Baltimore — At NPE2018, Novatec Inc. will display a real NovaWheel dryer and its digital twin, projected onto big monitors, to show off the company's sensor technology that can predict failures before they happen.
The company calls it the DigiTwin.
"It's like you're showing a full-time X-ray or MRI of your machine," Novatec President and CEO Conrad Bessemer said.
Novatec (Booth W3729) also is rolling out two technologies aimed at nylon and other sensitive materials in Orlando, Fla.: Thermal+ on its portable NovaWheels, and a process to self-generate nitrogen called NitroDry.
Another new product, DryTemp+, brings the mold temperature controller inside a NovaWheel to save space on the factory floor.
Bessemer and other Novatec leaders premiered the auxiliary equipment manufacturer's NPE2018 introductions during a presentation at the Baltimore headquarters in mid-February.
Novatec is a licensee of a company called Prophecy Sensorlytics LLC, and the auxiliary maker offers sensors that, when placed in key areas of a machine, measure variables such as vibrations, sound, pressure and temperature. Novatec debuted the sensors at NPE2015 on a pump and a central dyer.
This time around, at NPE2018, the MachineSense sensors are outfitted on a NovaWheel and will coordinate with machine controller data and feed information to the DigiTwin.
Bessemer contrasted MachineSense with a traditional machine controller that just reports process conditions. On a dryer, say the desired dewpoint goes awry.
"We and everybody else will program something in there, that at a certain preset, if you're not reaching that preset, the machine alarms. It flashes red instead of flashing green," he said.
But it's too easy to ignore the problem, or in a noisy plant, to not even hear the alarm.
"You're at a plastics plant that's making thousands of parts. And most people do what we do in the morning with our alarm clocks, [hit] snooze, snooze, snooze. And they ignore it. Because they have to make parts," he said.
Mark Haynie, Novatec's product manager for dryers, said companies also sometimes go to the other extreme, setting maintenance schedules more frequently than necessary. For example, they may direct employees to clean filters every set-number of weeks, even on dryers that don't run very often.
"These people aren't 'dryer experts.' They're a packaging company. They're a medical company. Their specialty isn't dryers," Haynie said. "This [sensor technology] allows the system to tell you what you ought to know."
Typically, if it's not a catastrophic failure where the machine just stops running and the plant will keep the molding going and figure it out during the next scheduled shutdown, Novatec officials said. But in the meantime, it could be molding bad parts.
It can take time to get a service technician or maintenance person to look into it.
"And typically," Bessemer said, "it takes longer to diagnose the problem then it does to actually fix the problem.
Bessemer thinks it's only going to get worse because of the shortage of skilled technicians, combined with the reshoring trend bringing work back to the United States. MachineSense can make them much more efficient.
"Here you have a digital, a virtual twin of your operating machine, that as a plant manager or a plant engineer or a maintenance manager you can constantly monitor and see what's going on with your particular machine," he said.
Machine controllers report process conditions on a dryer, like temperature, dewpoint, power consumption and airflow. He compares it to a thermostat at your house: It tells you it's too hot or cold, but doesn't say what could be going wrong or suggest how to fix it.
MachineSense, which can be retrofitted or installed on new Novatec machinery, uses sensors billed as "wearable" sensors for industrial machinery. Novatec will put 14 total sensors on one of its dryers — eight regular sensors for its controller and six MachineSense sensors.
The sensors, tied through the cloud to powerful analytical software, diagnoses the data and predicts failure.
"It really looks at the components that make up that machine, rather than the process machine itself. So MachineSense is agnostic to the machine. It's looking at components," Bessemer said.
On a Novatec dryer, the company is calling the sensor technology DryerSense. Information is displayed, dashboard fashion — red/yellow/green — which can be viewed on a notebook computer, the desktop or a smartphone. It measures things like filter performance, the mechanics involved in rotation of the desiccant wheel, and does several checks on blowers, both process blower and blowers for the regeneration process. Vibration and power monitoring are key indications of potential problems with blowers, the wheel rotation and other functions.
"The MachineSense sensors send an email or a text telling you, 'there is a problem,'" Novatec spokesman John Kraft said.
"So when you bring up this dryer, you'll be able to see all of these conditions at a glance," said James Zinski, MachineSense president and chief operating officer. "And you understand if there are any issues that need to be investigated."
For example, Zinski said, the DigiTwin can show future problems with the desiccant wheel caused by misalignment of the chain used to turn it, or the sprocket, or the drive motor. The diagnostic system recommends corrective action before the problem actually happens. On the dewpoint, it will notify you if air at too high of temperatures is entering the wheel and suggest checking the cooling water supply.
Another example is the heating unit, made up of three heater elements. Once one element goes out, the other two have to work harder, and they can deteriorate more quickly — and DigiTwin lets you know right away, Zinski said. Normally, he said, process technicians won't know there's a problem until total failure — when all three heating elements fail.
Bessemer said: "Our goal is help people make sure their equipment is running, on a highest-percentage basis. Everybody gets paid on productivity. This is a process industry. You get paid on pounds per hour. Or parts per hour. And if your machines aren't running, you don't get paid. It's pretty simple."