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Game-changing Ultrasonic Technology for Energy Saving in Predictive Maintenance

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - E-SAVING ULTRASONICS (Game-changing Ultrasonic Technology for Energy Saving in Predictive Maintenance)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2018-04-30

In today’s globally competitive world, all modern producing businesses aim to use energy more efficiently to reduce production costs. However, this is challenging for two reasons. First, industrial production becomes more and more automated which increases energy demand automatically. Second, industrial electricity prices have raised by about 3.5% per year on average in every EU member state in the last decade. In this context, companies have identified the improvement of energy efficiency by using means of industrial maintenance as the most effective way to achieve higher profits and strengthen competitiveness.

There are two drivers of energy costs of producing companies which are often underestimated but contribute substantially to increasing energy consumption: worn out machine parts and leaks in compressed air systems (CAS). CAS are accounted for about 10 % of industrial consumption of electricity in the world. Industrial sectors like automotive, automation, machinery and plant engineering emphasize leakage prevention in CAS as the means with the highest savings potential of energy-waste, as up to 30 % of compressed air escapes from leakages. Commonly used screw compressors used for industrial applications, e.g. air tools use, can easily cause an annual waste of several million m³ of compressed air per compressor even when leaks are very small. As CAS are often laid throughout the whole factory, leaks might be very small and air is invisible, leaks are hardly to detect. Up to now, there are no sufficient solutions at market.

Therefore, SONOTEC has developed an innovative device based on ultrasonic technology for two purposes: to identify easily leaks in CAS and to detect worn out parts of machinery which both cause increasing energy consumption. The technology consists of a technological platform, the SONAPHONE, an ultrasonic airborne sound sensor (for leak detection), an ultrasonic structure-borne sound sensor (for machinery diagnosis), and several algorithms (software apps) to interpret and illustrate data and to give recommendations for maintenance.

This novel ultrasonic solution for leak detection and machinery wear has benefits for both industry and society. By the SONAPHONE, industrial companies will be able to identify energy saving potentials for reducing their operating costs. This allows companies to offer their products for competitive prices by which in turn society profits. The second main benefit for society are lower carbon emissions as for example only the waste of energy worldwide directly connected to CAS amounts to approximately 228 TWh and involves about 171 million tons of CO2.

Overall objectives of this business innovation project are to
(1) renew the preventive maintenance market for CAS by providing highly improved technology and methods for realistic identification, quantification and reporting of leaks,
(2) introduce a new key technology for the future maintenance market combining ultrasonic sensors and testing software to diagnose frictions in all kinds of surfaces of technical parts
(3) offer companies innovative solutions to cut their energy costs by 42% and to reduce their carbon emissions.
Since the beginning of the project, the technological prototype platform has been further improved to market readiness and the airborne sound sensor and structure-borne sensors have been further developed to market readiness. Moreover, algorithms and apps have been developed for interpreting, illustrating and documenting the data from the ultrasonic sensors.

Production processes for the SONAPHONE sensors and accessories have been up-scaled and documentation and quality management for the products have been implemented.

Pilot customers and sales partners have been acquired and project results have been disseminated throughout a mix of different communication channels and marketing measures. The business innovation project and its outcomes were presented at several fairs and conferences. Results have been published in papers and workshops.
In contrast to the state of the art using narrow-frequency-band sensors, SONOTEC’s ultrasonic innovation consists of highly sensitive broadband airborne and structure-borne sound sensors, a modular technological platform and different apps for different possibilities to detect, interpret, illustrate and document leaks and wears. Ground-breaking software applications and algorithms provide reliable evaluation results to industrial customers in form of quantified data (waste of energy and production of CO2) and graphical visualisation (localisation of failures). Users can choose from a variety of functions like memos of text and voice, photo documentation, data export, etc. that are not available for competing solutions on the market. The entire information can be easily integrated over standard interfaces into existing maintenance systems to facilitate decisions on actions of maintenance. A major difference to existing solutions is the ability to adapt and modify the technological structure to customized applications with small effort of implementation. Moreover, the SONAPHONE exceeds the state of the art by coupling aero-acoustic data and geometry of industrial leakages. By this newly developed algorithm for estimation of leak sizes and their relationship to extent of energetic loss, users can prioritize maintenance activities for the first time. The SONAPHONE helps users to cut their energy consumption by more than 42% which also reduces society burdening carbon emissions of millions of tons of CO2.