Affordable sensing for motors

The use of retrofittable sensors to monitor motor performance could prove an easy way into Industry 4.0.

For all the talk about Industry 4.0, the fact remains that, on the actual as opposed to the theoretical level, adoption in this area is still a long way away for most. This is because many see the connectivity promised by Industry 4.0 as being beyond their means or only achievable with new equipment.

This means that the ability to cost-effectively retrofit Industry 4.0-style connectivity could therefore be a crucial method of bringing this technology to the real industrial world.

Many feel that the electric motor could prove key in this journey towards digitalisation. Electric motors are ubiquitous throughout industry but until recently the technology to digitalise them effectively didn’t exist. However, new app-based systems now make the real-time monitoring of electric motors of many of the major manufacturers a reality.

One of the first monitoring devices to emerge was ABB’s Ability Smart Sensor, which offers monitoring capability for around £300 per unit. This has now been further developed so that, in addition to the original point-to-point wireless transmission capability that allowed the sensor to communicate with devices such as mobile phones, a new Bluetooth version has been developed with a 60m range.

The original sensor was designed for use in direct-on-line motor applications, but a new version is being released that will monitor variable-speed drive applications as well. The sensors can now be used to monitor energy consumption, while a cooling algorithm is being developed. Finally, a new version of the sensor hardware has been developed for easy fitting to new motors.

WEG, too, has entered this arena with its Motor Scan product. This sensor measures the vibration and temperature of motors to detect anomalies. Easily retrofitted via a mounting clamp, the sensor tracks vibration, surface temperature as well as running hours, and will provide data on speed, start/stop time, load and efficiency via Bluetooth.