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How predictive maintenance prevents motor downtime

AiSight’s predictive maintenance solution monitors motors—the motive force for most industrial equipment. Find out how predictive maintenance works with motors, and how using predictive maintenance can prevent breakdowns and reduce downtime.

Electric motors provide the driving force behind most operations in production lines. Whether they’re moving products down a conveyor belt, or putting advanced robotics in motion, motors are an essential part of manufacturing. Furthermore, motors drive many plant functions beyond the production line, such as HVAC and waste systems.

Motor breakdowns anywhere in a production facility can cause significant lost productivity. A strong maintenance regime is necessary to keep them running—ideally with advanced warning of faults and detailed information provided by a predictive maintenance solution. This article looks at just how that works—how motors function, how they break down, and how a predictive maintenance solution can keep your motors healthy and production lines moving.

How do motors work—or break down

Electric motors have two basic parts: the stator, which stays still, and the rotor, which rotates. Depending on whether the motor runs on DC or AC power, we provide electricity to the rotor or stator, creating a magnetic field that drives the rotor into motion. The motor thus transforms electrical energy into mechanical energy, making it the prime mover of any number of productive functions.

Fulfilling those functions means transferring the motor’s rotating force to other machines. This is accomplished through a drive shaft set in bearings, and transferred further through belt drives or gearboxes to other rotating equipment such as fans, rollers, pumps, and blades.

Any part of a motor or its attachments can develop faults that lead to motor breakdowns.

What faults cause motor failures?

Motors are vulnerable to a number of faults: electrical faults in the rotor or stator, bearing faults, heat issues, and referred faults from mechanical connections between motors and other machines.

Motor damage typically occurs due to electrical overload, overheating, contamination, or vibrations. In many cases, multiple factors compound to cause serious faults. For example, contamination may cause bearing damage, leading to vibrations, leading to motor failure. Contamination may also impede cooling fan function, leading to overheating, which causes insulation to degrade and, subsequently, electrical overload and motor failure.

Monitoring motors with vibration sensors, temperature sensors, and magnetic field sensors—as AiSight uses in our Aion sensor nodes—will provide early warning of motor faults.

What happens when a motor breaks down?

As the motive force behind most machines, motor failures take machines out of service.

Getting machines back in service by repairing or replacing motors can also be a difficult task. Motors are non-redundant and frequently difficult to access. Large motors are also heavy—replacing a motor is a big job that requires a serious commitment of time and space. Taking the time and space to perform reactive maintenance on a motor can require shutting down other equipment. In all, a motor failure will lead to significant unplanned downtime and lost productivity.

Or worse. Failure of an HVAC motor can compromise plant safety and require a building evacuation, causing massive downtime, not to mention potential health issues.

How to prevent motor failures with predictive maintenance

Preventing unplanned downtime due to motor failures requires constant vigilance and a proactive maintenance strategy. AiSight's predictive maintenance solution provides 24/7 monitoring and issues alerts of any problems in the early stages of their development—long before they can lead to a breakdown. This allows you to plan maintenance well in advance and have inventory on hand when you need it, thus preventing unplanned downtime.

How AiSight prevents unplanned downtime due to motor faults

The Aion sensor node provides the foundation of AiSight's predictive maintenance solution. Each Aion provides three sensors: a triaxial vibration sensor, a triaxial magnetic field sensor, and a temperature sensor. These sensors transmit a three-dimensional image of machine health to our algorithms, which detect and analyze faults, passing their finding on to you in the form of easy-to-read visuals and early alerts.

AiSight’s vibration analysis detects imbalances, looseness, bearing defects, and misalignments. This will also detect issues in gearboxes and belts further down the drive train. Small changes in vibration patterns are often the first warning of a developing machine fault. Early warning based on these readings can provide months to prepare and plan for maintenance.

Meanwhile, our temperature sensor detects rapidly deteriorating situations as well as non-optimal operating temperature. Finally, our magnetic field sensor provides an accurate picture of motor function, allowing our solution to monitor motors that operate at variable speeds.

In early 2022, we installed sensors on motors and adjacent bearings in six air seal blowers. Our initial analysis indicated early bearing damage. Our client was able to monitor the situation and replace the damaged bearings during scheduled maintenance. This not only kept the motor operating, it eliminated a source of potentially damaging vibrations that could have permanently damaged the motor.

To read this case study, register here.

Which industries can use predictive maintenance for motors?

Motors run most rotating equipment, making them the workhorse of every industry. Predictive maintenance is effective in monitoring equipment in every industry, allowing for better maintenance practices and reduced unplanned downtime.

Predictive maintenance on motors in the FMCG industry

This industry produces high-volume, high-turnover goods—motors keep product moving through pumps, along highly automated lines, into packaging, and onto customers’ shelves. Furthermore, FMCGs are often food or beverage products. These may be perishable and always require sanitary production conditions. Unplanned downtime due to motor failures can cause spoilage that exacerbates the costs of lost productivity.

Predictive maintenance eliminates the threat of unplanned downtime in the FMCG industry due to motor failure.

Predictive maintenance on motors in the wood-processing industry

The wood-processing industry uses motors to cut, cure, and move wood—from raw resource to finished product. This is intensive work, hard on equipment. Monitoring motors with a predictive maintenance solution prevents unplanned downtime, protects valuable assets, and reduces quality-control issues.

Predictive maintenance on motors in the textiles industry

Motors move textiles along continuous production lines, through rollers, mangles, dyers, washers, dryers, and more. These sophisticated processes are resource intensive—unplanned downtime adds up to significant expenses. Predictive maintenance solutions can monitor the motors at the heart of textile industry equipment, ensuring that everything comes out in the wash.

This is not a comprehensive look at all industries that use motors. To learn more about AiSight’s predictive maintenance solution in action in these industries and more, take a look at our industry pages.

Predictive maintenance for motors: revving up productivity

AiSight's predictive maintenance solution provides 24/7 monitoring of motors, early warning of developing motor faults, and root-cause analysis of motor faults.  This information is vital to planning maintenance, optimizing parts inventory, and reducing unplanned downtime. The result: improved productivity and cost savings.

Keep an eye out for our next article in this series. Next time we'll look at pumps, and how predictive maintenance keeps productivity flowing.