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Industrial internet: Connecting motors to the Internet of Things

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Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of industrial equipment supplier EU Automation discusses how new developments help bring legacy systems forward

In the last few years, fitness tracking technology has been increasingly popular, with a range of devices available to help you become healthier, improve your fitness performance and ultimately live longer.

These devices use non-invasive, easy to use sensors that connect directly to your smartphone or computer, giving you instant results to track your progress. At this year’s Hanover Messe, a new ABB demonstrated a new fitness tracker. Only this time, it’s a fitness tracker for industrial motors.

At this year’s Hanover fair, ABB revealed that it has developed a smart sensor that can monitor the condition of a Low Voltage (LV) motor. This development consists of two parts; the sensor and the software. 

The sensor, which can be applied directly to the motor, collects data on the motor’s parameters including; vibration, temperature, magnetic fields and power consumption. This information is sent to a server and analysed. This means an electric motor can report wirelessly on its own condition.

The encrypted data from the sensors is transmitted wirelessly to a secure cloud based server. It is analysed and graphically presented through an internet based customer portal.

The condition of all motors in the system can be monitored at any time, with alerts if a problem or sub-optimal performance is detected. This information can then be used to plan maintenance, with the aim to reduce downtime.

When an alert from the predictive maintenance system flags up that a motor is performing sub-optimally or nearing the end of its lifetime, maintenance engineers can take the necessary steps to find a like-for-like replacement before downtime occurs. This can be done by using a reliable supplier of refurbished parts, such as EU Automation.

The smart sensor can be easily attached to new motors or can be retrofitted to almost any LV motor, not limited to those made by ABB. The technology has the potential to improve energy efficiency in any industrial automation system.

Without predictive analytics, motors often run until they fail, which usually results in unplanned downtime. This sensor system is a significant advancement, as it makes monitoring and preventative maintenance more accessible and straightforward than ever before.

ABB claims that using the sensor can cut motor downtime up to 70 per cent, extend motor life by up to 30 per cent and cut energy consumption by 10 per cent, three key considerations for anyone running an industrial plant.

Measuring simple parameters can bring almost any motor into the fourth industrial revolution, leading to a longer, healthier life for legacy systems.

Just like smart sensors are changing the way we understand and monitor our own health and fitness levels, they are also facilitating preventative maintenance for automation systems, reducing downtime and saving costs.