One of the primary conclusions of the Design News Machine Controller Reader Survey from October 2012 is that there is an opportunity to unify different and new machine functions on a single controller.
To explore interest in what machine controller functions users might be more likely to implement in new designs, the survey asked respondents how likely they would be to utilize specific new capabilities. The answers were not necessarily surprising but they did confirm recent initiatives to provide more tightly integrated solutions. Condition monitoring (bearings and temperatures, etc.), for example, was mentioned by 24.6 percent of respondents as very likely to be adopted.
One of the keys, of course, is how much work it is, and the cost to add a function such as condition monitoring to an application, but automation control suppliers are very aware that these tools need to be easy to implement if they are going to gain traction especially among OEM machinery builders.
B&R Automation has recently introduced an intelligent X20 module that offers an integrated approach to evaluating vibration patterns, offering onboard intelligence for vibration analysis that can make condition monitoring an integral standard feature on machines. In the past, preventive maintenance based on data from permanent condition monitoring has been rarely practiced due to the high cost of conventional systems. The X20 module claims to remedy this by maximizing machine availability while minimizing the time and money spent on maintenance. Preventive maintenance control based on the condition of the machinery can be planned more efficiently and performed during breaks in production.
With the X20CM4810 module, B&R has also introduced a new dedicated condition monitoring tool for machine builders and end users that enables operators to continuously monitor the status of an entire system. With a width of two slots, the module provides four input channels and an IEPE interface (integrated electronic piezoelectric) for querying acceleration sensors. This interface supplies the sensors with power, samples their signals, and processes them internally to generate more than 70 condition parameters like configurable damage frequency values, which are then transferred directly to the CPU via Ethernet POWERLINK or any other standard fieldbus system.
Optimizing machine availability
One effective way to optimize the ratio of machine availability to maintenance costs is to replace fixed maintenance intervals with condition-dependent, predictive maintenance. This involves scheduling maintenance when changes in monitored parameters indicate impending failure. The advantage of this is that components can continue to provide value until much closer to the actual end of their useful life, which is typically much later than the conservatively estimated maintenance interval.
But there is also no impact on manufacturing planning, since the required maintenance can be performed during regularly scheduled breaks in production. The risk of maintaining a stock of replacement parts is also minimized since only the affected components need to be replaced. This is also a way to reliably avoid failures that result from neglected maintenance.
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