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Brüel & Kjær Vibro 

Edge Computing creates value for BKV

Brüel & Kjær Vibro has joined with Prevas in developing the third generation of its system for remote monitoring and diagnostics for rotating machinery. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and not the least, edge computing, are very much at the forefront these days.

“We’ve had extensive collaboration for the past 12–14 years and I expect it to continue,” says Anders Reske-Nielsen, Head of Development at Brüel & Kjær Vibro. “We see it as a partnership more than a collaborative arrangement, and our operations are based on this.

Brüel & Kjær Vibro is a Danish multi-national company that provides machinery safeguards, condition monitoring and diagnostics. With Prevas as its development partner, Brüel & Kjær Vibro has developed the next generation of devices for condition monitoring of wind turbines and other rotating machinery. The system can continuously measure and analyze data in real-time and is designed for connected devices with limited bandwidth through edge computing.

Making sense of Big Data
Edge computing entails processing as much data as possible as far out in the network as possible, preferably at the source of the data to be processed – in this case at the rotating application. The amount of data collected is sufficiently large and simultaneously complex that it must be processed and cleaned before being sent to the cloud so as not to take up unreasonable bandwidth.

“It's a matter of very advanced edge computing, where everything of interest is extracted and stored locally before being sent on,” explains Peter Aagaard Kristensen, VP Technology at Prevas A/S in Denmark. “It’s not only sent in real-time, it’s also saved with the opportunity to be retrieved further on. Here it’s often customer requirements and preferences that determine how and when, but it makes it easy to connect together equipment with different communication solutions.”

The information from the individual wind turbines (or other machinery) is an essential tool in work with preventive maintenance. Thanks to real-time monitoring, downtimes can be minimized at the same time as maintenance costs are reduced. Since the system constantly reports machinery health, maintenance technicians usually know what will happen before it happens, thus facilitating planning and avoiding the need for emergency responses.

Condition monitoring and preventive maintenance
Brüel & Kjær Vibro has worked with condition monitoring and preventive maintenance for several years but it is actually only now that others are beginning to seriously take interest. There is major potential here, and in their partnership, Brüel & Kjær Vibro and Prevas have a head start. By combining knowledge of monitoring with new analytical capabilities in machine learning and artificial intelligence, they can add even more advanced algorithms that can predict possible damage.

“Prevas is our partner in hardware and software development, as well as in signal processing and development in mechanical engineering,” Anders Reske-Nielsen, Head of Development at Brüel & Kjær Vibro. “We contribute our expert knowledge and utilize them for the expertise that we don’t have. They have the resources and can bring in specialist knowledge as needed.”

The system is based on Prevas Industrial Linux (PIL) and adapted for operation 24/7. Its flexibility also enables adaptation to a wide variety of other systems for monitoring and control, from SCADA to IoT cloud solutions such as OPC-UA and Azure IoT. This flexibility also provides opportunities for several different monitoring strategies, from traditional spectrum analysis to state-of-the-art machine learning.

Strong collaboration
Collaboration between the companies began with development of Brüel & Kjær Vibro’s first monitoring system and Prevas is still very much involved now that the third generation is being launched. Much of what was done for the previous generations has been transferred to digital domains with powerful hardware for more effective analysis and diagnostics.

“We're still working with the embedded components of their system, developing all the electronics, software and FPGA,” Peter explains. “We're talking about everything on the machine, the components that collect data, the processes and the devices for transmitting of information.”

Brüel & Kjær Vibro’s core area is in the actual analysis of rotation and vibration – the interpretation of what the readings mean regardless of it is a matter of a transmission or propeller blade. The field of windpower turbines is expansive, as is the market for remote monitoring in general. Preventive maintenance has become much more common than it was only a few years back.

“It's not just on those large and expensive windpower turbines that it’s practical,” says Peter. “The costs of the equipment and analysis have gone down, so even if you don’t have an extremely expensive machine, preventive maintenance is still worthwhile.”

The overall objective from the beginning of the project is unchanged, but certain conditions have naturally changed along the way. It can be a matter of everything from development and market demands to customization and new additions.

“From an agility perspective, Prevas has been very good and quick with scaling up when we've come with new ideas,” Anders emphasizes. “Sometimes they can almost be too agile with some of the crazy ideas we’ve come up with...”

Anders says with a chuckle that it might be better if Prevas discouraged their ideas now and then. Nonetheless, the project has been completed according to Brüel & Kjær Vibro's wishes despite certain additions, and within the frameworks for time and resources.

“It's great with a partner who can manage almost everything we need, even if it requires resources,” says Anders. “Regardless, they’ve definitely met our highly placed goals.”

Using tha latest in technical developoment
Brüel & Kjær Vibro’s system can be used on all machines that entail rotation – larger motors for stationary installations and machines for drilling and transport in the mining and processing industries, just to mention a few examples. Wind turbines constitute a sizeable sector, but it is far from being the only application.

“No two turbines are the same, all rotations are unique and all of these differences must be handled by the same software and hardware,” says Peter. “The only way of managing this is to benefit from previous experiences at the same time as we added considerable flexibility for the end-customers in making special adaptations or building in additional functionality.”

According to Peter, it is mainly the latter that separates this generation from the previous – the capability for customization without needing to make overly comprehensive changes. Besides the high quality of the devices, they must also be designed for many years of dependable service. Because it is a matter of industrial applications, they will be in use for up to 20 years. Peter expects the previous generations’ devices to last another 10 years and that the new ones will be in service for 10 to 20 years with periodic updates.

Brüel & Kjær Vibro now has a platform on which to build further on even if the equipment as such may not be what drives their business in 10 to 20 years. With today's technological developments, long-term planning on that scale is impossible. There are many influencing factors, from the security aspects to communication technology, and even if the platform is good enough, updates will be necessary, but with long-term collaboration facilitating continuous development.

“We’ve had extensive collaboration for the past 12–14 years and I expect it to continue,” says Anders Reske-Nielsen. “We see it as a partnership more than a collaborative arrangement, and our operations are based on this. We have no reservations in saying that we are extremely satisfied with Prevas, and we would be happy to share our experiences.”

Do you want to know more about this project or find out what Prevas can do for you, please contact us.

Henrik Møller, Prevas A/S, e-mail

remote monitoring and diagnostics, BKV, case study
remote monitoring and diagnostics, BKV, case study

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