A game changer that opens the door to predictive maintenance

2016-04-25 - One of the great technologies that ABB is showcasing at this year’s Hanover Fair is a new condition monitoring solution concept for low voltage induction motors. Based on wireless smart sensors that are easy to attach to motors, the solution will enable customers to monitor large numbers of LV motors – even their entire LV motor fleet. This will bring huge numbers of motors into the scope of predictive maintenance, enabling plants to cut downtime, extend motor lifetimes and even improve their energy efficiency.

We asked Otto Preiss, Managing Director of ABB’s Motors and Generators business, to tell us more about this innovative technology concept.

Motor technology

The technology of electric motors has not changed much in the past 100-plus years. Why?
It’s true that the basic concept of a three-phase induction motor has not changed due to its simple and well-established technology and the easy availability of three-phase electricity everywhere. But the induction motor of today is very different from that of 100 years ago. Improved materials for components from windings to castings mean today’s motors are lighter, smaller and extremely efficient – as high as 98 percent in some instances. Our motors run cooler and are incredibly reliable compared with earlier models.

Are we likely to see any breakthroughs in motor technology in the next five or 10 years? For example, is ABB exploring any new materials for the stator/rotor?
Of course I can’t disclose what’s happening within our R&D labs, but we are always researching new materials, experimenting with operating principles and investigating service-related technologies. The synchronous reluctance motor, for instance, was a real breakthrough. Furthermore, new technologies, such as low voltage synchronous motors, are set to deliver fewer losses and higher power density to suit many applications. Innovations and developments don’t always come from within the low voltage motor, however. We have truly innovative approaches that help ensure the uptime of electric motors.

Efficiency vs. reliability

There is an international standard to measure motor efficiency that allows users to accurately compare the data from different motor manufacturers. Why has there never been an IEC standard that measures motor reliability?
Reliability is based on usage patterns, maintenance regimes, environmental conditions and much more. It would hardly be possible to define a truly comparable basis that users could rely on. For example, while we do have efficiency labels for fridges, TV sets, cars, etc., we don’t have standardized reliability criteria for these products, either.

Remote condition monitoring solution – the technology

ABB has made good progress with its predictive maintenance technology (ABB LEAP and ABB MACHsense). How does smart sensing compare to these technologies?
Many of our current service tools are for large motors and generators. The smart sensor is one of the first service tools available for low voltage motors. It is a game changer in that it opens the door to predictive maintenance for the entire installed population of low voltage motors without the relatively high costs and greater technical challenges of traditional condition monitoring.

Why is the smart sensor an example of the Internet of Things? It uses Bluetooth® to transfer data – why not uplink directly to the cloud via on-site communication systems or Wi-Fi or 4G?
For more than a decade ABB has been advancing technologies for the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP) via its control systems, communications solutions, sensors and software. This remote condition monitoring solution has been developed as one of ABB’s core offerings for the IoTSP. It is part of a family of ABB technologies that allow industry, utility and infrastructure customers to make more intelligent use of data to optimize their operations, increase productivity and achieve greater flexibility.

The smart sensors pick up signals from the motors. Enabled with Bluetooth® Low Energy they are programmed to monitor three-phase LV induction motors. Bluetooth® Low Energy is the preferred protocol for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication for the industrial Internet of Things. The low energy capability is key. With WLAN it would simply not be possible, without external power or a significantly bigger and more expensive battery, to power these devices.

In the first release, data can be sent through a mobile device (smartphone or tablet), which will connect over 3G/4G/Wi-Fi and the Internet to the ABB secure server. At a later stage, a gateway solution for automatic data transfer will be available as well.

This is a perfect example of the Internet of Things, Services and People: things – the motor and the sensor – talking together and then relaying their findings over the Internet so that people can make an informed decision about which service to implement.

Why does ABB say that the smart sensor takes motors into the 21st century?
Historically, low voltage motors have been robust and “simple” workhorse machines. We are about to turn them into “smart” devices.

So far the only way to extract information about the motor’s performance has been to walk around the plant taking manual measurements and then interpreting the data. This method of condition monitoring is costly. Except for the most critical of applications, the complexity of the measurement technology also makes it uneconomical. Today, many low voltage motors are simply left to run until they fail, leading to downtime, to lost production, to potential secondary damage to other equipment, and possibly to poor quality.

The smart sensor makes motor health and operational parameters accessible at any time from smartphones, tablets or PCs. A quick glance at the screen gives a first-level indication of the motor’s condition. This is a world first. Never before has so much accurate data been extracted instantly from a live, operational motor without fitting complex measurement instrumentation to the motor. The data immediately shows the condition of that motor. The positive impact on a business can be profound.

Low voltage induction motor with smart sensor

Why has this breakthrough come about now?
It’s a combination of several factors. There has always been demand from the market for an affordable solution for monitoring low voltage motors. ABB has been investing in the development of special techniques and new approaches for monitoring the condition of motors. The decreasing costs of sensing, microprocessors and communication technologies, together with our strong expertise in motors, analysis and analytics, have created the logical environment for this new solution to emerge. Additionally, ABB has strong competence in IT, software and electronics, so it is only natural that we are at the forefront in innovatively combining IT with motors.

What does the future hold for the smart sensor?
In the future, I believe that a substantial number of low voltage induction motors will be fitted with smart sensors. After all, the smart sensor provides condition and performance data that could significantly reduce operating costs and increase productivity. Preliminary calculations have revealed possible reductions in downtime of up to 70 percent, improvements in motor life of up to 30 percent and increases in energy efficiency of up to 10 percent.
This could lead to payback scenarios that can be less than 12 months, so why would one not consider fitting smart sensors to a low voltage motor fleet?
Can the technology be applied to other ABB products, and if so which ones?
The current solution is designed for use with low voltage induction motors, but in principle the concept of a smart sensor-based connectivity technology is applicable to many other ABB products as well.

Remote condition monitoring solution – the market

What is the market potential for the smart sensor?
In principle, every LV induction motor, whether ABB or non-ABB, can be monitored. Smart sensors can be used both with new motors (factory installation) as well as existing motors (upgrade installation). Initially, factory installation of the smart sensor will be available as an option for selected LV motors. Eventually, smart sensors will become standard for many LV motors.

What impact will the smart sensor have on sales of ABB LV motors?
The sensor adds real value to the customer’s experience when buying and using an ABB LV motor. We are optimistic that this value will be appreciated by existing and future customers of ABB.

Remote condition monitoring solution – the sales process

You say payback time is under 12 months. How is this determined?
The largest contribution to savings comes from the reduction in downtime. In some industries like oil and gas or automotive, losses due to downtime can be really high – even $100,000 per hour or more is not unusual.

Unexpected failures not only lead to disruption of production, but also cause further lasting damage in motors, which if not detected could lead to subsequent stops.

Hence, once the smart sensor identifies an impending problem, planned repair or replacement actions could reduce downtime.

Even with downtime costs of a few hundred dollars an hour, it is clear that the total spend not just in equipping and monitoring motors with smart sensors, but also in implementing the required service actions, could result in a payback time of less than a year. And this is without taking into consideration the added potential benefits that could come from energy savings.

Smart sensor – the sales arguments

What are the three most compelling reasons to demand smart sensors in critical processes?

1. The solution reduces the risks of production stops by efficiently monitoring the motor and enabling maintenance activities to be pre-planned.

2. It will reveal motors’ energy consumption patterns. Poor matching between motors and their loads causes increased energy consumption, and information on usage patterns could be used to create better, more efficient loading profiles and so reduce the plant’s energy consumption.

3. Critical processes often involve safety or security considerations, or they are located in hygienic zones within the plant. Having remote access to critical equipment – and collecting data much more frequently than is possible with plant walkdowns – reduces the need for the plant’s own or third-party personnel to enter such areas, thereby supporting plant safety, security and hygiene.

For more information, please visit our webpage.

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    Otto Preiss, Managing Director of ABB’s Motors and Generators business
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