Lately, there has been a tremendous improvement in MEMS accelerometer performance. So much so, it can now compete with piezo vibration sensors that are all-pervasive. This is because MEMS sensors offer several advantages including smaller size, lower power consumption, low noise levels, wider bandwidth, and a higher level of integration. Consequently, the industry is now increasingly using MEMS sensors in CbM or condition-based monitoring for facility and maintenance. Engineers find CbM very useful, as it helps in detecting, diagnosing, predicting, and ultimately, avoiding faults in their machines.
The smaller size and ultra-low power consumption of MEMS accelerometers allow for replacing wired piezo sensors which are typically bulky, with wireless solutions. Moreover, it is easy to replace bulky single-axis piezo sensors with small, light, and triaxial MEMS accelerometers. The industry finds such replacements cost-effective for continuously monitoring various machines.
The world over, millions of electric motors are in continuous operation. They account for about 45% of global electricity usage. In a survey across industries, more than 80% of the companies in the survey claimed to experience unplanned maintenance. More than 70% of the companies remain unaware that their assets are due for upgrade and maintenance. With Industry 4.0, or the IoT, the industry is moving towards digitization to improve its productivity and efficiency.
The trend is more toward wireless sensor systems. An estimate finds there will be about 5 billion wireless modules in smart manufacturing by 2030. Although most critical assets require a wired CbM system, there are many, many more that will benefit from wireless CbM solutions.
For the best performance, speed, reliability, and security, it is difficult to surpass a wired CbM system. For these reasons, greenfield sites still deploy them. However, installing wired CbM systems requires routing cables across factory floors. This may be difficult in cases where it is not possible to disturb certain machinery. Industrial wired sensor networks typically use 60 m or 200 ft of cables, which can be substantially expensive depending on the material and labor the process involves. Some deployments may also require wire harnesses and routing through existing infrastructure, thereby increasing the cost, complexity, and time to install.
On the other hand, brownfield sites may not be amenable to wired solution installations. For them, although the wireless systems may initially appear to be more expensive, other factors can lead to significant cost savings. For instance, initial cost savings can come from less cabling, fewer maintenance routes, and lower hardware requirements. Over the lifetime of the wireless CbM installation, substantial cost savings can accrue from the ease of scalability and more effortless maintenance routines.
Wireless installations depend on batteries for powering them. Depending on the level of reporting, batteries may last several years. Deployment of wireless systems based on energy-harvesting techniques can make maintenance of these systems even easier and less expensive. However, once a company decides to go wireless, they must focus on the best technology for CbM that suits their application, of which, there are quite a few to choose from, such as Bluetooth Low Energy, GlowPAN, and Zigbee.