Industrial IoT Solutions for centrifugal pump problems

Centrifugal Pumps are one of the most commonly used pumps for transferring liquids as they are easy to deploy and quick to install in addition to being cost effective as opposed to Positive Displacement Pumps. Since Centrifugal pumps operate by using impellers they are able to move fluids using centrifugal force. They are ideal for moving liquids with a relatively low viscosity that pours like water or light oil.

The global market for centrifugal pumps is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% from 2014 to 2019, from $33.2 billion in 2014 to over $40 billion in 2019. In fact, these pumps are used across several industries such as Oil and Energy for pumping crude oil, slurry, and mud. Mining, Refineries, Power generation plants, Pharmaceutical Industry, and Chemical Industry are some of the other industries which create the most demand for Centrifugal Pumps. Now though the global market for centrifugal pumps is forecasted to grow, a paradigm shift is happening in which emerging markets shall now create a greater demand for Centrifugal pumps. Prior to 2014 Oil and Gas, Mining, power etc., were some of the main consumers of Centrifugal Pumps.

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Buyers demand innovative solutions

Currently, due to the falling global oil and commodity prices, there is a fall in capital expenditure of the Oil industry. Even the mining Industry has been struggling with sluggish prices and low investments since 2012 has led to lower demand for Centrifugal Pumps. In contrast Commercial Buildings, Municipal water, as well as Chemical industry, are all seeing rapid development and are emerging markets for Centrifugal Pumps. These end-user industries tend to be extremely competitive when functioning with low margins. These users require equipment which perform effectively yet cost efficiently. Since this decline in global oil prices is expected to continue in the coming year, pump manufacturers need to now focus on providing solutions for the end user industries too. To do so they need to gain a competitive advantage over the numerous competitors by providing their customers with value-added solutions. For that matter, even the Industries that are going through a slump will see a preference towards value-added pumping solutions due to the resultant cost efficiency of centrifugal pump.

In the present scenario, buyers are in fact looking for innovative solutions that are efficient, long lasting and require easy support and maintenance and enhance process speed. This will help them tide over the lull period. Thus, as an emerging trend, most pump manufacturers and suppliers are now looking to provide integrated solutions to buyers.

Some of the specific problems that Manufacturers wish to address with integrated solutions are:

  • Centrifugal pump maintenance needs to be supported by the manufacturer and serviced during the product lifecycle. As such they are only notified when the failure has already occurred. This leads to very poor equipment maintenance.
  • It gets very difficult for the manufacturer to gather any data about failure causes and working conditions. Generally, a support team member from the manufacturer has to visit the client site to gain this information leading to waste of time and human resources. Even then accurate data cannot be collected manually and it becomes difficult to provide analytics on causes of failure. Such data is important for manufacturers to build better and innovative products.
  • At times users operate pumps beyond their ideal working conditions and manufacturers or suppliers have little or no visibility into its operational environment. This results in failure and downtime of Pumps.

All these centrifugal pump problems if addressed accurately can lead to enhanced customer experience and improved sales.


IIoT is Key to providing Integrated Innovative Centrifugal Pump Solutions

In response to the fall in demand for Centrifugal Pumps as well as other pumps, many manufacturers are looking to integrate Industrial IoT solutions with Pumps. Industrial IoT or IIoT as it is popularly known has led to the creation of smart pumps which are a network of interconnected pumps that can be monitored remotely. IIoT Solutions for Centrifugal Pumps are based on the concept of integrating sensor technology to link various pumping units spread over a particular area with a cloud platform. Information and data collected from these sensors installed on hardware are relayed to a cloud platform. In addition to using sensors for collecting data, data can also be collected from actuators (e.g. drive current). Further data about parts (e.g. Mean time to failure MTTF) and task completion data (e.g. when a task was actually performed) can also be collected to form a broader basis for statistical evaluation or analysis via intelligent systems.

As Centrifugal pumps tend to cause more variable flow patterns than positive displacement pumps, the chances of damage to pumping equipment due to fluctuation in flow speed, volume or viscosity is greater. Some of the common parameters that need to be monitored regularly in centrifugal pump parts are :

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Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) and Cavitation:

NPSH means the pressure of a fluid on the suction side of a pump to help determine if the pressure is high enough to avoid cavitation. Cavitation is the formation of bubbles or cavities in liquid, in low pressure area around an impeller. Presence of cavitation causes serious damage to the impeller and leads to decreased flow. Thus, to avoid damage support team must ensure that the system’s net positive suction head available (NPSHA) is greater than the pump’s net positive suction head required (NPSHR), with an appropriate safety margin.

Vapor pressure of the working fluid

The vapor pressure of a fluid is the pressure, at a given temperature, at which a fluid becomes vapor. This pressure and temperature must be monitored to avoid cavitation as well as bearing damage caused by dry running when the fluid has evaporated.

European motor and pump efficiency regulations

For manufacturers supplying to European Countries, it is also mandatory to comply with European motor and pump efficiency regulations which states that pumps must meet the IE3 standards to provide full system efficiency. Thus, an integrated IIoT solution can help manufacturers and users ensure that pumps are always functioning at compliant standards. Non-compliance can cause financial losses for users in terms of higher energy costs and penalty, while for manufacturers it can mean loss of a sizeable market.

Due to the above-mentioned factors as Centrifugal pumps see most variations in flow they require more connectivity too so as to provide condition-based live monitoring.

In fact, a recent IHS Markit study shows the numbers of connected nodes in pump (centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps) and compressor applications will grow substantially with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46.5% from 2016 to 2021.

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How do IIoT Sensors in Centrifugal Pump Components Function?

IIoT Solutions function through sensors that are fit into the hardware to collect various forms of data. When several pumps are connected through these sensors it becomes easy to monitor them. Data collected from these sensors are relayed to a data analytics platform to be parsed and processed. So let's take a look at how it functions.

Data can be collected from the following type of sensors:

Vibration Sensors:

Pumps produce vibrations indicative of running condition, incipient faults, and centrifugal pump component failure. These vibrations appear at specific frequency across a wide spectrum. The sensors can be customized to track specific vibrations.

Current Sensors

Using a current sensor, one can determine problems earlier by detecting high amounts of current. If the current is at an unusually high level, the motor is working too hard and centrifugal pump maintenance checklist needs to be performed before the pump is damaged. Current sensors can be helpful in monitoring whether a pump is consuming desired amount of energy and not more. This is also helpful in ensuring that the pump is compliant with European Motor and Pump efficiency regulations.

Temperature Sensors

The pumps work at an optimum temperature all the time. A sudden increase or decrease in temperature can be detected by sensors. Further vapor pressure of the working fluid can also be determined using these sensors

The required sensors can be mounted on hardware. Data is recorded and analyzed remotely or by a program to identify faults. Primary receiver nodes (PRNs) can communicate with multiple sensor nodes simultaneously to collect real-time data. In turn, the PRNs connect directly to a database server computer or to a company’s network.

Such a solution can be used to monitor even a very large network with sensors on hundreds of centrifugal pumps. All the data collected by the sensors once received by the network Coordinator is transferred to the gateway from where through GPRS Signals it is then brought to Real Time Information System or RIMS.

RIMS comprises of the server part and the User Interface section.

Server Section:

The Router, Knowledge Base, Data Warehouse are all part of the Server section. This is where the data gets processed and sorted.

UI Section:

The User Interface section is finally where all stakeholders can access the relevant data over mobile apps, Web app and more.

Benefits of IIoT based Monitoring of Centrifugal Pumps:

Competitive edge through condition based monitoring

Manufacturers can know whether their pumps are operating within the expected thresholds and their real time performance. This helps them provide accurate support for better customer service leading to brand Reputation. It also enables them to provide an integrated solution to customers which takes care of after sale support. This provides end users with an efficient and value-added service.

Predictive and Real-time Downtime Alerts

It is possible to get predictive and real-time alerts if vital operating parameters of the pump have breached thresholds or if a failure has occurred. They can gather and analyze this data for enhanced product development. Also by understanding usage pattern manufacturers can improve the product performance in required areas so that the product is more suited to customer needs.

Cost Effective, efficient solutions

The end user of the pump receives a cost-effective solution as it is now possible for them to monitor energy consumption and ensure that the pump is functioning in compliance to any specific requirement such as the European motor and pump efficiency regulation. It also lets them track excessive energy consumption thus saving energy costs.

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