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RFID im Blick

KÖHL Group: Consistent monitoring with RFID preventively protects overheating

Use Cases | By PR RFID im Blick | 28 October 2015
TOR-System detects „Hot spots“:The RFID sensor tag is mounted onto the busbar (a massive copper rail with up to 6,300 Ampere) and measures the ambient temperature. Per plant field, 5 to 10 passive UHF sensors measure the temperature at the major defect areas. The antenna system in the compartment reads and transmits the data about every 15 minutes to a data collector that provides the data to a superordinate system. TOR-System detects „Hot spots“:The RFID sensor tag is mounted onto the busbar (a massive copper rail with up to 6,300 Ampere) and measures the ambient temperature. Per plant field, 5 to 10 passive UHF sensors measure the temperature at the major defect areas. The antenna system in the compartment reads and transmits the data about every 15 minutes to a data collector that provides the data to a superordinate system. Photo: KÖHL Group

Consistent monitoring with RFID preventively protects switchgears from overheating and prevents consequential damage

A breakdown of a switchgear system in a computer centre, power plant, or chemical factory leads to fatal consequences: possible results are not only high costs, but also great danger for the workers. “In order to protect modern switchgears with high possibility of failure, permanent thermo-observation with RFID is the only way to guarantee monitoring during operation,” says Michael Krämer of the company Köhl s.à.r.l. As a service, the manufacturer of switchgears equips all their new plants with an RFID sensor system.

Michael Krämer, Head of International Business Operations & Sales, Köhl Unternehmensgruppe, in an interview with “RFID im Blick”

“A well maintained plant that is not exposed to any variation is an exception rather than the rule in Germany nowadays.” Plants are in operation for longer but at the same time, we notice that there is less investment in maintenance: companies reduce maintenance personnel and cycles or outsource maintenance tasks to external service providers.” For Michael Krämer, Head of International Business Operations & Sales, Köhl Unternehmensgruppe, this is a false economy: “Companies often only react after an error has occurred, but by then it’s already too late. However, permanent thermo-observation with RFID allows the prevention of failures at an early stage.“

Michael KrämerMichael Krämer “For new plants that have a high degree of compartmentalisation due to safety reasons, predictive maintenance is often only possible with RFID.”

Predictive maintenance is only possible with RFID

In response to customer requests, the manufacturer of highenergy switchgears in the low and medium voltage range and the Fraunhover IPMS initiated the development of a system that uses RFID technology to give overheating alerts. “Through permanent monitoring with the so-called TOR system, the user will be informed of a looming failure case, which in the worst case scenario would be an arc flash, and is therefore able to take the measures required – ideally, the measures taken would be in the scope of scheduled shutting-off cycles without causing additional plant down times and the resulting production loss.” The idea: the system permanently measures the temperature of conductor systems using busbars inside the high-energy switchgears. These values qualify as an indicator for errors. At electrical conductors for example, a loose screw connection causes higher transition resistance which leads to power dissipation that creates a “hot spot”.

Casus Momentus vs. Casus Permanentus: Infrared cameras only provide a snapshot

“This kind of detection is only possible using permanent and wireless monitoring with RFID,” explains Krämer: “Conventional methods for thermo-observation such as cyclical measuring via infrared camera that is usually done once every two years or even less only provides a snapshot. On top of that, critical areas such as the main busbar system are no longer accessible during operation due to safety reasons as switchboard systems have a high degree of compartmentalization today. Therefore, there is no possible way to use cameras here.”

Case studies: computer centres and chemical plants

Companies where availability and plant safety are of the highest importance are already using the RFID system that Köhl offers as a whole service solution, as Krämer explains. Those enterprises come from the petrochemical industry, power plant and energy distribution sector, and the field of computer centres. “A computer centre in Germany has to guarantee their customers from the internet sector an availability of 99.99 percent. With a total allowed downtime of 52 minutes per year, there is no time for comprehensive maintenance. The company therefore uses the system as an indicator of where to work during the next shutdown. Another case: a chemical company that produces granulates for nonwoven fabrics uses monitoring to prevent a failure of the production plant: if the downtime exceeds five minutes, the product cools down and becomes so hard that it would have to be removed with a hammer and chisel.”

Investment costs are no problem

If production failure or blackout occurs – in most cases, the financial strain is, according to Krämer, the strongest argument: “At a computer centre, compensations for a single one-hour black out could total up to 750,000 Euros,” he explains and adds: “It is our goal to equip half of the new plants we sell with RFID basic functions (tags and antennas) so that a company will be able to retrofit the peripheral equipment later. Also, when discussing the retrofitting of existing plants, an implementation of an RFID system can be justified by a simple downtime cost calculation. An investment of 15,000 to 20,000 Euros for an average plant is feasible when compared to the switchgear’s price of about 300,000 Euros – if this rules out follow-on costs.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 October 2015 11:11