MODERN METALS MEGAZINE – Predictive maintenance

August 2019 – Predictive maintenance helps manufacturers eliminate production challenges, boost uptime and support unmanned operations.

A primer on maintenance for high-pressure pumps reads a bit like the 19th-century fairytale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” For manufacturers looking to minimize downtime, a reactive response to an equipment event or alarm is too late. Preventive maintenance is too soon. A predictive approach, however, is just right, Techni Waterjet National Sales Manager Jim Fields explains.

“The Internet of Things’ capacity to connect smart devices with everyday objects has made connectivity commonplace in our everyday lives,” he says. “My vehicle alerts me when my tires are low. My refrigerator tells me when the filter needs to be changed. Being plugged in also allows us to take corrective actions when we are away from home.”

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has made similar changes to the machine tool business. Yet despite the fact that machines can talk to their human counterparts and to each other, downtime remains the biggest pain point for manufacturers.

“We see this across the industry,” says Fields. “Customers stock minimum parts, choosing instead to rely on suppliers during an emergency. We are well-stocked at Techni Waterjet, but a job shop is still going to experience some downtime due to the logistics involved with overnight carriers and time zone management. Performing maintenance in the middle of a job can also be a source of frustration.”

New mindset

Many companies should also get up to speed with the performance and communication features already available on equipment like Techni Waterjet’s Quantum electric servo pump (ESP).

“We’re ahead of the curve,” says Fields. “We’ve been proactive with the design of our Quantum electric servo pump, which replaces hydraulic cylinders with compact, efficient, quiet and controllable servo actuators.”

The servo actuator pump can be integrated with any existing waterjet machine. Techni Waterjet’s smart pump also supports predictive maintenance practices. The machinery builder introduced Tech-Sense in 2002 to monitor abrasive flow and component wear at the cutting head.

“The pump is innately intelligent but the code by which it communicated early on required a technician to interpret it.” Fields says

Operators can detect issues before they occur, protect the pump from damage, maximize throughput and receive maintenance alerts.

To simplify the “language,” the supplier introduced an Advanced Diagnostics feature in 2016.

“Now the data is delivered to the operator in layman’s terms to point him or her in the right direction. And I can access the data from a remote location to look at the alarms with the operator and help them to resolve the issue.”

The machinery builder, Fields adds, is on a mission to create a culture change when it comes to the maintenance mindset among users.

“A culture of predictive maintenance would not only eliminate most production challenges but it would also enable an environment for unmanned operations,” he says. “But that can only be achieved with thorough monitoring of the process as well as component wear.”

A feature called Tech-Sense ensures proper abrasive flow during cutting. If a problem crops up, Tech-Sense warns the operator with an SMS message and/or flashing lights. It will also pause the machine if it determines the problem could damage the part or material being cut. By integrating Tech-Sense with SMS Offsite Notification software, a manufacturer was first to move to lights-out production runs. This capability helps reduce labor and scrap and minimize consumables while boosting uptime.

Failure prevention

Techni Waterjet’s advanced diagnostics package aids and protects the Quantum servo pump.

“Advanced Diagnostics helps the operator maximize the pump’s output,” says Fields. “It helps prevent unwanted downtime because it is able to diagnose potential maintenance issues before the pump fails.”

Tech-Sense monitors the cutting head and pauses the program prior to any blockage, making lights- out operations a reality.

According to Fields, companies typically wait until equipment fails to get the maximum life out of a component. But the practice can cause unwanted damage to other major components. Heat events, in many cases, are determined simply by touch.

“Usually maintenance isn’t done until the machine springs a leak,” Fields says. “At that point, it’s too late. Preventive practices are generally shelved because it means a manufacturer has to rebuild or replace a part too soon. That costs a company money. Our focus has always been to provide technology that helps manufacturers maximize efficiency and minimize unwanted downtime through intelligent communication via advanced diagnostics.”

Predictive maintenance methodology follows flow rates and heat variances. If these types of variables exceed preset parameters, maintenance is indicated.

“Predictive practices give an operator time to finish the job they are running,” says Fields. “They can also schedule maintenance for evening or any time the machine isn’t cutting. I love clichés because they are usually true. In the case of the waterjet, the cutting head and the pump, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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