Locate and Classify Compressed Air Leaks
With its new generation of intuitively operable handheld ultrasonic testing devices, SONOTEC GmbH from Halle (Saale) is implementing completely new technology for the location and assessment of leaks of compressed air, gas and vacuum systems.
According to the energy prices and costs report of the European Commission from 2014, compressed air is deemed to be the fourth most expensive energy source worldwide after electricity, gas and water, and is considered responsible for approx. 10 percent of the industrial electricity consumption in the world. Yet around 30 percent of this energy is wasted due to leaks in the compressed air systems. The wide-ranging location and elimination of leaks, e.g. by using ultrasonic technology, can significantly reduce these losses and thereby contribute towards extensive savings. The demand for industrial services such as inspections, measurements and weak-point analyses with ultrasonic testing devices is correspondingly high. These make the flow noises and structure-borne sound phenomena audible.
Fast availability of information
In order to be able to implement maintenance objectives and thus optimize processes, all the information regarding the status of machines and systems must be quickly available. It was for exactly this purpose that SONOTEC developed the new SONAPHONE. The mobile ultrasonic testing device for locating and classifying leaks has not just undergone a complete type change to its exterior, but besides innovative software for preventive maintenance procedures, the robust tablet shape with touchscreen technology and large 5-inch display also houses innovative measurement technology and a new sensor concept with a large frequency range.
Ultrasonic frequencies from 20 to 100 kHz
Thanks to their large frequency range, the new sensors are opening up new domains of use for the testing device. Prof. Peter Holstein, Director of Strategic Development at SONOTEC, explains what is special about broadband sensors: "Whereas with the old ultrasonic testing devices you could only hear one tone, with the new SONAPHONE you can now hear the music of faults and structure-borne sound." "Using the new device, we can assess everything that happens in the ultrasonic frequency range from 20 to 100 kHz. With this, it is not just possible to locate but also to assess leaks". This had previously not been possible, it was possible only to detect, but not to classify a leak. The range of applications significantly increases with the new ultrasonic testing device and its smart functions. Additionally, it is possible to rule out error sources because the entire frequency range can be made visible.
New software allows leak classification
To develop the new device, SONOTEC carried out a survey of the target groups concerning their tasks. Many maintenance personnel and service companies expressed the desire for the reliable assessment of leaks and estimation of the savings potential. SONOTEC's response to this desire is its new hardware, software with a patent-pending procedure to classify and assess leaks and intuitively operable apps. With it, the efficient and paperless documentation, as well as saving and adding to test values by level curves, spectrograms, photos, sound recordings, voice memos and comments is possible. Test reports can be prepared with the SONAPHONE quickly and easily and processed further with PC software if necessary.
"In contrast to its predecessors, which as purely analogue test equipment only provided interpretable data, the new SONAPHONE is a digital measuring device that outputs measurement data that can be compared", says Prof. Holstein. It allows the status of machines and systems to be quickly and easily recorded, and their direct analysis. Thus the device not only is appropriate for leak detection and analysis, but is also useful for leak testing unpressurized systems and machine diagnosis through checking bearings. The device can also be used for electrical inspection by detecting partial discharges and for checking valves and steam traps. In each application the mobile ultrasonic testing device contributes significantly to greater plant safety and availability by efficiency determining the condition of machines and systems. It minimizes downtimes, helps reduce energy costs and thus improves the efficiency of the entire system. All in all using the testing device leads to an optimized process. The mobility of the device also guarantees the successful implementation of Maintenance 4.0. in the company.
Apps for maintenance with new functions
Along with the known functionalities, the apps of the device offer testers many new options. The LevelMeter app can be used in combination with the airborne and structure-borne sound sensors for the different applications. The software shows test data and spectral functions, saves them and allows long-term measurement. The status of the system can be documented with a camera. A voice recording function allows commentary on the situation on site by means of a voice memo. Furthermore, all sensor data as well as the calculated values can of course be recorded, archived, compared and visualized. With this, users benefit from more precise data, which they can access more easily, and convenient handling.
The leak can be assessed with the LeakExpert app. Based on methods of aeroacoustics SONOTEC has developed a completely new process for classification and evaluation of leaks. The result of the patent-pending method are plausible values for the classification of leak size. After the test procedure, the tester receives a structured report regarding all of the recorded leaks. The software also has integrated test routines with which it leads the tester through the measurements and tells them which steps must be taken next. Besides the leak size, it is also possible to store the exact position of the measurement point, level curves, spectrograms, photographs, comments, and voice recordings among other things for a leak. It is easy to manage test routines in a clear way and get an overview of the repair status of machines and systems at any time.
"Our new SONAPHONE is a trend-setter for Maintenance 4.0. The goal was to develop a user-friendly ultrasonic testing device that combines novel measuring technology, innovative sensors and intelligent software for preventive maintenance," explains Hans-Joachim Münch, CEO of SONOTEC. With the new device, he and his team have achieved this goal.
Founded in 1991, nowadays SONOTEC GmbH is a leading specialist in ultrasonic measurement technology solutions. With more than 120 employees, the technology company based in Halle (Saale) in the heart of Germany develops and manufactures customer-specific ultrasonic transducers and sensors as well as testing equipment and measuring technology solutions for a wide variety of industries. These range from medical technology and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries to engineering and plant construction and non-destructive testing.
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