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Special Report: Adding wireless communication to vibration monitoring

by Guest on Feb 14, 2018

The vibration monitoring sensors can be mounted using a pedestal which is screwed to the motor housing, usually near the bearings.
The vibration monitoring sensors can be mounted using a pedestal which is screwed to the motor housing, usually near the bearings.

Transmitting vibration monitoring data via wireless networks makes continuous monitoring of rotating equipment more practical and cost effective, observes Shuji Yamamoto of Yokogawa Electric Corporation.

When we think of process manufacturing facilities, we tend to picture pipes, tanks, valves and instrumentation. This picture is correct, but we often tend to overlook how many rotating equipment are there and how critical these are to overall operation. If a pump, compressor or other device fails, it can have a serious effect on production. The fact that many pumps are configured in dual redundant installations gives an indication of their importance.

One of the great enemies of rotating equipment is vibration, which has a variety of causes. Consider a typical ANSI pump driven by a motor with a flexible coupling. If the two shafts are not truly on a common centreline, the coupling will compensate for the misalignment, but it will likely introduce vibration into the installation.

Vibration creates detrimental forces within the ball bearings, causing premature wear, which further increases the overall vibration. Over a long enough period of time, the problem will compound until one or more of the bearings fails. The pump’s mechanical seals may also suffer damage and begin to leak. Before long, the installation must be shut down and overhauled.

In addition to the vibration inherent with any rotating equipment, at least at some level, vibration can also be transmitted via piping and support structures from other equipment within the process unit. Consequently, vibration cannot be eliminated entirely, but it can be measured.

Sensors are available to characterise and quantify the amount of vibration, and to capture characteristic patterns, often referred to as signatures. These vibration monitoring systems typically use a piezo-electric sensor to create and transmit a signal proportional to measured vibration.

Vibration sensors have been available for many years, but older systems were costly to install, limiting their deployment to the most expensive and critical rotating equipment. For other installations, technicians carried portable units on routine inspections of the plant, manually checking bearings, seals and other critical points.

Sophisticated portable systems could capture historical information and compare specific installations over time, but the readings were still performed at potentially lengthy time intervals, and depended on operators carrying out the inspections. Performing such rounds has always been expensive and time-consuming, and when plants have minimal head counts, they can be delayed or skipped when more pressing tasks emerge.

Advantages of continuous monitoring

Short of a catastrophic failure of some component, vibration problems do not usually advance drastically in a brief period of time. This fact is usually cited to support the idea of periodic inspections. Unfortunately, vibration problems may increase slowly until they reach a critical point, and then the climb becomes much steeper toward failure, which can easily happen before the next scheduled manual inspection.


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