Reliability-as-a-Service for Proactive Assessment of Bearing Risk: An Innovative Way to Increase Reliability and Boost Sustainability
As an essential element of bearing service life, lubricant chemistry has a profound effect on the reliability of rotating equipment. To increase the reliability of these crucial components, an Industrial Analytics solution has been developed for proactive condition monitoring.
Poor Rotating Equipment Performance
About 23 percent of total global energy consumption is attributable to poor lubricating performance in rotating equipment. In the USA alone, an estimated 240 billion USD is lost annually because of operational breakdowns, maintenance and loss of productivity due to the tribological inefficiencies of machine elements. It follows that condition monitoring initiatives to increase the reliability of rotating equipment and at the same time reduce unnecessary oil changes contributes to a more sustainable future.
Risk Assessment via Industrial Analytics
Industrial Analytics is the process of collecting, analyzing, and using data generated from industrial operations with the aim of both increasing cost savings and enhancing the reliability of rotating equipment. 4LinesFusion, Inc. has developed an Industrial Analytics Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution called SeerWorks™ Reliability, which increases bearing reliability by accurately and proactively predicting failure before it happens and taking appropriate action. By digitally assessing the health of both the machine elements and their lubricants, SeerWorks™ Reliability makes it possible to identify risks during smooth operation – before damage occurs – by looking into the future, and deliver precision machine reliability. The technology has been successfully applied in the wind, marine and automotive industries. It reduces downtime and costs, extends service life and promotes evidence-based maintenance for OEMs and aftermarkets.
Decoding the Lubricant Chemistry
Tribological processes are characterized by sequences of cascading events, and lubricant chemistry is widely regarded as being the missing link when it comes to predicting wear and failure. At the heart of SeerWorks™ Reliability, 4LinesFusion has developed proprietary algorithms (SeerWorks™) whose function is to identify stress points in cascading events in general, and these algorithms have been applied to the field of tribology. As part of the SaaS solution, SeerWorks™ Reliability also supplies digitalized knowledge of lubricant chemistry and its effects on lubricated contacts. “We assess machine reliability by following the same principles as in precision medicine,” says Jeff Guerin, CEO and President of 4LinesFusion. “We analyze the chemical compounds in the lubricant and the interface and provide proactive prescriptions before any damage occurs to guarantee machine reliability. We assess the lubricated contact such as a bearing surface, material and lubricant composition to deliver precision machine reliability and basically use the lubricant as our sensor. Figuratively speaking, SeerWorks™ Reliability lets the lubricant ‘do the talking’ to gain insight into the apparent situation in the rotating equipment, and this is of greatest benefit during smooth operation.” Whether it is computer models of molecular interactions that isolate the perfect lubricant for a specific mechanical system, or real-time monitoring of any rotating equipment: “The future belongs to those who can strategically transform data into action,” says Guerin.
“The future belongs to those who can strategically transform data into action” Jeff Guerin, President and CEO, 4LinesFusion, Inc.
Recommendations for Reducing Potential Risks
The lubricant and its interactions govern the tribological performance of rotating equipment. SeerWorks™ Reliability delivers an accessible, Industry 4.0-ready, proactive virtual engine. It gathers data, quantifies variables, and runs complex-system and trans-scale molecular models that provide actionable recommendations for significantly reducing the risk of some catastrophic failures.
SeerWorks™ Reliability receives an array of data as input variables such as material surfaces, physical lubricant properties, element counts, trending etc., and performs molecular modelling coupled with proprietary algorithms to identify potential failure risks. After digitally decoding the lubricated machine element interface, the output from these calculations are combined with straightforward recommendations and protocols to reduce the potential risks to the user’s applications.
With SeerWorks™ Reliability, 4LinesFusion combines engineering knowledge, tribology, lubricant chemistry, and the proprietary algorithms for cascading events to proactively address and advance current industry-standard assessments. With the click of a button, users receive an easy to understand, fully automated digital status update on their rotating equipment in a holistic review down to the quantum level.
Bearing Failure: Expensive Maintenance and Lost Revenue
The technology is saving companies a lot of headaches – and a lot of dollars. “One of our major markets is the wind industry. If a bearing on a wind turbine were to fail offshore, a replacement can cost millions of dollars,” says Guerin. “We’re also working with the marine industry. Large ships often use systems that are driven by roller bearings and have multiple propellers. We can proactively assess the risk to which bearings are exposed while they’re in operation – the last thing a company needs is to have their ship floating around in the ocean without any means of control because of a failed bearing.”
For wind turbines, about 80 percent of gearbox rolling bearing failures are caused by white-etching cracking (WEC), resulting in expensive maintenance and lost revenue. At very irregular stages of operation, WEC leads to sudden failure of the bearing after as little as 5 to 20 percent of the estimated service life as defined in DIN 281 for classic rolling contact fatigue. Although gearboxes are designed to last for more than 20 years, they are known to fail after as little as 6 to 24 months in service due to WEC. If the WEC damage is ignored, further damage can cascade and wear down other crucial machine elements.
SeerWorks™ Reliability provides online asset monitoring on irregular, lubricant-mediated failures that deviate from DIN 281
A major goal of SeerWorks™ Reliability is to promote proactive, evidenced-based maintenance rather than schedule-based maintenance as a strategy for enhancing rotating equipment performance and reliability, and to facilitate cost savings. Applied to identify hidden inefficiencies in lubricated rotating equipment, the technology provides prescriptive online asset monitoring not only for classifying WEC but also assessing the threat of stress-corrosion cracking, lubricant filterability, advanced oil analysis reporting, and delivering recommendations for reducing risk.
As the primary product, SeerWorks™ Reliability can easily be incorporated in existing digital platforms and integrated into users’ current workflows. The services can be provided by securely interfacing SeerWorks™ Reliability directly with a third-party service provider, and/or through installed sensor concepts and other concepts that implement reactive measures. In addition to the SaaS solution SeerWorks™ Reliability, 4LinesFusion also offers its clients consulting services and other custom work relating to lubricated contacts, referred to as SeerWorks™ Digital Labs. Custom solutions are currently provided in the fields of lubricant development (oils and greases), false brinelling, root-cause analysis, and claims management.
4LinesFusion has also worked closely with the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada, to define the business model for SeerWorks™ Reliability and develop a go-to-market strategy. In the words of one of the consultants from the Telfer School of Management, Steven Yankowich, Senior Director and EMBA at General Dynamics Mission Systems: “Predictive analytics is fundamental to an effective condition-based maintenance program. SeerWorks™ Reliability has the potential to enable significant improvements in the operational performance of complex industrial machinery such as wind turbines and marine drive systems.”
Unique Technology Reduces Environmental Footprint
“We’re the only company in the world which can proactively predict a catastrophic type failure in bearings that occurs irregularly and suddenly,” says Guerin. “Our risk assessment provided through SeerWorks™ Reliability is unique and highly focused and thus reduces operating and maintenance costs as well as the environmental footprint as a whole. In the coming years, the implementation of innovative, holistic technologies to manage tribological challenges could reduce CO2-emissions globally by over 3 billion tons, lead to cost savings as high as 1.1 trillion USD, and reduce energy losses by 40 percent. 4LinesFusion is committed to playing its part by mitigating the environmental footprint and financial burden of poorly performing rotating equipment.”
Recently Published Scientific Work
In recent years, 4LinesFusion has been actively involved in a publicly funded project by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Major parts of this work were recently published by the team and their colleagues from the University of Southampton, UK, with the title “Reliability-as-a-Service for bearing risk assessment investigated with advanced mathematical models” (Internet of Things, Elsevier, 2020; open access: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2542660520300184).
As Professor Jörg Fliege, Head of Operational Research, Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton, states, “With the help of advanced analytical techniques and modern, state-of-the-art tools from operations research, we confirmed the classifications system of SeerWorks™ Reliability that provides proactive assessment of the lubricants that are at risk of WEC formation. Combining both of our assessment technologies allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the parameters that lead to bearing failure.”
4LinesFusion also contributed significantly to additional work by applying SeerWorks™ Reliability to assess the WEC risk potential in 700 oils. This work was performed by Baher Azzam et al., Center of Wind Power Drives (CWD) at the technical university RWTH Aachen, Germany, using machine-learning techniques to discover patterns and conduct root-cause analyses on WECs using only historic data from previous experiments (open access: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3417/9/24/5502/htm).
4LinesFusion, Inc. is a Canadian Industrial Analytics company that provides algorithms for cascading processes to deliver proactive, precision machine reliability. Founded in 2016 by Jeff Guerin (President and CEO) and Sean Volkaert (CTO), 4LinesFusion takes a holistic approach to tribology to provide prescriptive monitoring for increased machine reliability. 4LinesFusion’s innovative Software-as-a-Service solution SeerWorks™ Reliability ensures advanced and unique monitoring to deliver Reliability-as-a-Service to its customers. By digitally assessing the health of both machine elements and their lubricants, SeerWorks™ Reliability delivers maximum asset protection, cost savings and other valuable features.
Jan-M. Brandt, Business Development Manager
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