A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and Singapore's Hoestar PD Technology Pte Ltd are working to deploy wireless piezoelectric sensors that will track vibrations and stresses that affect the 'health' of machinery such as motors, pumps and generators. The technology increases productivity by saving time, reducing manual checking and offering precision at detecting defects via its automated remote monitoring.
Imagine a sensor about the size of a 50-cent coin that can remotely diagnose the 'health' of a motor without anyone having to physically inspect the motor. Local small and medium enterprise (SME) Hoestar has licensed IMRE's piezoelectric sensor technology to automate the monitoring of vibration and physical stresses that impact the efficiency and lifetime of machinery.
The technology gives users real-time updates on the physical integrity of the machine and acts as an early warning system to alert users about impending machine failures. Data on deteriorating equipment 'health' allow factories and businesses to plan for a timely replacement of crucial components before they fail completely, thereby minimising costly delays in production. The system also raises productivity by removing the laborious task of manually checking the equipment and reducing the chances of undetected defects due to human error.
The technology couples Hoestar's expertise in diagnosing machine health with IMRE's know-how in piezoelectric and sensor research. Hoestar licensed IMRE's patented piezoelectric sensor technology for the project. IMRE customised its piezoelectric technology so that the extremely miniature millimeter-sized sensing element could be integrated with wireless technology to enable remote monitoring.
"Our piezoelectric sensors are highly miniaturised or can be formed into coating layer which makes installation easy and allows them to be built into machines to give users a more accurate reading of how the machines are doing," said Dr Yao Kui, the scientist who heads IMRE's piezoelectric sensors research. The team from IMRE's Sensor & Transducer Programme was able to develop a sensor prototype with Hoestar in just over a year. "We are also able to integrate wireless technology on the same device to do away with wire connections so that the sensors remain inconspicuous and can be conveniently applied to the moving parts of a machine."
"This new system will save companies time, money and labour as the innovative sensor is safer, more accurate and quicker at data collection," said Mr Leong Weng Hoe, Managing Director for Hoestar, adding that home-grown wireless piezoelectric sensor technology with remote monitoring functions is new to Singapore. "We are very excited about the collaboration and have high expectations that the new technology will lead to new products for Hoestar, which will substantially raise our competitive edge."
"IMRE's partnership with Hoestar is a clear example of how a local company can work with an A*STAR research institute to employ technology to increase productivity," said Prof Andy Hor, IMRE's Executive Director. "The capabilities we have built in science and engineering research can help Singapore companies compete better globally."
Explore further: Plastic cell membranes for faster and cheaper drug development