New condition monitoring services seen at MAINTEC 2008

Nick Denbow reviews some of the new products and services that were of special interest at the MAINTEC NEC Show, to try to highlight some you may even have missed!

MAINTEC at the NEC early in March presented a good cross section of suppliers for condition monitoring, asset management and maintenance equipment and services, but what did this provide for the visiting plant engineer or manager to assess the ideas? The overload of input and possibilities, added to by the presentations in the learnShop sessions, would baffle an expert in the field.

Most of the exhibitors were pleased with the quality of visitors available, and the enquiries logged, but this was the downside of my MAINTEC experience: to get good information you needed to make a registered enquiry, and two weeks later not much of the promised data has materialised, even by post! Hopefully the customers, with actual money to spend, have received the responses they need, and the suppliers who did not have the info to hand will deal with a simple editor later….

However there were some interesting new developments to report on, and we have several of the stories from the more internet aware of the suppliers on Processingtalk already.

Starting with VIBRATION MONITORING, ifm Electronic showed their simple sensor family, the efector octavis, which provides vibration monitoring and analysis in a machine mounted unit.

A band of LED displays, which move from green thru to yellow to red to show when the monitored bearing needs attention: it uses its own DSP, digital signal processing, and diagnostics to choose the right frequency band for rolling element bearings and shaft imbalance monitoring.

A unit can even monitor four separate bearings at once.

Holroyd Instruments, as reported last year, are enthusiastic supporters of acoustic emission (AE) techniques.

This year their simplest sensors are now offered in a package which incorporates the AE sensor, signal conditioning and the decision software, giving an alarm signal straight from the sensor.

The trigger level for this alarm, and some of the programming, can be adjusted using a laptop connection.

It sounds fine: I hope we will get some PR from them to present to you! Sensonics on the other hand have supplied a good report to Processingtalk on their high temperature piezo-ceramic transducer that can monitor gas turbine vibration at temperatures up to 450C.

While normal commercial piezoelectric wafers pass out at 250C max, and most sensors because of the resins used in construction stop at about 150C, the crystal based transducers, using quartz or lithium niobate crystals can work fine at these temperatures, it just needs good mechanical design and practical experience to make a transducer that is suitable.

Sensonics seem to have specialised in these high temperature applications, possibly mainly in turbines and power generation units, for some time, and can satisfy most requirements in that area.

So it is no surprise to hear that they also have developed an eddy current type proximity probe for 240C operation, fully interchangeable with, but much less expensive than the established standard probe used for that market and application, for end float and shaft vibration monitoring.

Another name from the past made a return to MAINTEC this year: SPM Instruments, from Sweden.

SPM have for many years provided bearing monitoring hand-held instruments, for use by a plant engineer to monitor bearing conditions, and note any deterioration.

Monitran had a good show offer, with their current portable vibration meter equipment set available at a show price of GBP395: this is around GBP200 off the equivalent pre-show price.

While they did not sell too many on the first day, apparently, there were plenty of existing customers thought to be planning to snap up a bargain.

And the exhibition stand was certainly busy enough.


The very reasonable approach from many plants is that they wish to outsource condition monitoring, or vibration measurement services, and the number of companies prepared to offer this as a service has grown rapidly in recent years.

CNES, Corus Northern Engineering Services, offer a whole toolbox of condition monitoring techniques, and their engineers use them all to provide such services, in alliance with their Praxis partner FAG Industrial Services (F’IS), on the next stand, under the Schaeffler umbrella.

FAG presented some simple devices to assist with drive belt alignment and tensioning, adaptations of the laser level and distance monitoring devices, which use the laser beam between one drive pulleywheel and the next, to paint a visible line across a sensor – basically a ruler, but a lot easier to apply: this is the Smarty2.

A similar device was available for measuring the belt tension between pulley wheels.

Reliability Maintenance Solutions, run by Dean Whittle, is one of the most experienced UK sources for training and consultancy on condition and vibration monitoring, also acting as the UK agent for the Mobius courses on the topic, and a member of the UK organizing committee for BINDT courses and conferences (next conference due in July, in Edinburgh).

Another condition monitoring consultancy and training company, AV Technology, presented a new aspect to their service, the Spi-VR vibration data collector, in addition to providing lecturers for the BINDT vibration training programme, and organizing special half day CM operator training sessions, free of charge, during MAINTEC.

The Spi-VR stands for Spectrum Inspection and Vibration Recorder, but this is not just another portable vibration monitor.

Using the Spi-VR the data collected by plant operators is down-loaded into an AV Technology analysis programme and database, which then allows web access to the site engineers to see the data.

Anything he does not like the look of, or wants further advice on, can be referred to an AV Technology vibration monitoring consultant, who can access the waveforms available.

In this way the site engineering people learn to monitor the equipment, but always have an expert on hand to consult.

The approach of taking data and transmitting this to a central database for analysis and possible review by CM experts seemed to be the major trend identified in the MAINTEC show, and was also strongly featured on the Rockwell Automation stand, who see transmission of data to their own hosted server, remote from the site, as the answer to the aging workforce, which is leading to a developing shortage of skilled condition monitoring engineers.

The hosted software takes advantage of the Mobius analysis programmes, which are acknowledged to be the best available for condition monitoring, yet allows both Rockwell engineers and the site engineers to access and configure the data.

Data can be collected and transmitted to this system using hand-held portable data collectors, such as the Rockwell Enpac, which is also a powerful analyser of vibration measurement data, or can be collected over the standard Rockwell Automation network systems and downloaded via wireless or a direct internet connection.

Further wireless multi-channel vibration monitoring devices were offered by Icon Research, an interesting supplier who have provided application articles relating to marine diesel engine monitoring and and power station fan monitoring.


Whitelegg Machines were the only people I saw at MAINTEC discussing motor testing systems, demonstrating the Baker Instrument test equipment, and stressing how motor testing can detect inefficient operating conditions.

An alternative condition monitoring technique introduced at MAINTEC last year by Artesis, using an electrical waveform monitoring system on the power supply phases, has been installed in one un-named European City to monitor the water supply pumping system: the results so far have shown a significant reduction in maintenance costs: one of the MAINTEC presentations was a joint effort between Artesis and United Utilities, explaining how such a system is being evaluated for use in improving the efficiency of their water supply network.


The MAINTEC Exhibition featured several food industry suppliers: a release from PetroCanada features their new Purity FG, an industrial strength food grade lubricant product line, now containing Microl – the first and only antimicrobial preservative currently approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in food grade lubricants.

This new additive inhibits microbial growth in the lubricant to prevent degradation in tough plant environments: Petro-Canada is the world’s largest producer of the pharmaceutical grade 99.9% pure white oil used in a variety of food processing industries, offering a complete line of industrial lubricants suitable for ancillary use in food processing plants.

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