12 Jul 2024

Implementing an effective wireless telemetry system

Wireless telemetry

Smart Machines & Factories looks at how implementing an effective wireless telemetry system can help reduce downtime and improves plant efficiency.

When it comes to industrial equipment, emergency repairs are known for extending unplanned downtime and for harming plant productivity. Therefore, it is best to find ways to identify faults early so fixes can be made with minimal disruption and tackle downtime problems before they occur.

While equipment failure is generally inevitable, it should not take plant managers by surprise and cause significant levels of unplanned downtime, slashing both plant productivity and profit along the way. Unscheduled downtime has been shown to cost the global manufacturing industries approximately $50bn (£40bn) per year, emphasising the need to proactively identify potential problems quickly and implement fixes before they cause costly downtime.

A preventative maintenance programme allows operators and engineers to monitor ongoing system condition and proactively carry out maintenance when parts begin to show signs of wear. While machine breakdowns are an accepted part of factory life, a preventative programme dramatically reduces their occurrences.

One way of implementing such a programme is by installing a wireless telemetry system with 24/7 monitoring capabilities, providing all the operational insight needed to make effective maintenance decision. These systems can be used to monitor key parameters such as temperature, pressure, humidity, tension and vibration. Dramatic changes in any of these parameters are usually indicative of a problem and 24/7 monitoring allows users to spot these right away before they cause significant damage.

The sensor inside a conveyor

For example, when Habasit, a leading conveyor belt specialist, wanted to embed a wireless force-sensing link in one of its spiral food conveyor systems to improve preventative maintenance possibilities, it turned to Mantracourt for help. Matthew Youngs, marketing manager at wireless telemetry specialist Mantracourt, highlighted that using sensors in a spiral conveyor application is challenging, so his company’s team had to get creative to engineer an effective solution.

He explained that the traditional approach involves a maintenance engineer visiting the site to carry out repairs and upgrades. During these visits, he says that the engineer will also check tension using a load-cell that clips onto the surface of the belt and measures the force between the modular links.

However, Youngs warns that this approach is limited as these checks are only done periodically as part of a scheduled maintenance programme and it also involves stopping the conveyor. Furthermore, he says that the load cell that measures tension only works on some parts of the conveyor system and can’t fit through tight spaces, so it provides a limited picture of tension across the whole system.

Mantracourt developed a system based on its T24 technology with some customised circuitry for improved power management. It also used an antenna system, using 2.4 GHz radio and a proprietary protocol with the language written by Mantracourt.

A key advantage of the protocol that was developed, says Mantracourt, is that it allows monitoring of multiple transmissions between the sensors and the base station. This gave Habasit the ability to monitor one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one and many-to-many devices. Ultimately, this allows a single operator to use one device to monitor a single link, or multiple operators can use multiple devices to monitor multiple links.

The final system was embedded into the spiral food belt to monitor belt tension on an ongoing basis. It allows users to perform 24/7 diagnostics using Mantracourt’s SensorSpace cloud-based monitoring platform, and implement a preventative maintenance programme, reducing any unplanned downtime and minimising ongoing maintenance costs.