the opportunity of developing the staff’s skills, widening their capabilities and competences.