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Continuous fitness check predicts potential machine faults: A research team led by Andreas Schutze at Saarland University has developed an early warning system for industrial assembly, handling and packaging processes. It keeps a constant eye on the condition of the machine, it carries out diagnostic analyses and it notifies the operator when a part needs to be replaced.

Intelligent sensors continuously collect a wide array of measurement data from inside plant machinery and compare the signal patterns against those for normal operating conditions. If the system detects a difference in the patterns that indicates a potential fault, it immediately notifies the equipment operator about what remedial measures should be taken. This helps engineers to plan maintenance more effectively and protects them from unpleasant surprises and unexpected production losses.


If, for example, the linear actuator used for precisely positioning a car body in front of an assembly robot is damaged, the robotic arm will no longer be able to position the car door as exactly as it normally does. The result is a door that is misaligned. Or, to take another example, the sudden failure of a machine component due to material fatigue could well result in the complete shutdown of a production line.

Their system subjects machines to what is effectively a continuous medical check-up. The human equivalent would be equipping a person with an activity tracker, a continuous digital ECG and blood pressure monitor so that their state of health could be analysed at any time. The trick is that the characteristic manner in which a machine hums or vibrates during normal operation is different to that observed when something has changed within the machine, though these differences can be very subtle and undetectable to normal senses.

The system under development is currently entering its test phase during which experts in sensor and measuring technology will be working with Bosch Rexroth and Festo. The sensors will be used at Bosch Rexroth to monitor the condition of machine tools, while at Festo their job will be to check the linear actuators mentioned above, specifically Festo's spindle axes and electromechanical cylinders.

The research team exhibited its technology in April at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand at Hannover Messe.

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Title Annotation:Machine Monitoring
Publication:Environmental Engineering
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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