Smart Sensor Helps Keep Mounted Bearings Healthy

The ABB Ability Smart Sensor for Dodge mounted bearings monitors a critical component in conveyor systems for mining, cement, grain handling and other applications, improving uptime and safety.

ABB's Artur Rdzanek shows off the ABB Ability Smart Sensor
ABB's Artur Rdzanek shows off the ABB Ability Smart Sensor

It is becoming increasingly apparent in industry, as users try to get the most of their equipment and devices, that it’s the manufacturers of those assets that hold a wealth of knowledge about how they should run. With the development of a smart sensor, ABB Motors and Mechanical (formerly Baldor Electric) is taking advantage of a historic strength to help its customers get the most out of its mounted bearings.

“Who knows those bearings better than we do?” commented Artur Rdzanek, product manager for sensor technologies, Dodge mechanical products at ABB. “We want to add additional features to that knowledge.”

The ABB Ability Smart Sensor for Dodge mounted bearings, part of the ABB Ability Digital Powertrain, enables health checks for the bearings typically used in conveying applications in mining, aggregate and cement, food and beverage and other industries. The sensor’s algorithms can assess the condition of bearings from vibration and temperature information to provide an early indicator of any potential problems.

A bearing running hot, for example, can indicate that proper lubrication procedures are not in place. Vibration issues can indicate potential system problems.

“We have tens of millions of these bearings across the globe,” said Matt Frady, general product manager for mounted bearings at ABB. “We can put this sensor on those bearings, and start collecting data.”

The smart sensor easily mounts to the bearing and communicates wirelessly via a smartphone or other device. This capability keeps employees safe, enabling easy access to the health data of bearings in locations that might be difficult or dangerous to reach.

As part of ABB’s efforts to listen to the voice of the customer, Frady said, the sensor addresses how important issues with reliability, unplanned downtime and safety are to end users. Customers were also looking for ways to easily monitor the health of their bearings—remotely or otherwise. To improve safety, they wanted to be able to eliminate employees having to physically inspect the bearings.

It’s also a key way for this motors and generators unit of ABB to step into the digital world. The smart sensor is part of ABB Ability, which ABB launched two years ago as a branding for its collection of digital products and services.

Signaling an effort to be part of a changing digital landscape, the ABB Ability Smart Sensor is a project that’s been more than two years in the making, according to Rdzanek. “We had to break some technical barriers,” he said. “But these changes will not stop; they will even accelerate.”

As ABB examined its Dodge mechanical power transmission products, mounted bearings looked to be the best starting point for entering the digital domain, Rdzanek said. Not only does ABB have a mounted bearing installed base of tens of millions, but bearings are a critical component of the overall system and are the first indicator of potential system problems.

The smart sensor works not only on ABB’s Dodge mounted bearings but on competitor models as well, Rdzanek noted. He demonstrated how easy the sensor is to install, and retrofitting is made easy with a special adapter. He also emphasized its competitive price (starting at $250), particularly given that it includes complete access to the ABB Ability digital platform without added subscription costs.


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