Drives and Controls Magazine
Smart sensors will cut downtime of any LV motor by up to 70%
Published:  19 April, 2016

At next week’s Hannover Messe, ABB will unveil a smart condition-monitoring sensor that can be attached to low-voltage motors from any manufacturer. ABB claims that the sensors – which link wirelessly to cloud-based servers – will cut motor downtime by up to 70% as well as extending motor lifetimes by up to 30% and cutting their energy consumption by up to 10%. ABB developed the device jointly with the Swiss chip developer, EM Microelectronic, which is part of the Swatch group and started out in the 1970s as a developer of low-power chips for watches.

Until now, the monitoring and preventive maintenance of LV motors has been a time-consuming and expensive process. The new technology transforms simple motors into intelligent machines that tell you when they need servicing. The smart sensors attach directly to the motor, and supply data on its operation via a wireless link.

As well as cutting the cost of maintenance and repairs, the technology will also make it easier for motor users to implement what ABB calls “the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP)”. The IoTSP is ABB’s idea for allowing its customers, including SMEs, to take advantage of the opportunities of digitalisation.

The smart sensor measures motor parameters such as vibration, temperature or overloads at regular intervals, and calculates power consumption. This data is analysed by specially developed software and presented to the plant operator in a graphical form that allows them to plan their maintenance, thus cutting downtime by up to 70%. At the same time, the lifetime of the motor can extended by up to 30% and its energy consumption cut by up to 10%.

Users can check the condition of their motors at any time and receive alerts if a problem is detected. ABB claims that investing in this new form of condition monitoring will pay for itself in less than a year.

“This innovative solution makes condition monitoring the new standard for low-voltage motors,” says Pekka Tiitinen, president of the ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division. “Optimised maintenance schedules help reduce maintenance costs greatly. Unscheduled outages are reduced considerably or even eliminated completely. Increased availability significantly boosts our customers' productivity.”

The monitoring sensors can be installed at the motor factory or retrofitted within minutes to any existing low-voltage motor – including those of any age from manufacturers other than ABB.

The sensor is not connected electrically to the motor, so unauthorised parties cannot access the motor via this route. The smart sensors transmit the data wirelessly via a smartphone or gateway to a secure, cloud-based server using encryption protocols. The data, which is also stored in the cloud in an encrypted form, is analysed on the server using special algorithms. An Internet-based customer portal uses a role-based protocol to allow users to access the data securely.

The version of the smart sensor being demonstrated at the Hannover Messe is a prototype. Commercial versions will be launched in the US at the end of 2016, and in other regions during 2017.