Maintec – the UK maintenance technology exhibition

Exhibitors at the Easyfairs Maintec Expo at the UK’s NEC in Birmingham (Feb 28 – March 1) were hoping the visitor numbers over three days might reach 1500, but it did not look to be on target, even though Day 2 was reported busier than the day before! Walking in as a visitor there was the inevitable slight panic at the long queues for some NEC registration desks, but it turned out these were queues for the Easyfairs Packaging Expo, obviously a better topic for visitor interest these days. The three people queuing at the Maintec windows did not cause a major delay to entry! Exit was more troublesome, having to once again fork out GBP8 to the NEC for the privilege of parking!

Maintec covers maintenance and asset management. So my main interest was to be in asset management via condition monitoring systems – and I was typically looking for vibration monitoring and reporting systems, preferably using wireless or internet connections.

A good start was on the Prüftechnik stand, who had previously co-operated with Perpetuum to produce the first energy harvesting-based wireless vibration sensor system. No evidence of that on display – apparently the product was abandoned, as a result of some implied difficulties in a commercial and a University-based development company working together. The Prüftechnik approach now is to launch a new wireless vibration monitoring sensor at Hannover, using “batteries, which after all can give a 5-year life these days”.

Maybe there will be more success with the cloud-based condition monitoring system launched by Eriks. Here the cloud appears to be used to make it simpler for the client to access the current machine status reports, rather than having to search for it in the In-Tray. The report is still oonly updated after the 4 or 6 week plant inspection and analysis tour on site by Eriks, unless they are using wireless or email/text alarm reporting from continuous monitoring systems on critical plant items. Eriks are a major user of accelerometers from Hansford Sensors, who showed a new triaxial sensor at the Maintec show. Hansford claim to supply sensors to many of the condition monitoring service providers.

Kittiwake-Holroyd supply acoustic emission monitoring systems for machinery condition monitoring. New for 2012 is a portable, magnet attached machine bearing health checker, giving a simple traffic light output for use by a standard maintenance technician with no specialist training, at a price less than $1000. I have to admit sympathy with Holroyd, having launched a low cost vibration monitoring machine bearing condition alarm system 30 years ago, when condition monitoring was “forecast to be about to take-off”! Over the years Holroyd have survived monitoring steel industry, power generation and mineral rock crusher bearings – hopefully the market might now start to take off.

Schaeffler-FAG-INA are no stranger to bearings, so have a track record in bearing condition monitoring too. Their new WiPro CM system monitors up to eight vibration sensors, and reports back over Ethernet or other communications systems, that can typically include a wireless link. With over 2000 of these systems installed, many of these interface with Schaeffler reporting service centres – for example the wind turbine monitoring centre in Germany provides a 24/7 analysis of the performance of wind turbines (based in Australia, Europe including the offshore in the North Sea, and the USA. Over 600 systems installed on wind turbines typically use seven separate bearing sensors, with a cost per turbine of around GBP6000.

A new feature at Maintec was their Hazex specialist hazardous area section – unfortunately identifiable by being one of the few empty stands. However a presentation by Quartzelec discussed the repair of electrical machinery used in hazardous environments. Quartzelec are the original GEC/Cegelec repair organization, now privately owned, with eight repair bases in the UK, several in the offshore North Sea areas like Aberdeen, Grimsby etc, plus Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. Some of the repairs they are asked to consider would appear to defy belief – but of the more normal repairs, over 50% relate to bearing failures.

Inevitably a significant proportion of the media associated with industrial maintenance were present on stands at Maintec: promoting some new social media publishing ideas, the Process Industry Informer (PII) magazine recently launched an “industry first” – a mobile APP offering a B2B Directory of supplier information, contact details and news releases, known as Process118.  Available to both iPhone and Android devices it has already attracted registrations by 500+ suppliers and is attracting an increasing number of end-user “hits”. Listing on the APP is low cost and offers suppliers a valuable route to this developing 24/7 accessible market. PII has led the UK technical press with web and mobile friendly electronic initiatives, and was one of the first to use QR codes within the paper magazine itself.


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