Editor's Choice

Nick Denbow’s European report: Trends in plant monitoring

March 2019 Editor's Choice

Early last year, the interest from many large automation and sensor suppliers focused on condition monitoring, for example, using wireless communications to monitor the condition of the motors and bearings on rotating equipment. This trend continues, and several relevant stories are featured in the magazine this month.

What I found of interest was that Yokogawa took a slightly different approach to condition monitoring and started a form of collaboration with two established sensor suppliers who also used the ISA100 standard for the wireless system – where Yokogawa was the leader in the associated control systems. One collaborator was Bently Nevada, which provided vibration monitoring systems for bearings, and the other, Spirax Sarco, which developed its own sensors for monitoring steam traps. In parallel to this activity, in its research laboratories, Yokogawa was working away on two other development routes, to establish a coordinated approach to IIoT condition monitoring for multiple sensor systems.

Sushi sensors

The first research area for Yokogawa was to develop the ‘Sushi’ sensor. Very appropriate for the Japanese company, one might think! But this sensor development started as far back as 2007, when the possibilities for industrial wireless sensors were just developing: the press was first told of the research project in 2016. The models shown then had the appearance of large bugs, in various colours – blue, yellow and silver – mainly the Yokogawa colours. But these were empty models, purely built to illustrate their concept. The Sushi sensor design idea is for a small, sealed, relatively low cost IIoT sensor, to be suitable for use in even harsh plant locations, in large numbers. Each is to have its own aerial built-in, and provide data via a wireless link. The first actual production versions of these units were launched in Japan and have been in use since last March, measuring temperature and vibration. Now the Sushi sensors are to be launched in Europe in March, and will be rolled out in other areas through the year.

The Sushi sensor is equipped with batteries for life, and is a very low power device: so the wireless link used is LoRaWAN (from the LoRa Alliance), a low-power wide-area (LPWA) wireless data communications protocol. These link to a plant server, or to the cloud, via a LoRaWAN gateway. In addition, the sensors support near-field radio communication (NFC), which allows sensor programming and local sensor condition monitoring – from a smartphone, via a dedicated App.

Yokogawa sees the major potential applications for Sushi sensors to be in measuring the vibration and temperature of plant equipment, such as compressors, pumps, motors, fans, and conveyors, much the same as the major condition monitoring markets for conventional vibration sensors. The Sushi sensors will form part of the OpreX industrial automation offering, and will use Yokogawa applications developed for data analysis using the IIoT.

Pump applications

The second research route at Yokogawa has been in collaboration with a Japanese pump manufacturer, active over the last few years. From this, their engineers have developed a new concept for pump wear monitoring, which will also be used for the emerging IIoT analysis architecture. The collaboration was with the Iwaki Co, which manufactures magnetic drive pumps widely used on various types of aggressive liquids in chemical, pharmaceutical and food plants.

Now being launched is a ‘Remote Pump Monitoring Service’ for initial trial by interested users, to prove the efficiency of the concept. With this service, operating data such as the current being drawn by a pump, pump discharge pressure and flow rate, temperature of the conveyed liquid, and tank empty/not empty status will be collected via an Iwaki pump protector and transferred to the cloud, using the new Yokogawa IIoT infrastructure.

Also launched this year, Yokogawa has developed a pump cavitation detection system, which will provide early warning of plant conditions that are liable to damage the pump, and cause increased noise and vibration. Using the DPharp EJX110A differential pressure transmitter, monitoring the pump at 100 msec intervals, Foundation Fieldbus communications transmits the data for analysis to the Yokogawa cavitation detection software loaded into a Stardom controller.

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