ABB Marine needed a system that accurately meets the special requirements for bearing condition monitoring of Azipod® propulsion systems. None of the systems currently in the market satisfied ABB’s requirements for capacity, customisability and operational environment.
Intelligence and capacity to bearing monitoring of ABB's Azipod® propulsion systems with the agile CompactRIO
The solution was a bearing condition monitoring system built on National Instruments’ CompactRIO platform. Bearing monitoring for Azipod® propulsion systems was developed in cooperation with an experienced system supplier, Protacon. The new system is efficient and customisable allowing the use of ABB’s own algorithms and is resistant to demanding environmental conditions.
The result was a system that has operated for slightly more than a year in individual pilot applications, faultlessly throughout this period of time. The purpose is to take the system into use in hundreds of ships in the future.
"A failed bearing mechanism endangers the performance of the entire ship."
Kalle Ahola, Protacon
ABB Marine’s Azipod® is an electric motor based propulsion system used in ships and floating vessels. The system brings competitive advantage particularly by reducing energy consumption and greenhouse emissions.
Bearing groups operating under heavy loads and at greatly varying temperatures play a key role regarding faultless operation of the propulsion system. Condition monitoring must be able to consider the bearing service life – condition, wear and durability – continuously and proactively. The biggest threat is that a bearing failure endangers the performance of the entire system.
In cooperation with Protacon, ABB Marine & Ports started to develop a new condition monitoring system with a special focus on bearing monitoring. The platform choice was CompactRIO of the market leader National Instruments, known to ABB from earlier cooperation.
In a monitoring system, information is transmitted via a bearing vibration measuring sensor to CompactRIO where this information forms parameters according to algorithms developed for bearing performance, failure sensitivity and maintenance need, for example. The information is delivered to the ship automation system and, via a cloud service using a satellite connection, to a vibration analysis expert in ABB’s Service team. The task of the vibration analysis expert is to analyse this data in order to provide guidance to operating ships according to the need and prevailing conditions.
Closed systems are challenging in terms of further development
The goal of the project was to develop a tool that is even more modern than before and capable of fully exploiting the potential of the brand-new monitoring algorithm developed by ABB. The previous system was in many ways excellent for its reliability and features although the closed protocol presented challenges in its future development. Since it is aimed that the overall system will later on utilise data retrieved from different measuring units even more efficiently than before, the products of National Instruments offered an excellent platform for agile and scalable development.
During the project, it was strived to ensure that the continuous use of the system would require relatively light service on a continuous basis. For this reason, the cooperation partner Protacon created instructions for system installation and software configuration, for example. These instructions ensured minimum support and training needs in the daily work of ABB Marine & Ports.
Accurate requirements specification is the core of high-quality implementation
When launching the project, a considerable amount of time was spent together in defining the requirements specification, in order that the precise nuances and expectations regarding the final system would be in sync both on the customer’s and the supplier’s side. After creating high-quality specification documentation, the actual software production was carried out efficiently without unnecessary loss of common resources.
After the technical production, the complete software was tested in the customer’s laboratory to ensure the system’s ability to communicate faultlessly and securely with the ship automation systems. After the testing phase, the system was taken into use in the pilot ships.
“Overall, a positive accomplishment. Particularly the requirements specification laid down together at the project start enabled equal expectations both from the customer’s and the supplier's side.”
Project Manager, ABB
Overall performance is decisive in the supplier selection
Protacon was selected as the main supplier for a demanding project particularly thanks to its experience in combinations of vibration measurement and condition monitoring. In addition, Protacon has extensive knowledge of National Instruments technologies. Since this is a very critical development, it is particularly important for ABB to ensure the supplier’s competence and experience.
During the system implementation and pilot stage, surprising new information has also generated regarding the future application possibilities. Therefore, it seems likely that the system will also be used in other parts of the condition monitoring system in the future.
During the project, consensus on technical matters was quickly found between the customer and the supplier. The cooperation related to CompactRIO development and further development of this particular monitoring system continues.
Project in brief
The new system converts data into intelligence to be used by ABB’s vibration analysis experts in bearing condition monitoring of Azipod® systems
The system exceeds its competitors due to its scalability, modifiability and openness
During the project, the requirements specification carefully laid down together with the supplier proved to be particularly important
The system has operated faultlessly throughout its entire pilot period and is currently being installed to several ships
Development work between ABB Marine & Ports, Protacon and National Instruments continues actively
Protacon also provided a measurement data storage solution in ABB’s Microsoft Azure cloud service as well as analysis tools for vibration analysis experts
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“They possess very good expertise, especially in work involving heavier industries. With the new units, they have strengthened their competence with the top of the Finnish measurement and automation technology.”
“Protacon offers competence and service in all of the areas of automation, such as software, instrumentation, electrification system, hydraulic and information network design.”