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Industry 4.0: Condition-based maintenance using a cloud-based monitoring system for old and new hardening ovens prevents system failures and increases availability

Industrial furnaces in hardening processes usually have to remain functional for up to 30 years. Due to the high stress in the furnace, many system components – for example fan blades or pumps – can wear out and fail unexpectedly, which leads to unplanned system downtimes. To avoid these failures, the American SBS Corporation has developed the WatchDogg , a cloud-based monitoring system that supports condition-based maintenance (predictive maintenance). Up to 12 different sensors can be connected to the basic system, which monitor all critical process parameters such as temperature, humidity or pressure. All data on the furnace status are stored in a cloud and can be easily accessed from any smartphone, tablet or PC. In this way, early detection of malfunctions is guaranteed. Plant operators can therefore react in good time in order to maximize the availability of old industrial furnaces. The monitoring system will be presented at this year’s HärtereiKongress and distributed in German-speaking countries by Avion Europa GmbH.

“Monitoring the most important system components in hardening ovens is essential in order to minimize system failures,” explains Roland Caminades, Managing Director of Avion Europa GmbH. “If, for example, the quenching oil is too moist, this can lead to longer cooling times and, if maintenance work is delayed, hardening shop fires. Many of our customers therefore already use our Aqua Sense sensor to measure the moisture content of their quenching oils. But there are significantly more parameters that have an impact on system availability. ” That is why the WatchDogg was designed in such a way that it can manage not just a single sensor, but up to 12 different measuring instruments in parallel. A modular monitoring system of this complexity with an adequate price structure has not yet been available on the market.

Continuous monitoring of mechanical components

If there is no employee in the immediate vicinity of the furnace, local light signals can be overlooked or alarm tones can be overheard. With WatchDogg this is impossible, as it is a cloud-based monitoring system that collects and processes the central process data and makes it available via an Ethernet or cellular connection – accessible anytime, anywhere. It thus supports predictive maintenance and warns of malfunctions in good time, thereby avoiding unplanned system downtimes. “The choice of measurement processes and sensors depends on the parameters measured,” explains Caminades. “The WatchDogg can be connected to completely different sensors in order to monitor the most important parameters in hardening ovens: for example pressure, temperature, vibration, flow rate or relative humidity.” The sensors do not necessarily have to be installed in the furnace, but can also determine the critical values indirectly. A vibration sensor can be used to detect when a fan blade is no longer running smoothly in the warehouse, as the frequency is slowly changing. This also applies, for example, to pumps and other mechanical components.

In order to enable a timely warning of the impending malfunction, the sensors are individually set to the desired tolerance range in advance. “As soon as the parameters deviate from the target values, the user receives a message on a computer connected to the cloud and can immediately initiate countermeasures,” explains Caminades. “In this way, the maintenance of a certain component can be scheduled at an early stage and hardening shops can significantly reduce the costs for spare parts storage.” For data management, the collected process data is saved as milliampere values in the cloud. Only when the signal is transmitted to the registered recipient does the system translate the data into a readable message. This ensures the security of the information at all times.

Easy installation and retrofitting for all industrial furnaces

The cloud-based monitoring system is configured for Europe and bears the CE mark. Thanks to the compact design, it can be mounted on a wall or integrated into an existing control cabinet. “The equipping of old ovens can be carried out very easily by an in-house electrician. He receives all the circuit diagrams from us to wire the system and connect the sensors, ”says Caminades. “Of course we are happy to support him or do the installation ourselves as a service.” In the basic configuration, the WatchDogg initially only contains the signal translator. The system can, however, be expanded step by step with additional sensors as required. In the basic version, this is also possible retrospectively on up to 12 data channels. If necessary, two systems with a total of 24 data channels can be combined with one another.