Spotting rotating equipment about to fail

Spotting rotating equipment about to fail
Semiotic Labs’ tool detects changes in vibration waveforms for rotating equipment, which can be used to predict problems before they happen on ships.

Semiotic Labs has developed a tool to detect changes in vibration waveforms for rotating equipment, which can be used to predict problems on ships before they occur. Digital Ship spoke with Simon Jagers, founder of Semiotic Labs to find out how the company is detecting failures months before they occur. 

Semiotic Labs of Leiden, Netherlands, has developed a software tool to continuously analyse the vibration signature of rotating equipment to spot for changes, which may indicate an emerging problem. The company claims it is capable of detecting 90 per cent of failures up to five months before they happen.

The inspiration for the idea is a similar technology used to monitor vibration from electric motors which change switches (points) on railway lines.

For one of the clients, the software detected that the cooling system of the sleeping quarters is about to fail in a ship voyage from The Netherlands to Brazil. As a result of the early detection, the client repaired the cooling fan in Rotterdam. Without early detection, the cooling fan would have certainly failed by the time it reached Brazil, where the outside temperature reached 30 degrees. According to the shipping company, the tool enabled its crew to have a good night’s sleep as a result of detecting cooling system failure before breakdown.

For another shipping client, Semiotic Labs predicted that the pump would fail in two months. The client simply had to replace it, but it didn’t need to divert the ship to the harbour immediately, because there was time to schedule pump replacement when the ship arrived to the harbour.

When a motor or pump starts to fail it creates vibrations. The software measures and analyses the wave forms of those vibrations and can detect very small differences in data that the human eye can’t perceive. The software increasingly becomes better at detecting barrier damage and cavitation.

The trick to eliminate equipment downtime is to detect failures well in advance, so that technical managers can properly plan the maintenance. Simon Jagers, founder of Semiotic Labs, explained: “It’s about proactive maintenance at the optimum time and about using technology, letting people work better, safer and smarter. I think the technology is here not to replace people but to make sure that we learn to work with technology but not instead of technology”.

This article was originally published in the Digital Ship Aug/Sep magazine. Click here to read more on page 23.