Predictive technologies enhance equipment reliability

June 7, 2011
Sheila Kennedy says predictive tools now offer improved portability, connectivity, affordability and usability.

Assets tend to exhibit subtle changes in condition before a failure occurs. Tools and devices designed to detect these signals proactively and trigger corrective actions are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Improvements in portability, connectivity, affordability and usability are prominent in several recent product announcements.

Portability: There are instances in vibration analysis when two-channel portable data collectors are inadequate and permanently installed online vibration monitoring systems are impractical. Emerson’s ( alternative is the CSI 2600 Machinery Health Expert. It’s a portable tool capable of unattended, online monitoring and recording of 24 channels, continuously and simultaneously, for weeks at a time. Its integration with AMS Suite predictive maintenance software permits advanced vibration diagnostics.

“While traditional multi-channel portable devices focus on monitoring turbomachinery, the CSI 2600 is capable of detecting rolling element and gearbox problems as well,” says Deane Horn, product line manager for Emerson’s line of online machinery monitors. “It uses Emerson’s PeakVue technology for identifying early indication of bearing wear, and features transient analysis, fault frequency overlays, order tracking and time synchronous averaging.”


Connectivity: Certain degradation occurs between preventive maintenance cycles. By monitoring and measuring asset data continually, you can predict and circumvent problems. Infor ( EAM connectors provide out-of-the-box connections from devices that supply real-time PLC, building automation and metering data to the Infor EAM software application, where rule-based work orders for predictive maintenance can be generated automatically.

“We knew we had to supply the complete asset sustainability ecosystem, providing not just software and services, but also hardware to collect this data,” says Johnny Bofilios, Infor’s director of asset sustainability. “One of our hardware partners is Echelon (, whose i.LON SmartServer is a standards-based energy manager. Energy spikes that i.LON reveals could be indicative of high motor temperature, phase imbalance or other asset conditions that require maintenance.”

Adding connectivity between hardware devices also improves productivity. MeterLink from Extech Instruments ( automates the sharing of Extech electrical and environmental meter diagnostics and Flir infrared camera diagnostics. “Previously, a camera would scan for a hot spot and a meter would collect electrical readings, and manual or audio note taking was required to integrate these readings when compiling inspection reports. With MeterLink, meter readings are recorded instantly and directly via Bluetooth into the infrared images, allowing faster inspections and more accurate reports,” says Andre Rebelo, global PR manager for Extech Instruments.

Affordability: Infrared thermometers provide a numerical readout of the temperature of single spots on an asset - a manual process that’s time-consuming but affordable compared to traditional infrared cameras. A new, low-priced thermal imaging camera has the potential to replace thermometers in the toolbox. The Flir ( i3 point-and-click thermal imaging camera retails for $1,195. “Now, for about the same price as a premium infrared thermometer, you can get a visual picture with thousands of pixels of temperature data in a single image, allowing you to isolate hot spots immediately,” says Rebelo.

Usability: A number of performance and usability upgrades were recently made to Azima DLI’s ( Alert machinery condition assessment software, particularly in the area of walk-around data collection. For instance, a redesign of the DCX and DCA-60 data collection user interface improves functional and navigation efficiency and provides access to more information. It supports hands-free, voice controlled data collection with optional verbal feedback. The system accommodates complex notes and it can record and play voice notes. In addition, the automated diagnostic system (ADS) technology has been improved, allowing expanded diagnostic coverage and an unlimited number of machine test locations for better application on large and complex machines.

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Ultrasonic detection instruments with touchscreen capabilities simplify the route inspection process by improving usability. The Ultraprobe 15,000 Touch from UE Systems ( is a handheld, full-featured inspection system that measures, analyzes and collects data by touch. “The operating software enables inspectors to review important route information, such as baseline data, images of test points and previously recorded baseline sounds, which can be viewed on the spectral analysis screen,” says Mark Goodman, vice president of engineering for UE Systems. “While the data can be downloaded to a host computer, the on-board features provide for in-place field analysis of potential failure conditions in fluid, electrical and mechanical systems.”

Ultrasound image clarity is the target of University of California, Berkeley, ( scientists developing a metamaterial that uses evanescent sound waves for super-resolution acoustic imaging. The material could potentially improve the images generated in non-destructive, ultrasonic testing.

Email Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at [email protected].