A Wireless Window on the Shop

June 22, 2009
With wireless monitoring and the Internet, shops can keep tabs on machine health anytime, anywhere.
The screenshot shows an InSite monitoring application running in a standard web browser. The left panel shows a navigation tree that provides access to the hierarchy of facilities, machines, components and individual sensors. Each branch of the tree has a status indicator indicating if a problem exists. The right panel shows the vibration spectrum from a sensor

Full-spectrum vibration monitoring of critical rotating equipment just got a lot simpler and less expensive. This is the claim of GTI Spindle Technology and its partner InCheck Technologies -- the co-developers of the new wireless predictive maintenance InSite™ system. In a typical shop the opportunities for vibration monitoring include machine spindles, ballscrews, workheads and chucks, or any equipment or component critical to operation of the facility.

The InSite system is available to the metalworking market through GTI Spindle Technology Inc. — a full-service spindle manufacturer and repair center.

Simple, low-cost monitoring
InSite uses a network centric architecture with wireless dataacquisition modules that collect data from industrial sensors installed on rotating equipment. It uses standard network infrastructure, such as local and wide area networks and the Internet, to deliver monitoring information to end users. This makes for easy and inexpensive installation, low capital investment, scalability, access to data from anywhere, flexibility of alert distribution and easy multi-site integration. The system sends data for processing and storage to a server installed at the shop or via the Internet to one at a remote location.

“To the best of our knowledge, In- Site is the first full-featured wireless vibration monitoring system on the market,” said Thomas Hoenig, president of GTI Spindle Technology.

Users can access equipment vibration data by logging on a local server located in the shop, or through the Internet to a server in a remote location. This makes the system suitable for any size shop, even smaller ones that don’t want to install and maintain a local application server.

Because it is a wireless set-up, collected data can be immediately transported via the Internet to a remote server where it is available to anyone with a computer and authorized to access the data. A shop can monitor its equipment at any time through the server. Or, the data can be monitored remotely by GTI Spindle Techology’s InWeb™ service, or any other vibration-monitoring service. When vibration levels on any monitored piece of equipment exceed a predetermined threshold, the shop is immediately and automatically notified via e-mail so corrective action can be taken or maintenance scheduled.

Because of its high scalability, the InSite system can be implemented on a small scale first, giving a shop the opportunity to learn its features before expanding into a multimachine or plant-wide system.

With the InSite monitoring system, an accelerometer mounted on the machine spindle housing feeds a vibration signal to a transmitter that wirelessly sends the data to a server in the shop or, via the Internet, to a remote server.

In most existing monitoring systems, equipment vibration data is collected and fed to an on-site database or server located in a centralized location in the plant. This requires an analyst to be on-site to interpret the data. Because of the expense of wiring and maintaining a centralized data-collection and analysis location, such as a computer room, many shops use independent monitoring services that visit the shop periodically for routine testing and data gathering. By wirelessly sending the data to an off-site server, shops eliminate the expense of installing and maintaining on-site equipment and the expense of using an outside monitoring service.

Shops with multiple locations find the wireless monitoring system particularly cost effective. With the system, a user, regardless of where he or she is, will have access to data from all monitored equipment, regardless of where it’s located. All the user has to do is access the Internet monitoring site via a computer.

How it works
Installing the monitoring system is simple. A transducer – an accelerometer for vibration monitoring – is attached to each piece of equipment or component to be monitored. Signals generated by the transducer are fed to a small transmitter that wirelessly sends the data to the local server or via the Internet to a remote server.

Data is presented graphically in time and frequency domains, and integrated, filtered, and averaged. Multiple data sets can be compared between different machines and across the historical data archive.

The system works with any type of industrial transducer – vibration, temperature, pressure or flow, for example.

A transmitter can monitor from four to 16 sensors on a piece of equipment. For example, on a machine tool a transmitter may be simultaneously monitoring the spindle, workhead or chuck and the ballscrew. If more channels are needed, another transmitter can be added.

What it tells you
The system can immediately spot an imbalance on a machine that might be caused by installing an out-of-balance tool, for example. In this case, the shop is notified that an alarm condition has just occurred, probably due to a faulty tool. Or, a gradually increasing spindle vibration level that indicates a deteriorating bearing can trigger an alarm so the shop can schedule maintenance before a catastrophic failure occurs.

Because the system generates a full-spectrum vibration signature, at whatever data-collection frequency is necessary, an analyst interpreting the data can determine just what is causing the alarm, not simply that something has gone bad. For example, an analyst can determine if a bearing is going bad, or if an unbalanced tool and holder have been installed, or if a machining crash is at fault. With an off-site server, because a technician does not have to be in the shop, response to an alarm condition is speeded up.

Tom Hoenig said the technology is progressing and, in the future, the system will be able to detect and analyze tool wear.

Advantages of wireless monitoring
• Low cost wireless installation and set up using standard network components.

• No software to install or maintain.

• Secure access to data from anywhere.

• Replaces walk-around data collection with low-cost, more accurate around-theclock monitoring.

• Collects data from any industrial sensor including accelerometers, RTDs, pressure transducers, thermocouples and str ain gauges.

• High scalability by adding more dataacquisition modules.

• Multiple plants are monitored using a single seamless application interface.

• Data can be securely shared between maintenance personnel, management, and external consultants.

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