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Fault-finder for rotating machines needs no expertise

14 June, 2016

The German bearings manufacturer Schaeffler has developed an automated system for analysing the condition of rotating plant and equipment with fixed or variable speeds from 100–15,000 rpm. The FAG SmartQB is a pre-configured, ready-to-use condition-monitoring system for electric motors, pumps, fans, compressors and gearboxes, which can be commissioned in five minutes and can be operated by staff with little or no expertise in vibration monitoring.

The early warning system comprises of a FAG SmartQB sensor (a variant of the existing FAG SmartCheck condition-monitoring device), a cube-shaped housing with a 7-inch touchscreen display, and a cable for power and data transmission (using Power-over-Ethernet). If there are changes in the condition of the equipment being monitored, text messages are generated automatically on the display.

The system was developed to detect faults in rotating plant and equipment supported by rolling bearings. It can identify and display five causes of faults: bearing damage; imbalance; friction/cavitation (for centrifugal pumps); temperature increases; and changes in vibration patterns that cannot be attributed definitely to one of these causes and may need extra analysis.

The plain-text messages give users clear instructions for action, allowing them to undertake any corrective maintenance work immediately and to order any replacement parts, if needed.

Installation is simple. The system can be installed and operated by personnel with no experience of vibration monitoring. The touchscreen shows all of the relevant information, from assembly and set-up instructions, to recommended actions if a fault occurs, as well as contact details for technical support at Schaeffler.

Schaeffler's condition-monitoring system diagnoses faults on rotating machines and displays the results on a colour touchscreen

When commissioning an installation for the first time, the user specifies the type of rotating machine and whether it operates at a constant or variable speed. The system then selects the best measurement configuration automatically and is ready for an automatic learning mode that allows it to adjust the alarm thresholds. It then runs autonomously. Relevant machine parameters are measured and saved continuously, building up a database of historical data over time.

Up to six sensors can be connected to one FAG SmartQB and allocated to several machines, individual machine components or sub-assemblies. More sensors can be added later. After initial operation, the device displays information such as operating hours, fault frequencies, maximum values, average values, trend curves, and the alarm status of each sensor. If a change in vibration signals triggers an alarm that cannot be attributed to one of the five main causes, the system recommends sending the data to Schaeffler’s technical support centre, which can provide a more in-depth analysis.

“FAG SmartQB allows any customer to monitor their machines without needing vibration monitoring experts or extensive training,” explains Dr Steve Lacey, Schaeffler’s engineering manager in the UK. “Customers want a plug-and-play condition-monitoring system that is easy to install and operate, and which provides automatic, clear answers to any machine problems that occur. FAG SmartQB achieves all of this at a very favourable price-performance ratio.”

The system is currently being trialled at customer sites in a variety of industries including cement, paper, steel and water.

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