KCF Technologies Blog

Mike on Maintenance: Overgreasing Preventative Measures

We have talked in past blogs about preventative measures to avoid overgreasing.

Let’s take look at a few more preventative measures:

It has been estimated that 60% to 80% of bearing failures are caused by grease cross-contamination.

Grease Guns - Like I mentioned in the past, know what grease you are using. Traditional grease guns do not allow the operator to see what’s inside. Using clear grease guns lets you visually see the grease number on the cartridge to identify what type of grease you are using to help prevent cross-contamination. They come in a variety of colors when a secondary method of identification is required such as lubricant type.

Remember the 0.114 x D x B calculation to know how much grease needs to be added?

Once you have this calculation, use a grease gun that is calibrated, like 32 pumps = 1 oz.  Think of your clear tube/color coded grease gun as an innovative reliability tool. In the past I have used the clear tube/color coded grease guns as secondary method of identification.

Flow-Stop Grease Fitting - Stop grease flow to prevent over-lubrication and damage to bearing seals. These steel fittings positively shut off within the pressure ranges 5-20 PSI or 60-110 PSI. As the pressure drops below its closing pressure, the fitting reopens and grease flow can resume. Fittings have a 60° angle and a 1/8" PTF male pipe thread.

Pressure-Relief Vents - When pressure climbs into and beyond the selected fitting range, vents open to reduce pressure. They close as pressure drops within and below the pressure-relief range.

The Flow-Stop and Pressure-Relief Vents are relatively inexpensive, for a couple dollars you can outfit an electrical motor. These provide simple ways to prevent overgreasing of your machinery. If you think that a couple dollars per motor is expensive for these preventative measures, what do you think the next motor rebuild and labor costs will be without it?

These simple things prove to be valuable reliability tools that can save time and money.

Mike on Maintenance: Grease Compatibility

In my last blog, Mike on Maintenance: Overgreasing, I included this calculation:
Where G = the amount of grease in ounces
            D = the bore diameter in inches
            B = the bearing width in inches
I posted it incorrectly, it should be:
Where G = the amount of grease in ounces
            D = the bearing diameter in inches
            B = the bearing width in inches
The metric equivalent is 0.005 instead of 0.114
Use the calculation as a logical approach to greasing electrical motors.

With the correct calculation there are a few things to consider - operating temperature, ambient temperature, wet environment, bearing mounted on vertical shaft, vibration levels. Also bearing configuration like ball bearing, roller bearing and speed of rotation. Do your homework, take time to read some machinery lubrication articles/publications.
Grease Compatibility – Please read the chart, which I’ve posted below from the Machinery Lubrication website.

Figure 1. Relative Compatibility Rating
B = Borderline C = Compatible I = Incompatible 

Note: This chart is a general guide to grease compatibility. Specific properties of greases can dictate suitability for use. Testing should be conducted to determine if greases are compatible.

Grease Compatibility is very critical to machinery health. When you see that oil seeping from your bearing and always wondered why it does that, take a look at the grease that is being used.

A couple years ago I was part of an install of vibration sensors on some new, very critical supply air fans at a huge research facility. The fans were being used to heat/cool the building during final construction phases and at that time were being maintained by the installer. I noticed oil dripping down the bearing ends of the 125 HP direct drive motor.

I looked at the motor plate to identify what the motor manufacturer specified for lubrication. It was a polyurea, NLGI #2. I then went to the contractor that was maintaining the supply fans even before the bond period begain to asked what type of grease they were using, the HVAC Superintendent said “ grease is grease” we only have one type grease on the job site !!!!
The grease they had been using was identified and was incompatible with the polyurea that the motor manufacturer specified and what was purged into the bearing from the factory when the bearing was made. To cut to the chase the contractor was made to clean and purge the wrong grease out of [12] motor inboard/outboard bearings at a significant cost to the contractor. If not caught the customer would have incurred the costs of labor and the bearing and motor life expectancy would have been shortened considerably.

So please, take time to identify what type of grease you are using, the amount of grease for individual applications, and if the bearing requires lubrication.

Next Blog – Overgreasing Preventative Measures 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners Invests $475,000 in KCF and Four Other PA Start-ups

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA has been a great supporter of KCF Technologies in the past year, and has once again committed to invest in us and four other Pennsylvania start-ups. On September 16th, the Center's Board of Directors approved a proposal to invest in KCF, along with Simulation Systems, Inc.Flip Learning, Super Abrasive Machining Innovation (SAMI) and CrimeWatch

Earlier this year, SGICC and Ben Franklin Technology Partners awarded KCF Technologies $25,000 for the Shale Gas Innovation Constest, enabling us to produce four demonstration kits to be placed in various oil and gas applications including Universal Well Services and Williams.

Ben Franklin is investing $475,000 in these five companies, and we are looking forward to put this money to good use. The money will help us continue to expand our trial installations and help spread the word about our game-changing impact on safety and reliability for equipment in shale gas operations.

“The Most Dangerous Stairway I've Ever Climbed and Why it Never Needs to be Climbed Again”

Picture this past years’ Polar Vortex and the toll that it took on mankind as well as our world's creatures.  My respect for those that had to endure working in those conditions is immense.  Like all companies out there, I believe that safety is paramount for your valued employees and you must protect them.  That is why I enjoy my job as I have the chance to improve many working environments.

I recently had a great opportunity to work with a paper facility and coach them on how to improve some of their maintenance and reliability practices.  It entailed a memorable flight of stairs with over 260 steps that took me to the top of the kamyr digester tower.  Now please keep in mind that it was a sunny 70 degree day and I enjoyed every moment of the ascension into the sky.  But, it got me thinking,,,How many times this trip has been taken throughout the year?….and how many times in terrible conditions?

My point is that almost every plant employs a walk around PdM program that requires monthly or quarterly routes that put employees at risk of injuries when having to access remote or enclosed applications.  Why not completely eliminate that risk by greatly reducing the number of times that your team member is exposed to those unnecessary conditions?  That is exactly what we set out to accomplish by deploying a wireless vibration monitoring solution. 

It took a total of 40 minutes (including the hike up and back down the staircase) to accomplish the installation and have it immediately reporting quality data to their secure cloud account.  With minimal investment, this plant has made the reliability team (one specific gentleman) extremely happy and appreciative that the company had the foresight to greatly reduce an unnecessary risk.

With winter coming quickly, the reliability team is more than happy to have vibration monitoring instead of dreading the next climb up those stairs in the snow.

What has your company done to help remove some of those risks that might be similar to what I just described? We'd love to hear your feedback about other locations where our wireless system might be of help!


Matt Cowen is a National Account Manager for KCF Technologies and works with several industries including the pulp and paper industry. Find more information on our pulp and paper applications here or contact Matt at mcowen@kcftech.com.

Mike on Maintenance: Overgreasing

CAUTION: The following BLOG may contain strong content with words like OVER-GREASING, BEARING FAILURE, SEAL DAMAGE. If these words offend you please read on.

I am by no means an expert on machine lubrication, just a tech in the real world that “turned the wrenches”.

“The more grease I put in the bearings the better it will work” and "putting in more grease now I will not have to lubricate as often" are common thoughts most techs have about lubrication. WRONG.

Let’s cut to the chase. Over-greasing can lead to high operating temperatures and in the case of electric motors can cause energy loss and collapse the bearing shields. The excess grease can cause heat to build up in the bearing and the grease to churn and possibly cause your rolling elements to skid. This can cause oil bled (the separation of oil from the thickener).

Consider that some grease guns can produce as much as 6000 PSI and higher. The seals don't have a chance with that much pressure. Consider that lip seals usually fail around 500 PSI and when you are lubricating pump bearings, and compromising the seals can lead to leaking and contaminants like water and dirt entering the seal.

This short and simple calculation will get you in the ball park with how much grease to apply:
G = 0.114 x D x B

Where G = the amount of grease in ounces
             D = the bore diameter in inches
             B = the bearing width in inches

We will continue to discuss our over-greasing shortfalls and some preventative measures in my next blog.

Mike on Maintenance: Pump Grouting Tips

When installing base-mounted pumps, pay special attention to manufacturers’ installation instructions. A little more time now will save you a big $$$ in the future.
As much as 65% of pump life cycle costs are determined during design, procurement, and installation.

I don’t want to bore you with statistical costs, but here are a few pointers you can bank on:
        It is always best to pipe to your installed pump.
         The foundation must be able to absorb any type of vibration and form a permanent, rigid support for the unit.
        Before grouting always perform rough shaft alignment. This way if you are bolt bound on the motor you now can move the pump [static] with little effort [not piped in] as part of your alignment solution.
        Raise pump base from pad it is setting on ½” minimum so grout has a chance to run under and make full contact with base rail. Grouting helps to isolate vibration that comes from the pump and maintains proper pump alignment.
        Always use non-shrinkable grout and use a grout bag [cutoff paint strainer] to reach those nooks and crannies when pouring grout. You don't want any air pockets.
        Some pump manufacturers take into consideration grout weight when designing inertia spring load.
        Check to make sure driver/driven key way shafts are at 180 degrees [12:00 and 6:00 o’clock] as opposed to being close or keys being aligned. In some cases, this can cause or add to excessive vibration levels.
        Use a Grout Float, it helps force the grout into those nooks and crannies and fills any potential voids. If the voids are not filled with grout they can create air pockets that crack over time and leave holes in the grout surface.
        After grout has cured it is time to tighten anchor bolts. Use a torque wrench so as to apply the same pressure to all pump rail anchor points.
        Sound the grout to check for any voids [air pockets].

Mike on Maintenance: Do You Hear That?

In this blog, Mike, our resident vibration expert with considerable experience in maintenance and reliability, gives an example of a common scenario in v-belt driven fans and describes some things to check on once you hear a strange sound coming from your machine.

What’s that odd noise, that ticking sound, coming from your v-belt driven fan? Man, you know the PM crew just changed the drive belts out; it can’t be the belts, so it has to be a fan bearing, right? You better get a shutdown to change the bearing out, and while you’re at it you might as well change both bearings out.

But before you do that, stop and think about it. You weren't there when the PM crew changed the drive belts out.

Did they properly install the belts? 
Did they check for worn sheaves? 
Did they spin the belts on without loosening the motor stretching and breaking the tensile cords?

You get the picture. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t assume that just because someone told you that when you hear “that sound” it will always be worn/failing bearings. I will tell you from 35 years of past experience that less than 10% of the time it is a bearing problem.

If you do everything right, from the fan foundation right up to correct belt tensioning and sheave alignment it eliminates a lot of maybes. Only after you've checked into those possibilities you can start looking into possible bearing faults. Next time you hear that sound, check these simple things before planning to change a bearing and it could save you a lot of time and money in the future.

New Building Commissioning: The Problem Maintenance Engineers Don't Know They Have

KCF Technologies is located in the heart of State College, PA in close proximity to the Penn State University. As a resident here, it's hard to ignore the chain link fences lining the streets while crews construct a new Health and Human Development Building, renovate the Intramural Athletics Building and South Hall Dorms, and complete a massive addition to the Hetzel Student Union Building on campus just a few blocks away. With only a few weeks until classes begin, construction crews and engineering firms are urgently trying to complete deadlined projects before thousands of students return for the fall semester.

This is a scenario happening all across the United States, as universities spend billions to expand their campuses with new, state-of-the-art buildings or to revitalize their outdated buildings. For the lead maintenance engineers in charge of overseeing these expensive building commissioning projects, the process is daunting with critical details often overlooked. One Lead Engineer at Penn State recently told us about a frustrating, reoccurring problem associated with multiple construction projects - watching expensive machines mysteriously fail within days of the bond and warranty expiration.

We've all been there. We purchase a new appliance, for example a refrigerator that carries a 1-year warranty. It always seems the refrigerator conveniently waits one year and one week before breaking. Then, we are stuck with the burden of financing even more money to repair, with manufacturers and installers in the clear.

Fixing a refrigerator is one thing, but what do you do when you're the lead maintenance engineer stuck with repairing components of your university's newly installed multi-million dollar HVAC system? Most universities reach the end of their warranty period with little or no accountability strategies in place to assess machinery health or detect early failures upon startup.  In reality, approximately 30-40% of those new machines will fail due to a variety of factors, and repairs will fall on you, the lead maintenance engineer, not the installer.

So what can universities do to save that repair money? Some universities are becoming proactive, using predictive maintenance strategies to monitor their machines upon startup, well before the warranty expires. With early failures detected, installers can repair potential problems eliminating needless spending that will occur after the bond period. Universities are also accumulating data from different projects to assess and "score" installers to determine which contractors are efficient with their installation efforts. By identifying the best installation partners, lead maintenance engineers can alleviate headaches and cut needless spending.

So the next time you pass a college campus and see those chain link fences and construction cranes, maybe you'll wonder if the maintenance engineers are aware this problem exists....and that there is an easy way to fix it.

Mike on Maintenance: Structural Looseness

We can't wait to introduce you to Mike!

Michael Hoy comes to KCF Technologies from Penn State University. Mike just recently retired from PSU after 35 years of service, most of which was spent in the HVAC-R / Vibration Analysis and PdM Program. Mike was very instrumental in building the Vibration/PdM Program and also implemented a fail-safe type of lubrication identification and greasing frequency program. At KCF Technologies, he is a Maintenance and Reliability Specialist supporting SmartDiagnostics Sentry Service consulting team and KCF sales for universities, pulp and paper industries, power generation, general manufacturing and food and beverage industry.

Mike will be frequently contributing his expertise to a series of blog posts with practical advice for vibration analysts and reliability engineers. To kick off his segment on the blog, here's some quick advice from Mike on structural looseness:

When checking out vibration related issues of a belt driven fan, make sure to pay special attention to what is supporting your fan/motor. Start with machine hold-down bolts, especially on older poured concrete housekeeping pads. Check very closely for any cracks in the concrete. You probably will not see the flaking or cracks if you do not scrape the years of excess lubrication or dirt build up off of the housekeeping pad.

Also, check the pad itself by lifting it from what it is setting on. You may even want to squirt a little water around the pad perimeter if safely possible. If you see water surging or bubbles forming it could indicate looseness. 

If possible, squirt water with the machine in normal operating mode, this way you may see the cracks opening and closing or the pad lifting in real time.

A structurally sound machine starts by having firmly rooted footings/foundation. If you can rule out structural looseness then other things will have to be taken into consideration...

Stay tuned to find out what Mike suggests for other vibration related issues in our next segment!

Fundamentals of Vibration – Simplified Calculation for Converting Velocity to Displacement Application: Structural Vibration Monitoring in Shale Gas Operations

NOTE: for a quick read, skip ahead to where it says “Here’s How” below…

At KCF, we are passionate about eliminating needless machine failures, and vibration is our best tool.  A practical problem that often comes up is this: how much is something vibrating, in a way I can understand?  Displacement (distance traveled by an object, in time) is something we can all understand: how many inches is my something vibrating, where something can be a pipe, a motor, a pump, a fan, a beam, ceiling, floor, etc.  There are sensors that measure displacement directly, accelerometers, especially wireless accelerometers, make it much easier because we can mount externally on a machine with a magnet.

With software and a simple calculation, you can use the accelerometer measurement to calculate the displacement, and get an accurate estimate of how many inches (or milli-meters for our Canadian and European friends) something is vibrating.  The fundamental equation for vibration, or any oscillating motion is:

 In a simple oscillating vibration, A (t) = A1cos(f1*t) + A2cos(f2*t) + …  (where A1 is the amplitude at frequency f1, etc.)

By integration, the velocity, V (t) = A1/f1*sin(f1*t) + A2/f2*sin(f2*t) + … 

Integrating again, displacement, D (t) = A1/f21*cos (f1*t) + A2/f22*cos(f2*t) + … 

But fortunately, the software does most of the work for you, and it’s much easier to get a rough estimate, especially when you have one dominant vibration frequency. 

Here’s how:

1)    Use the software to find the peak velocity at a given frequency (inches/second).  NOTE: The software has already integrated to convert acceleration to velocity.
2)    Identify the frequency of that peak (RPM)
3)    Estimate as follows:


Example: we had a customer recently in a well completion operation, and they were seeking to know the amplitude of vibration of a high-pressure pipe.  They were using a practical and proven method, duct-taping a sharpie to the pipe and duct-taping a piece of cardboard to the adjacent structure.  A great practical solution, and it answered the question, but there is an easier way!  Just follow these steps:

1)    Peak Velocity = 15 in/s  (it was a high-amplitude application)
2)    Identify the frequency of the dominant peak = 943 RPM  (15.7 Hz)
3)    Displacement = 10 X 15 / 943 = 0.15 inches.

Answer: the pipe is vibrating a little more than 1/8th of an inch.  It’s not exact, but it’s accurate enough to be very useful and answer a question, and it doesn’t require duct tape!

What makes the new SmartDiagnostics Vibration Sensor Node 10x better than the original?

Among the many new features of the SmartDiagnostics 2.0 system, the product with the most drastic changes is the Vibration Sensor Node. The core of SmartDiagnostics, the VSN is a vibration and temperature sensor capable of collecting data every 4 seconds!

But what really makes the VSN 2.0 10x better?
  • Twice the range: 800 ft line-of-sight and on average 150-500 ft in a heavy industrial environment
  • Twice the frequency range: up to 8192 Hz sampling frequency to allow for a greater variety of applications
  • Two and a half times more robust: Class I, Division II hazardous certification, an IP65 rating making the new sensor dust-tight and impervious to water jets, and a strong impact resistance (Just for fun, we dropped one off the roof of our building, about 2 stories up, and it still was collecting data after hitting the concrete!)
With these features, the VSN 2.0 packs a big punch into a sensor about the size of a golf ball. In addition to these improvements, the sensors also feature a new patent pending antenna design, a completely redesigned mechanical enclosure, and a new accelerometer, giving the sensor a higher range and including electrical filtering to ensure no aliasing. 

Like the VSN 1.0, the new sensors are extremely low-power, so they can use an inexpensive, off-the-shelf battery that rarely needs changed. In fact, the new sensors require even less power, and both models have the option of using thermal or solar energy harvesters.

The hardware isn't the only part of the sensor that's been improved. The new wireless protocol, KCF's DART wireless, enables dynamic network error recovery and 5 channel frequency agility, meaning that even with RF interference, the vast majority of the data (>99%) will be available and accurate in all but the worst environments. The new protocol also allows more sensors to communicate with each receiver, with up to 100 sensors potentially talking to one receiver at any given time.

All these features will allow KCF to help our customers get the most out of their machinery, especially in new applications such as Oil & Gas, Food Manufacturing, and many others.

Now we can give more machines a voice and help to maintain the health of our current customers' machinery more extensively than ever before. 

Value Innovation Series: Walk-around PdM vs Low-Cost Wireless Continuous Condition Monitoring

Route-based vibration monitoring is used in plants to track the health of motors, pumps, fans and other equipment in the balance of plant.  A handheld system is used to acquired data, and the vibration technician walks to each monitoring point to take the data.  This is typically done on monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the characteristics of the machine.  Vibration routes are common because they can be inexpensive in capital cost since one acquisition system is used to gather data on hundreds of machines.  However, routes have three major shortcomings when looking to improve uptime and safety in plant operations:
  1. Dangerous: Routes require the analyst to gather data in and around operating equipment, creating dangerous situations
  2. Incomplete Information: No data is acquired in the time between visits
  3. Time Waste: Routes are labor intensive, and most of the labor is wasted visiting healthy machines.

Continuous wireless condition monitoring is an emerging technology that cuts through each of these three shortcomings.  It doesn’t eliminate the route, or the detailed analysis of a bad actor.  Rather, it makes the monitoring and analysis much more efficient and much safer.  

  1.  Safety Improvement: Wireless sensors are permanently (or, for some bad actors, semi-permanently) mounted on the machines when they are NOT running.  Our sensors are mounted inside enclosures for AHUs (Air Handling Units), on rooftops, and on high-speed rolling equipment, just to name a few, where it’s much safer to install sensors during a shutdown.

  2. More Information: Wireless condition monitoring is set up on a schedule, and our systems typically are set up to take data once per hour (for a low-risk machine) or as often as once per minute (high-risk).  This means that the wireless system takes between 2,000 and 100,000 more measurements compared to a quarterly walkaround!!!  Why does this matter?  Because machines don’t always behave badly when you want them to, or fail when you expect them to.  High vibration can be intermittent, and load dependent.  Continuous monitoring enables trending of the information over time, helping to identify load conditions or operating conditions that lead to high vibration.  Continuous monitoring also makes it possible to generate alarms in situations when the machine develops a process-related failure between monthly or quarterly check-ups.

  3. Efficiency: With a route, if only 10% of a set of machines are in need of maintenance, that means that route—based measurements are wasting 90% of the time of your (well-paid) vibration analysts!!!  They are walking to visit machines that are perfectly healthy.  With wireless condition monitoring, the healthy machines are clearly identified remotely, in software, enabling the PdM, reliability, and maintenance experts to focus their attention efficiently on the 10% of machines that actually need attention, and schedule the appropriate detailed investigation.

Of course, none of this was possible even five years ago.  With SmartDiagnostics®, KCF has built a system that is capable of continuous monitoring and trending of full-spectrum data, and delivering it with install times under 15 minutes and at a lower cost than route-based techniques.  Check us out to find out what a difference this can make to keep your operations and people safe and efficient!

What's new with SmartDiagnostics® 2.0?

With the ever-growing demand for productivity across all industries in a challenging economy, avoiding outages and maximizing uptime has never been more vital. We are always looking to improve our products, and after countless hours of work, we've developed the second generation of our SmartDiagnostics® predictive maintenance system to help cut costs and reduce downtime in a variety of industries.

If you've taken a closer look at our website over the past week, you may have noticed some differences in the SmartDiagnostics® product family, including new sensors, receivers, servers, software, and the introduction of the SmartDiagnostics Sentry Service. While our website can give you all the specs on the products and describe how they work together, we want to take this opportunity to explain in more detail on our blog just what the differences are in the products and how they can be useful in the field.

We're hoping to have some video demonstrations and how-tos in the coming months to help get customers started with our new products, and we're excited to share with you all of the big improvements we've made.

With the introduction of these new products, we're working even harder to "give your machines a voice" and your machines can speak more clearly than ever with SmartDiagnostics® 2.0.

Next week, we'll take a look at the Vibration Sensor Node 2.0 and see how it compares to its predecessor.

Value Innovation Series: University Solutions to Bridge the Gaps in PdM

Academic institutions, particularly large colleges and universities, continually strive to improve and enhance their maintenance programs in an effort to improve overall efficiency.  Where reactive maintenance practices were once the norm, institutions are beginning to take a more proactive, predictive approach to machinery maintenance.  Continuous wireless vibration monitoring technologies have quickly become a cost-effective solution to compliment standard walkaround monitoring systems most commonly used.  Depending on the specific application and situation, both methods of data collection prove effective, but there are added advantages to continuous monitoring that are critical to maximizing uptime and improving overall efficiency.

“See the Whole Movie, Not Just a Scene”

Our customer, a world-leading university comprised of over 600 buildings, uses both wireless continuous condition monitoring and walkaround systems to monitor machinery health as part of a reliability-centered maintenance approach.  A large ventilation fan located within a research facility was part of their quarterly walkaround program, but failed unexpectedly between the scheduled data acquisition period resulting in costly downtime, expensive repairs, and increased safety concerns.  A simple data gathering solution was needed to provide reliable, continuous data following the repair, alignment, and balancing of the fan, and to monitor regularly (vs. quarterly) to better detect subsequent failures otherwise missed by the walkaround system.

The SmartDiagnostics® system was quickly implemented to gather critical, continuous data during both the repair and start-up of the unit.  Four sensors were installed in a matter of minutes and allowed easy data acquisition on axial and radial positions of the inboard and outboard fan bearings, and radial position of the motor.  Rapid setup and installation, coupled with one minute data acquisition, has provided technicians with the capability to look deeper, trend better, and see the whole “movie”….to view real-time data over an extended period of time establishing baselines and trending day-to-day operating loads of the unit.

The ease-of-use and flexibility of the SmartDiagnostics® system leads to long-term savings while effectively reducing overall maintenance, repair, and replacement costs leading to improved overall reliability. 

Our Website (and Our Blog) Has a New Look!

Welcome to our new blog! It looks a bit different and that's because it's been integrated with our brand new website! Now you can get all of your information about our products, industries we're in, whitepapers, blog posts, and links to all of our other social media sites from one place. As always, you can reach our blog from blog.kcftech.com or navigate to it from the main website by clicking blog in the top navigation bar.

As you may have noticed, you can see whenever we add a new blog post on our company LinkedIn page, on our Google+ page, or on twitter. Or you can subscribe to our blog via email by entering your email address in the bar on the right. We're planning on posting new information about twice a week, so check back often to see more value innovations, new products we're releasing over the new few weeks, maintenance tips, vibration fundamentals, industry information and a lot more!

Feel free to contact us on any of our social media platforms. We want to know what you are interested in and what you'd like to see more of on our blog and feedback on what we've posted. Our job is to give machines a voice, but we want to listen to what you have to say as well! We'll be back with another value innovation this Thursday.

Value Innovation Series: Paper Machines Increased Safety and Downtime Avoidance

SmartDiagnostics Sensor on a Vacuum Pump
In the pulp and paper industry, condition-based monitoring is particularly challenging because of the large number of bearings on each machine, and the difficulty in safely accessing the machines to acquire predictive data. In general, paper manufacturing involves large, complex, fast-moving machinery that can be extremely costly in cases of unexpected downtime or bearing failures, creating a real need for cost-effective and accurate monitoring.

High risk and remote applications such as an enclosed converter make it nearly impossible to monitor with handheld devices in many locations. Some machines prone to failure such as a makeup liquor pump can cause serious problems for maintenance teams. With such small margins in the paper industry, even small failures can be costly if companies aren't prepared.

In our experience, wireless condition monitoring is the least-expensive and easiest way to achieve continuous monitoring on paper production machines. At one of the plants we work with, installing just 20 wireless sensors affordably enables continuous monitoring of the vibration and temperature trends. Each sensor wirelessly transmits high-value data safely and at low cost, enabling automatic alarms and integration into the existing software infrastructure.

Now that the system is in place, the paper mill is able to automatically track the vibration levels from each machine, leading to more productive time for the maintenance team, and rapid installation gives the company the option to expand across the plant without major disruption of operations.

Coming up in the following weeks, we'll be posting more stories from the pulp and paper industry, as well as the oil and gas industry, power generation industry, HVAC/R industry, and food and beverage industry.

Note: This is the second in a series of posts discussing value innovations using SmartDiagnostics®. If you missed our post last week, click here.

KCF to Build and Deploy Four Demonstration Systems with $25,000 SGICC Award

What is KCF Technologies doing with the winnings from the Shale Gas Innovation Contest?

Gary Koopmann and Jeremy Frank
accept SGICC Award
In May, KCF’s SmartDiagnostics® was a finalist at the Shale Gas Innovation Contest hosted by the Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center (SGICC) of Ben Franklin and Penn State.  We were thrilled to be selected as a winner, especially because of the exposure it's given to not only our product, but predictive maintenance in general. Our company is now putting the $25,000 award to good use: building additional systems for trial installations to help spread the word about the game-changing impact on safety and reliability for equipment in shale gas operations.

Some members of SGICC and
PA DCED stopped by the office
Two of the demonstration kits have already been deployed at Universal Well Services and Williams sites in Pennsylvania. Additionally, we partnered with ShaleNet to foster the training of technicians in the industry and teach them to use predictive monitoring techniques to improve the efficiency and safety of shale gas monitoring. We also work with leading shale gas organizations including the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Stay tuned for updates on the deployments over the next several weeks.

For more information on the contest, check out the press release here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11869499.htm

Value Innovation Series: Wastewater Facility Continuous Wireless Health Monitoring

Dewatering Centrifuge with Vibration Sensor Nodes
Last spring, our company was able to offer an innovative solution at a wastewater plant in central Pennsylvania that had two large dewatering centrifuges. Because of the centrifuge design, the bearings on the machine are inherently imbalanced, leading to the rapid wear of parts. At the time, the plant was not using any type of sensor technology to detect changes in vibration, but the facility operator identified the possibility of using a predictive maintenance system to monitor the condition of the bearings and centrifuge system. The goal was to reduce unnecessary maintenance and avoid sudden unexpected failures, since a broken centrifuge could be costly to replace and cause a bottleneck in the operation.

As a result, the facility operator chose to install SmartDiagnostics® sensors on the axial and radial bearing points of both centrifuges. The system was installed and receiving measurements in less than 15 minutes, and cost about $3,500 to set up. After three months of operation, an axial sensor point identified a developing machine behavior that could have otherwise gone unnoticed.

By installing a predictive monitoring system, the wastewater plant received value in several different ways. Cloud-based data flow allowed for monitoring outside the plant, and installation in under 20 minutes made sure there weren't any disruptions to normal plant operations. SmartDiagnostics® sensors' continuous health tracking made machine trends much more apparent with 1,000x more data, and once a failure began, the facility saved both time and money through reduce maintenance and downtime avoidance.

With over 15,000 facilities of this size or larger in the U.S. and very little money to support them, predictive maintenance could offer additional value to wastewater plants across the country by predicting failures to reduce downtime.

Note: This is the first in our Value Innovation Series of posts appearing every Thursday. Be sure to check back next week for more posts like this one!

Predictive Maintenance Value Innovation Series

What is value innovation and why does it matter?

Simply speaking, value innovation is the strategy of creating innovative solutions while providing value to consumers. The ability to provide something unique to the market allows companies to better serve their customers in specific applications. Our focus is on making the industrial environment safer, maximizing uptime, and increasing productivity for the companies we work with. While there are many options for predictive maintenance tools on the market today, KCF Technologies has found some ways to create value in a variety of different areas with our industrial wireless sensor suite, SmartDiagnostics®.

Our new series of blog posts starting this Thursday will highlight one aspect of a successful condition monitoring system in a variety of industries and applications. The posts will cover everything from drilling in unconventional gas, monitoring methane levels, and the condition monitoring of pumps, fans, and compressors, among others. If you’ve ever been curious about how predictive maintenance, especially wireless sensor systems, is helping to provide value to customers, these posts should give you a good idea of not only what we do, but what predictive maintenance is providing to industry as a whole.

Keep an eye out for the first post in our series this Thursday!

In Case You Missed It: Condition Based Maintenance Webinar

If you missed our condition based maintenance webinar in March, you can still check it out here!
Let us know what you think!

Monitoring Your Commercial Exhaust Fans

Jeremy Frank, President and Co-Founder of KCF Technologies, talks about the importance and simplicity of using wireless sensors in monitoring commercial exhaust fans. Using just a few sensors could save you upwards of $100,000 in lost productivity and unplanned maintenance.

Our YouTube Channel has moved!

Find all of our original videos and hopefully some new videos in the next few weeks from our new YouTube channel! If you subscribed to our old channel, make sure you make the switch over. We hope that you'll check out some of our videos and let us know what you'd like to see! Feel free to visit our YouTube or Google+ pages at the links below or visit our website at: www.kcftech.com

Our YouTube channel can now be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEiFbNum8SPMyjqRE0OruGg

This way, our channel is linked to our Google+ page that can be found here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/101353483457022918808/101353483457022918808/posts

KCF Wins $25,000 in Shale Gas Innovation Contest

The Shale Gas Innovation & Commercialization Center held its finals on May 15th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Southpointe, PA., with brief live presentations from each of the finalists. KCF was chosen from over 80 entries as one of the four winners of the contest with its SmartDiagnostics® Vibration Monitoring System (VMS). The system operates on low-power, wireless vibration sensors that enable engineers and technicians to monitor the state of their equipment in order to predict the best time to perform maintenance. The technology is employed in a variety of fields including oil and gas, industrial HVAC/R, pulp and paper, water and wastewater, and power generation. 

When asked why SmartDiagnostics® won, KCF Technologies' President and Co-Founder Dr. Jeremy Frank pointed out that this predictive maintenance technology began with a resolution to avoid pitfalls common among competing products by creating a purpose-built sensor system and software from scratch. Chief Technology Officer Jacob Loverich and KCF Technology’s hand-picked team of innovative engineers “understood the vision,” Frank added, “and made sure that we got there.”

“After presenting as a finalist last year, we dedicated ourselves to learning, and then meeting, the shale energy industry’s needs. SGICC support has been vital, funding trial installations with Universal Well Services and initiating Shale Net workforce training at Westmoreland County Community College and Penn College of Technology."

We are thrilled to have won the competition after participating as finalists last year and look forward to continuing our work helping to give machines a voice!

To learn more about what we do, visit our website at: www.kcftech.com.

PaperCon 2014

Nashville, here we come! Join us at PaperCon 2014 April 27-30th and swing by booth #120 to see our very own Andy Carl and Matt Cowen. We will feature great application briefs that talk to the pains that some of you may be experiencing at your own facilities. We will also be doing live cloud demonstrations of one of our paper facilities. Truly see how SmartDiagnostics is proving to be a game changer for some of the top paper manufacturers in the country and come learn how you can give your machines a voice!
On Friday, April 11th 2014, KCF Technologies and HalenHardy had the pleasure to host the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development as part of grants won by the two companies through the Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center (SGICC) with a focus on job creation.

PaperCon 2014!

Nashville, here we come! Join us at PaperCon 2014 and swing by booth #120 to see our very own Andy Carl and Matt Cowen. We will feature some great application briefs that talk to the pains that some of you may experience at your own facilities. Truly see how SmartDiagnostics is proving to be a game changer for some of the top paper manufacturers in the country and come learn how you can give your machines a voice! 

Machine Reliability With Dr. Gary Koopman

KCF Technologies Co-Founder and Senior Technologist, Dr. Gary Koopmann will lead webinars on basics of machine reliability at a date to be determined in April at the KCF Technologies website. A co-founder and Senior Technologist at KCF, Dr. Koopmann is also Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University and the founder of Penn State's Center for Acoustics and Vibration..

Those interested in learning more about how the reliability of rotating machines can be gauged and analyzed to maximize uptime should register for one of the two sessions by emailing KCF at sales@kcftech.com.

If you weren't able to take part in Dr. Koopmann's Feb. 4th webinars on Vibration Fundamentals, don't miss his synopsis posted here!

Checking Up At Chiller Facilities

Think about the last time you stayed at a hotel, visited a hospital or stepped foot on a college university.  Big buildings like these work off of a HVAC system, which help make visitors feel comfortable during their stay.  But what happens when these machines fail? Check out this clip filmed at a Chiller Facility, explaining the severity of these repercussions and how wireless condition monitoring is able to track and prevent these machine failures!

Cloud Computing: A New Paradigm in Industrial Maintenance

Attaching SmartDiagnostics® receiver nodes to a collection server
set up to transmit data through the Cloud.
In 1970, the internet was in its infancy.  Then, the internet, or rather its precursor, ARPANet, consisted of just five nodes, one at Stanford University, one at UCLA, one at UCal-Santa Barbara, one at the University of Utah, and finally, one at Bolt, Beranek & Newman (a technology R&D company).

Now, the internet is, to quote writers from the Internet Society, "...at once a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location."  This "medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location" is at the core of Cloud computing, a technology that has become available to industrial maintenance teams.  With the Cloud, maintenance teams are no longer tied to only being able to view machine health data on computers with a company's own network.

Additionally, Cloud setup is simple.  It only involves a small machine that connects to the Cloud and talks to the sensors.  Furthermore, the Cloud allows for a truly "plug and play" machine diagnostics system.  All a maintenance professional has to do is plug a small server box into an outlet, connect wireless receiver nodes to the server box, place wireless sensor nodes on a machine, and then wait for data to start flowing.

Now, with Cloud technology, maintenance teams can view machine health data from as close as just down the street, to as far as an ocean away, and it's all made possible by something created by a few university and private company researchers 44 years ago.

Note: This is the first post of a series of posts about how the Cloud can be used by industrial maintenance teams.

Photo by Christopher Shannon/KCF Technologies.  All rights reserved.

February 4 Webinar: Dr. Gary Koopmann on Vibration Fundamentals

Dr. Gary Koopmann
KCF Technologies Co-Founder and Senior Technologist, Dr. Gary Koopmann will lead two webinars on vibration fundamentals on February 4 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Along with being a co-founder and Senior Technologist at KCF, Dr. Koopmann is also Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University and the founder of Penn State's Center fro Acoustics and Vibration.

Those interested in learning more about how machine vibration waveforms can be analyzed in terms of their amplitudes and frequency content, should register for one of the two sessions by e-mailing KCF at sales@kcftech.com.

SmartDiagnostics® Feature Highlight: Configuring, Updating, and Calibrating Vibration Sensor Nodes (VSNs)

The VMS Configurator Sensor View screen.
The Sensor View panel is where you inspect and configure the operation of your sensor nodes.  To see see the Sensor View, click on the Sensor View tab in the top left portion or the VMS Configurator screen.  The Sensor View will display the list of sensors that are configured on your system in the left pane of the window and will display current configuration and real-time data being received and allow you to configure operating parameters for the currently selected sensor node in the right pane.  To select the sensor node for which to display the details, click on that sensor in the left pane of the window.

Sensors that are reliably functioning and transmitting data will show multiple green bars.  When you initially configure a sensor node, it will take a few seconds for the data to be transmitted to the Primary Receiver Node (PRN).

After a few seconds--once communication between the sensor and the PRN begins--the screen will show a single green bar.  As the PRN to which the sensor node is assigned receives more heartbeat pings, the number of green bars shown for that sensor will increase to indicate that the system is receiving a robust signal.

The VSNs will work well as configured straight from the factory, but you can further tune their operation to make them work better in your environment.

There are many different settings that you can adjust for each individual Sensor Node. The instructions that follow examine the different configurations and commands that you can specify for a particular Sensor Node. The view in Figure 11 shows the information for Sensor Node 1047710, as indicated in the left pane and in the "Node Serial #" under "New Sensor" in the right pane. If there is more than one Sensor Node configured, as in most systems, each will be listed in the left pane. Listed below are the configurations and commands available that you can review and often adjust for each of your individual Sensor Nodes.
  • Serial Number - The unique serial number that is factory-assigned to the Sensor Node. This number is also printed on the label. 
  • Address - The three-part wireless network address that is commissioned on the Sensor Node.
  • Last Ping - The time stamp of the last ping that the PRN received from this Sensor Node.
  • Up Time - The elapsed time since the last reset or battery removal of this Sensor Node. 
  • Filmware - The version of the firmware that is running on this Sensor Node. You will need this number if you have to report any problems with a Sensor Node to customer support. 
  • Battery Voltage - Get real-time battery life by clicking on the Update button. If the battery voltage has dropped below 3.3 volts, the battery should be replaced. This will also update the current temperature, displayed in the line below the Battery Voltage. 
  • Temperature - The current temperature of the Sensor Node in Fahrenheit. 
  • Data Ack - Indicates whether the PRN should send a positive acknowledgement to the VSN for every packet of data it receives. You should only change this value from the factory default in consultation with a KCF representative. 
  • FIFO Retransmit Delay - This is the time that the VSN will wait to retransmit a FIFO (First In, First Out) buffer of sensor data if it has not received a positive acknowledgement from the PRN. You should only change this value from the factory default in consultation with a KCF representative. 
  • FIFO Retransmits - This is the number of times that the VSN will attempt to retransmit a FIFO buffer of sensor data when it does not receive a positive acknowledgement from the PRN before giving up on transmitting the collected vibration data burst. You should only change this value from factory default in consultation with a KCF representative. 
  • Burst Retransmits - Sometimes data are not transferred from the sensor to the receiver completely in one burst. With this option, you can decide how many times the system will continue to try transferring the data if it does not get through on the first attempt. You should only change this value from the factory default in consultation with a KCF representative. 
  • RF Power - This is the RF power level setting. You should only change this value from the factory default in consultation with a KCF representative. 
  • Frequency - The radio frequency channel and GHz at which the Sensor Node is configured to communicate.
  • Accel Rate - The rate, in hertz, that the accelerometer is collecting vibration spectrum. The VSN can be set to collect at a rate of 3200 (default), 1600, 800, 400, or 200 hertz. The maximum frequency in the spectrum that the Sensor Node can report is approximately the Accel Rate divided by 2. The VSN provides 944 lines of spectral resolution regardless of Accel Rate selected. Therefore, if you need more fine detail in your spectrum and higher frequencies are not important to you, you should set the Accel Rate to a lower level.
  • Accel Range - The maximum number of Gs of acceleration that the VSN will report.
  • Accel Axis - The axis that the accelerometer in the VSN will sample when it collects vibration data.  The VSN supports collection in the X-, Y- (default), or Z-axes, where the Y-axis runs parallel with the long side of the sensor.
  • Collect Now - To have a sensor node transfer data instantaneously, click the "Send Command" button in the column on the right in the display.  This feature is helpful if information is needed more quickly than the configured Accelerometer Collection Interval.
  • Brown Out Node - A quick way to restart a sensor node if it stops reporting correctly.
  • Turn On LED - This command will visibly show that there is communication between the PRN and VSN. The LED will stay lit for the duration of the configured Ping Interval.
  • Ping Interval - This feature allows you to adjust how often the a VSN and PRN talk to one another. The interval can be lengthened to save battery life or shortened if constant data transfer is preferred.
  • Accelerometer Collection Interval - The accelerometer measures the data that the VSN transfers to the PRN.  The interval should be set based on how often you would like to view data from a particular piece of machinery on which a VSN is installed.
  • Number of Averages - This is the number of vibration samples to be averaged together to create a single observation.  The default setting is one, which means no averaging.  Averaging is useful because it tends to smooth out or eliminate outlier data in individual samples to show a truer picture of the machine's vibration spectrum.
  • Accelerometer Calibration - Each VSN comes calibrated by the manufacturer.  You can simply input the standard accelerometer values that are included with each sensor node if that calibration is ever lost.
  • Temperature Correction - Each VSN has the option to correct the temperature based on the current ambient temperature.  Each time you take a reading later on, you get vibration and temperature data.  While the temperature is calibrated at the factory, you may find it necessary to add an additional temperature correction factor.
  • Waiting Commands - When expanded, this list box shows all the commands that are currently queued in the PRN to be sent to the sensor node.  As the commands are sent, they drop out of the list.
  • Diagnostic Messages - When expanded, as it is by default, this box shows the diagnostics messages that are generated in the system as a result of the communication between the PRN and VSN.
You can learn more about KCF Technologies' SmartDiagnostics® technology here.

Seven Top Tips for Pulp & Paper Plant Preventive Maintenance

Pulp and paper mills are harsh environments full of dust and heat.  Eliminating or reducing their effects is critical to the healthy performance.  Preventive maintenance means equipment failures that result in production downtime and lost profits can be kept to a minimum, or prevented entirely.

Between 60% and 80% of all equipment malfunctions are caused by incorrect maintenance.  Maintenance should include basics like detailed cleaning, lubrication, and alignment, as well as the following procedures.  Here are our top seven tips for ensuring maximum system availability throughout a pulp and paper mill, adapted from a longer list by the Swiss-based ABB Group, which provides systems and services for control, plant optimization, and automation in pulp and paper as well as other industries:

1. Keep it clean
Dust can cause inaccurate measurement and overheating of critical electronic components.  It can be controlled using thoughtful industrial design and air-wiping devices.  Control system equipment must be sealed to prevent failures that can be caused by dust-coated electronics.  Keeping things clean also means other problems are easier to spot.  Cracks, leaks, loose connections, and other problems are more easily found if the item is not covered in a thick layer of dust.

2. Be systematic
Good preventive maintenance is based on detailed record keeping.  A logbook should track what was checked, why, what was found, and any action taken.  Such records are the platform on which preventive maintenance schedules are based.

3. Inspect regularly
Weekly checks on quality control scanners should include inspecting sensor windows for damage or wear to assure accuracy.  Monthly maintenance and verification as well as annual inspection should complement regular maintenance on scanners and sensors, ensuring that they give reliably optimum performance.  Equipment should be inspected while operating to minimize downtime and detect operational defects that cannot be assessed on stationary equipment.

4. Apply regular maintenance drives
Variable speed drives keep pulp and paper plants moving, and regular preventive maintenance is vital to maintain their health.  Keeping drives and motors clean ensures they do not overheat and helps maintain peak efficiency.  Tracking drive operation remotely lets you monitor drive system parameters, parameter changes on-line measurements, software changes and upgrades, remote guidance, and written instructions sent to the maintenance PC.

5. Upgrade motors
Motors are another essential in the drive chain, and motors designed for high reliability will help minimize downtime.  A new motor for process industries has a 20% to 30% greater cooling surface than its predecessor, reducing the internal temperature considerably, and giving longer component life.  With improved cooling, bearing grease lubrication intervals are 50% longer.

6. Assign the right people for maintenance
A key strategy is to control who implements the preventive maintenance procedures and to have an agreed planned program of work.  The best results are achieved when maintenance-minded personnel with the required training are given personal ownership of this important duty.

7. Provide the right training
Employees should be trained in correct normal operation so as not to exceed machine parameters, and in what to do when problems occur.  Shift engineers need to know all about plant operations.  Training staff only when equipment is commissioned, and failing to maintain current training can lead to more service calls and needless production delays.

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