Employing effective condition monitoring for more efficient production

12 September 2022

Darrell Taylor explains how Teledyne FLIR can help manufacturers put into place effective condition monitoring strategies to help ensure efficient operation and overcome manufacturing challenges.

The manufacturing industry is under continuous pressure and it seems that every year there is another challenge to overcome. 

Increasing competition from overseas with lower overheads, rising shipping costs, component supply issues and economic pressures are a few recent examples. More recent challenges have included the Covid-19 pandemic and conflict in Ukraine. 

Manufacturing is under a constant pressure to adapt and overcome, with no area of business out of the spotlight for improvement.

Sustainability is also, rightfully, a theme we must all hold dear-to in every aspect of our lives, and all industry is on a relentless journey of improvement towards a ‘net-zero’ existence. Net-zero emissions are also directly linked to operational expenses as electricity and fuel prices are drastically increasing.

Maintaining production equipment is of the uppermost importance. Businesses cannot operate without functioning manufacturing processes in place. However, it is not sufficient to simply keep equipment running, machinery must work efficiently, effectively and reliably; all day, every day, often 365 days of the year. 

This relentless push for continuous efficient operation is enabled by the condition monitoring of each vital piece of equipment and apparatus, which may include regular oil analysis, vibration monitoring, thermal imaging and acoustic inspections. Each of these areas of condition monitoring are equally important to ensure that each component works exactly as intended. 

Condition monitoring
Teledyne FLIR have a range of vibration monitoring, thermal imaging and acoustic imaging cameras to conduct regular condition monitoring inspections, along with supporting FLIR Thermal Studio analysis and reporting software. These products and their users are the backbone of the continued reliable manufacturing and production processes around the world. 

Condition monitoring allows engineers, technicians and facilities managers to identify gradual variations in hardware performance. This information is used to predict impending failure, allowing maintenance activities to take place before ‘unscheduled downtime’ brings a business to a halt. 

Whether monitoring connections in an electrical cabinet, vibrations from a motor or bearing, or locating air leaks in pneumatic systems, Teledyne FLIR have a range of products which can be used to identify developing problems before they cause critical failures. 

Little of this is new to condition monitoring professionals – these practises have been in place for many years, and often fine-tuned to help businesses remain profitable in the face of the types of challenges listed at the beginning of this article. However, recent product developments have enabled the production of new equipment to provide additional efficiencies and performance for condition monitoring professionals, as found in the new FLIR Si124 acoustic camera. 

In July 2022 Teledyne FLIR launched its new FLIR Si124 acoustic camera with an expanded range to 65 kHz, with the battery now located in the handle. This camera has multiple uses including partial discharge detection in high-voltage applications, and leak detection in compressed air/gas and vacuum systems too. 

This latest iteration of the Si124 fits firmly in Teledyne FLIRs suite of condition monitoring solutions, providing both significant inspection process benefits and leak detection speed and accuracy improvements too. However, this is just the start in a long list of benefits to a business using this acoustic camera. 

While the FLIR Si124 can be used by the energy industry to detect Corona effect and Partial Discharge in electrical applications, this article focusses on the benefits of using the FLIR Si124 for leak detection. Most industries have a high reliance on pressurised systems at some point in their operation, from hospitals to manufacturing, petrochemical installations to production facilities, and many more, a deep-dive into Partial Discharge would be too specific and lengthy to include in this editorial. 

Nearly each sector of business uses vacuum systems or compressors, each susceptible to leaks at some point during their use, and every leak is wasted energy, unnecessary emissions, and lost revenue. 

Compressed air 
Even a perfectly sealed compressed air system with 0% leakage will develop leaks over time as the regular equipment and component movements cause wear, tear and damage, which over time allows air to leak through joints and seals. Furthermore, climatic conditions often contribute to oxidation and rust which can develop into leaks, and many joints and fixings use softer ‘yellow-metals’ which can wear more quickly than other harder materials, creating leaks over time too. 

Leaks develop and increase over time resulting in a progressively less efficient system with mounting losses, increasing energy use and emissions.

The FLIR Si124 has been designed with 124 sensitive microphones to hear even the smallest, inaudible ‘sounds’ emitted by leaking air or gas from either compressed or vacuum systems. Fitted with a 5” touch-screen interface, multiple leaks can be detected at the same time, all photographed and videoed with an on-screen AI-based severity indicator.

This ease of use saves significant amounts of time compared to traditional leak detection methods, and has a higher degree of accuracy. The FLIR Si124 also connects to FLIR Thermal Studio which is a reporting program which details the location, image, severity and kHz of all leaks detected, repeated inspections can quickly and easily be compared against each other using this sophisticated reporting software package too.

With a sensitivity of 65 kHz, even the smallest issues can be detected and either monitored or resolved before they develop into more significant issues. This provides the ability to find the maximum on-going efficiency of a manufacturing or production process which can then be used to reduce every instance of wasted energy possible. Furthermore, operators can protect the long-term reliability of equipment by finding issues as soon as they develop, applying early preventative maintenance measures. 

It’s clear that the future is not about to become any easier on businesses, the challenges that we all face continue as a driving force for industry to innovate, adapt and overcome. Teledyne FLIR products are all designed to provide insights into the condition of equipment, whether you’re considering a vibration monitor, a thermal camera, an acoustic camera or our other handheld devices, our products deliver knowledge to their users, to help their businesses survive, and ultimately thrive. 

One key benefit that Teledyne FLIR products provide is the ‘total solution’ approach, connecting Teledyne FLIR cameras and many measurement tools to our Suite of reporting software. At the core of our reporting software is FLIR Thermal Studio which connects wirelessly to many of our products, saving additional time and resource when creating inspection reports. 

Listening to customer feedback helped develop FLIR Route Creator which further simplifies the reporting process of repeat inspections of the same equipment. The user can create a planned inspection route which when followed automatically populates inspection reports with images in the correct order, for simple and easy analysis and comparison to previous reports of the same equipment. 

At the core of Teledyne FLIR’s business is the need to develop products which save energy and provide time efficiency. The latest generation FLIR Si124 with 65 kHz sensitivity meets these core values of a FLIR product and provides insights to our customers which can be used to reduce energy consumption while saving inspection time too. 

For more information about the FLIR Si124 or any of our products visit Condition Monitoring | Teledyne FLIR where you can read about our condition monitoring products, request more information or enquire about a product demonstration with one of our experience Product Specialists.

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