Industrial furnaces in hardening processes usually need to stay functional for up to 30 years. Due to the high stress in the furnace, many system components - such as fan blades or pumps - can wear out and fail unexpectedly, which leads to unplanned downtimes of the systems. To prevent such failures, the American SBS Corporation has developed WatchDogg, a cloud-based monitoring system that supports predictive maintenance. Up to 12 different sensors can be connected to the basic system, which monitor all critical process parameters such as temperature, humidity or pressure. All furnace status data is stored in a cloud and can be conveniently accessed from any smartphone, tablet or PC. This ensures early detection of malfunctions. Plant operators can thus react in good time to maximise the availability of old industrial furnaces. The monitoring system will be presented at this year's Heat Treatment Congress (“HärtereiKongress”) and sold in German-speaking countries by Avion Europa GmbH.

"Monitoring crucial system components in hardening furnaces is essential to minimize system failures," explains Roland Caminades, Managing Director of Avion Europa GmbH. "If, for example, the quenching oil is too moist, this can lead to longer cooling times and, if maintenance work is delayed, to fires in the hardening shop. Many of our customers are therefore already using our AquaSense sensor to measure the moisture content of their quenching oils. However, there are significantly more parameters that have an influence on furnance availability." Which is why WatchDogg was designed in such a way that it can manage not only a single sensor, but up to 12 different measuring instruments in parallel. A modular monitoring system of this complexity with an adequate price structure was never before available on the market.

Continuous monitoring of mechanical components

If there is no employee in the immediate vicinity of the furnace, local light signals or alarm sounds can be missed. WatchDogg solves this problem because it is a cloud-based monitoring system that collects and processes the central process data and makes it available via an Ethernet or mobile phone connection - available any time and anywhere. It thus supports predictive maintenance and gives an early warning of malfunctions, thus preventing unplanned plant downtimes. "The choice of measuring processes and sensors depends on the measured parameter," explains Caminades. “WatchDogg can be connected to completely different sensors to monitor the most important parameters in hardening furnaces, such as pressure, temperature, vibration, flow rate or relative humidity.” The sensors do not necessarily need to be installed in the furnace, but can also measure the critical values indirectly. A vibration sensor can be used to detect when a fan blade is no longer running smoothly in the bearing, as the frequency changes slowly. This also applies, for example, to pumps and other mechanical components.

The sensors are individually set to the desired tolerance range in advance to provide a timely warning of the imminent malfunction. "As soon as the parameters deviate from the target values, the user receives a message on a computer connected to the cloud and can take immediate countermeasures," explains Caminades. "This makes it possible to plan the maintenance of a specific component at an early stage and hardening shops can significantly reduce the costs for spare parts inventory.” For data management, the collected process data is stored in the cloud as milliampere values. The system does not translate the data into a readable message until the signal is transmitted to the defined recipient. This ensures the security of the information at all times.

Easy installation and retrofitting of all industrial furnaces

The cloud-based monitoring system is configured for Europe and bears the CE mark. Thanks to its compact design, it can be mounted on a wall or integrated into an existing control cabinet. "Old furnaces can be easily fitted with the system by an in-house electrician. They will receive all circuit diagrams from us required to wire up the system and connect the sensors," says Caminades. "Of course, we will be happy to support you or install the system ourselves as a service." In the basic configuration, the WatchDogg initially contains only the signal translator. However, the system can be expanded step by step with additional sensors as required. In the basic version, this is also possible later on with up to 12 data channels. If required, two systems with a total of 24 data channels can also be combined with each other.

WatchDogg will be presented at this year's “HärtereiKongress” in Cologne. There, Roland Caminades, Managing Director of Avion Europa GmbH & Co. KG, and his team will be available for initial consultations in hall 4.1 at stand F-029.

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