Painting thermal pictures

While the human eye can detect electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum, all other forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as infrared, are invisible.

Discovered in 1800 by astronomer Frederick William Herschel, infrared radiation lies between the visible and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The primary source of infrared radiation is heat, or in the case of water and wastewater applications, abnormal pump and electrical device conditions.

To identify these problems, Leong Au, CBC Service Technician, says water and wastewater operators rely on thermal imaging cameras to record radiation intensity. He adds that by highlighting potential problems before they arise, radiation detection serves as predicative maintenance.

“Thermal imaging has evolved into one of the most valuable diagnostic tools for predictive maintenance in the water and wastewater sectors, facilitating increased reliability and critical asset uptimes,” Leong says.

“By detecting anomalies often invisible to the naked eye, thermography allows corrective action to be taken before costly system failures occur.”

Infrared thermography is the art of transforming an infrared image into a radiometric one, which allows temperature values to be read from the picture.

“Every pixel in the radiometric image is in fact a temperature measurement. In order to read this, complex algorithms are incorporated into thermal imaging cameras, which makes them a crucial tool for electrical and mechanical water applications,” he says.

To facilitate predictive maintenance for their clients, Leong says CBC, in partnership with leading thermal imaging camera design and manufacturing company FLIR, offer a full range of thermology cameras suited to the water industry.

He adds that due to CBC’s fully accessible range of stock, cameras can be purchased on demand and delivered at lighting quick speeds.

FLIR thermal cameras are able to identify unstable connections between main electrical cables, highlighting which phases are operating at higher temperatures.

“Infrared technology provides thermal images of temperature differentials within the detection field. It is then reliant on a human understanding of the image to determine the presence of faults, which is why it’s important to work with qualified technicians,” he says.

Leong adds that it is common practice for insurance companies to require 6-12 months’ worth of external audits on all electrical panels in water applications. As such, operators require consistent monitoring.

“When dealing with mechanical systems at water treatment plants, infrared images can detect problems such as bearings running at high temperatures. This is often the fault of misalignment or a lack of lubrication, both relatively easy fixes that can prevent further corrosion or even explosion,” Leong says.

According to Steven Blott, FLIR Systems Country Manager Instruments, FLIR’s partnership with CBC began in 2010.

“When the price of thermal cameras went down, interest went up, which meant we needed to work with out-of-house distributors to match demand,” Steven explains.

“FLIR engaged CBC because we knew they had the customer focused mentality and technical abilities required to positively represent and distribute our products.”

When an operator doesn’t take a thermal photograph correctly, for example not focusing the lens or using the correct temperature scale, the resulting picture will be inaccurate.

“Whoever said a picture paints a thousand words was absolutely correct. The image has to tell a thermal story of what’s going on with internal machinery and water pumps. If not, the problem is going to persist, costing clients time and money,” Steven says.

Following initial engagement, FLIR worked with CBC to train technicians in level one thermology. From there, in addition to being a product they supply, FLIR cameras became a core component of CBC’s maintenance kit.

According to Steven, working with an organisation like CBC is highly valuable because while operators can buy cameras outright online, there is no back-up support when issues arise.

“Without local support, operators are unable to simply pick up the phone when they have issues,” he says.

“Additionally, if they have to ship their camera overseas for diagnostics, they lose the ability to apply predictive maintenance for an extended period of time, which can have dire consequences when dealing with water and electricity.”

Alternatively, CBC and FLIR offer a complete package, with after-sales support, servicing and ongoing diagnostic assistance.

“CBC is focused on bringing qualified, experienced and technically savvy personnel together within our engineering services team and across the organisation on a broader scale,” Leong says.

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Bearing the load for mobile recycling equipment

While wheel loaders and excavators are traditionally associated with mining and civil construction industries, such mobile equipment is a central component of any high capacity recycling plant.

Given the often harsh and variable conditions of recycling facilities, equipment in the resource recovery space has a unique set of application requirements.

A wheel loader sorting irregular, heavy and abrasive waste at a  demolition and building materials recycling facility requires a sturdy external structure and durable drivetrain While an excavator handling damp material in the humid confines of a dusty composting facility needs to be capable of withstanding the effects of high temperature and contaminant laden environments.

Ross Lee, CBC Technical Manager Strategic Partnerships- Bearings, says that in addition to placing strain on external structure, recycling facility conditions can stress the internal function of mobile equipment. He adds that this include engines, hydraulic pumps and motors, transmissions, and the bearings associated with these modules.

To counteract harsh conditions and associated maintenance costs, Ross says operators can invest in direct equivalent specification bearings. He adds that sustainable and proactive maintenance is critical to ensuring the economic viability of resource recovery operations.

“High quality bearings are necessary in all recycling facility sectors. At a metal recycling facility for instance, operators are likely to run material handling equipment equipped with grabs or magnets that pick-up steel and dump it into shredders,” Ross says.

“Like the Shredder, the key equipment feeding it requires anti-friction bearings to perform to their design capabilities, and beyond in some cases.”

When dealing with mobile equipment, Ross says facility operators have two options.

“Operators can either lease or purchase the machines and rely on the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to provide the preventative maintenance servicing and parts.” he explains.

“Or, if equipment is  purchased  outright, beyond warranty period they may elect to manage their own maintenance and spare parts process.”

In the latter case, Ross says operators can engage organisations such as CBC for bearing supply. He adds that once engaged, CBC works via a three-step process: identification, cataloguing and  agreed delivery.

“We accurately identify the bearing’s OEM material number, catalogue the information and determine what the deliveries are,  whether the bearing stock is overseas or local, and if applicable, what the initial  production lead time is,” he says.

In the case of long-term MRO customers, Ross says CBC will have all necessary information catalogued, priced and contracted to facilitate process efficiency. With new clients, a CBC technical representative will conduct a site visit and bearing needs assessment.

“While of course some operators look to budget parts or alternatives, we think it’s important to work with direct equivalent specifications to ensure machine operations are not  compromised,” he says.

“The name of the game for us is maintaining the reliability and durability of all mobile equipment.”

Ross adds that  equipment is often equipped with require non-standard bearings to satisfy the demands of application and reliability that differ  from standard l execution catalogue ball or roller bearings.

“We won’t always have the required bearings sitting on a shelf, but given our large suite of offerings and significant manufacturing supplier relationships, it’s unlikely that we won’t be able to satisfy the client’s needs” he says.

One supplier with which CBC has a long-term strategic partnership is NTN, a global bearing manufacturer of Japan origin that has been in operation since 1918.

According to Ross, NTN is one of the world’s leading bearing manufacturers, with OEM customers that include Caterpillar, Komatsu, John Deere, Hitachi and Kawasaki.

For example, with excavators, NTN produce bearings for splitter gearboxes, hydraulic pumps, slewing transmissions, travel transmissions and tumblers.

For wheel loaders, NTN manufacture tapered roller bearings, deep groove ball bearings, cylindrical roller bearings and needle roller bearings.

Ross says NTN’s comprehensive product lines are engineered to serve any industry where lower friction coefficients and higher energy efficiency are required.

Moreover, where operators determine a bearing is not achieving the required service interval before failure, NTN have developed unique bearing material technologies that can extend bearing fatigue life, avoiding the need to increase bearing envelope size and related machine modifications.

He adds that when dealing with high-value equipment such as wheel loaders and excavators, operators can’t take risks that compromise their componentry.

“We have significant application and catalogue knowledge and are able to positively identify where a particular bearing specification applies,” he says.

“Working together, NTN and CBC are fully equipped to provide value added bearing solutions to suit the often harsh conditions of recycling plants and waste transfer stations.”

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The importance of engineering expertise in wastewater treatment

Wastewater treatment plants carry out a vital function for urban and regional areas of Australia, removing contaminants from water and sewage before it is reused of discharged into the environment.

Effective treatment relies on robust, sturdy equipment and machinery that can operate reliably in biochemically extreme conditions over long periods of time.

However, parts and components will at times need replacement to maintain the smooth operations that guide wastewater through the primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment processes. As sudden failure of components or machinery can lead to significant environment risk, it is necessary for regular monitoring and servicing of wastewater treatment equipment.

This is where Inenco Group’s engineering services team comes in. Wayne D’Souza, National Accounts Manager at Inenco Group, explained that while many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for most part only supply products to wastewater treatment, Inenco and its companies BSC and CBC have the expertise to both provide high-quality products and experienced engineering support.

“The wastewater sector, due to the potential for environmental harm, is very averse to risk. And we understand that and that is something we cater for. Wastewater treatment plants not only require reliable components, but they also require high-quality engineering support. What they aren’t getting from the OEMs is the latter. We offer both.”

D’Souza explained that the rapidly-evolving nature of technology has meant that products, and the installation and maintenance processes required for products, have changed, sometimes dramatically.

“Components and products often last a lot longer now. We’ve identified a number of what we call ‘problem-solver’ products, which we put in front of the customer and explain what applications they can be used for and what the benefits are. Further, we can demonstrate that we have the engineering support to not only install the products, provide monitoring and maintenance, but also provide specialist training for the operator’s maintenance team,” said D’Souza.

“We can also invite in our suppliers to provide training and knowledge on their particular products. We have a longstanding relationship with suppliers such as Schaeffler and Gates, for instance, where they come out onto a wastewater site and supervise installations.”

Close relationships with suppliers and in-house product expertise at Inenco’s BSC and CBC branches also enable product recommendations that are suited to particular wastewater operations.

“In the wastewater treatment space, one treatment plant may have totally different processes to another, so some of our problem-solver products might be relevant to one site but not to another. We hone-in on what the customer needs,” D’Souza explained.

For the Inenco’s wastewater teams, determining what works for a particular treatment plant often starts with carrying out site surveys, mapping out the equipment and machinery that the customer is using, and identifying applications which have the potential to cause problems.

“We can determine whether there are better products that can replace existing ones. And we can suggest what products they should use for those applications,” said D’Souza. “That’s what distinguishes us. What sets us apart from our competition is that we offer an extensive range of quality products, which is supported by our engineering expertise.”

BSC and CBC have extensive branch coverage across Australia. BSC, in particular, has a strong presence in regional areas. This means that wastewater treatment plants run by local governments in these areas can have reliable access to the company’s engineering services.

“We were called in by a major wastewater utility company to look at some thermography work, which led into product supply – a large order. The customer felt confident that we could not only provide quality service, but also provide the right products to improve operations. We don’t just supply product for the sake of it. If we have something more suitable, we will make those recommendations. That comes with having in-house expertise,” said D’Souza.

Inenco’s engineers will periodically carry out scheduled condition monitoring services for critical pieces of equipment, which D’Souza said served as a critical safety check for customers.

“This is usually on customers’ critical pieces of equipment. It is ongoing and it is relatively inexpensive to do, especially if you consider the cost of a catastrophic failure that occurs because condition monitoring hasn’t been carried out,” he explained.

Wastewater treatment is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year operation. With potentially huge environmental impacts if something goes wrong, it is critical that engineering support is reliable and easily accessible when it is needed.

“We run a 24/7 operation to back up what we supply,” said D’Souza.

“Our customers need to be able to know they can ring us up at 3am in the morning and get us to come out and look at a broken motor or gearbox. We always have someone on call. When you’re working in such a critical space, its essential that we can give the customer that confidence.”

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