Nordic-powered sensors and Memfault remotely supervise machinery lubrication management
Ensuring appropriate machinery and equipment maintenance is vital for a range of industries, including manufacturing and mining. A sensor can often help to monitor the flow of industrial lubricant, which in turn helps companies remotely monitor their equipment and ensure grease is being applied evenly. Sufficient lubrication is key for these applications, as increased fiction can lead to greater need for maintenance and shorten the lifespan of critical equipment and machinery. Unplanned downtime of equipment can be expensive, thereby making predictive maintenance beneficial.
Australian company GreaseBoss has developed a flow meter that is designed to ensure appropriate maintenance for machinery and equipment. The ‘GreaseBoss Endpoint’ sensor is placed in line with grease points to monitor the flow of lubricant, and is designed to measure and verify grease delivery at scale using cloud and IoT technologies. Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52833 SoC for data collection and sensor interface management is integrated into the flow meter, to relay metrics to a GreaseBoss gateway using Bluetooth LE connectivity. The SoC’s 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4 processor uses edge processing to select and send relevant information, thereby avoiding unnecessary data transmission and conserving power.
From the gateway the key data is relayed to the cloud, from where it can be accessed and analysed by users. Automated and on-demand reports are available from the GreaseBoss Cloud web platform, allowing users to check whether machines are meeting their preset lubrication requirements and receive alerts if any areas of non-compliance are detected. Users can also configure the plant structure set-up from the web platform.
The system was developed using Memfault’s IoT reliability platform for embedded observability, remote debugging and over-the-air (OTA) fleet management. The flow meter leverages Memfault’s capabilities, such as metric, reboot and trace reporting, to reduce the need for unnecessary on-site visits and hardware returns to debug issues. It can also help increase the uptime of machinery and equipment. However, in order to develop the flow meter, the sensors needed to have a long life and the capability to perform while in harsh industrial environments with extreme temperatures. Therefore, the flow meter features an extended operating temperature range from -40 to 105°C and a maximum transmit power of +8 dBm. A wide input voltage range helps simplify the design, by powering the chip directly off the replaceable coin cell battery.
Due to the large number of sensors required, and their often hazardous or hard to reach placement, achieving a long battery life was key. The flow meter was able to do this due to the low power operating characteristics of the nRF52833 SoC.
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