28 ULTRASOUND www.ipesearch.com
Ultrasound in the IIoT: Monitoring
and lubricating bearings remotely
Pairing the Industrial Internet of Things with ultrasonic sensors has resulted in innovative
maintenance solutions that can take condition monitoring of assets to a whole new level, as
explored in the recent IP&E webinar by regional manager at UE Systems, Chris Hallam
UE SYSTEMS manufactures
devices used for
condition monitoring and
energy savings purposes.
The company also provides handheld
devices for lubrication practices, and
online monitoring solutions for
mechanical and electrical applications,
along with in-depth training and
support to help ensure users get the
best out of the technology.
Generally, humans can detect sounds
in a frequency range from about 20Hz
to 20kHz. Ultrasound, which is in the 20
to 100kHz bandwidth, is generated in
two ways: turbulent flow, and friction.
“Think about compressed gasses
creating turbulence via leaks or in
valves and steam traps with leaks,” says
Hallum. “That generates the ultrasound
by turbulence. And rotating assets
create friction which also generates the
With any type of asset, the earliest
changes in the condition of the asset
can be identified by its high-frequency
emissions, or sound characteristics.
This means ultrasound can be used to
detect a potential change or problem in
the earliest onset, helping to improve
maintenance scheduling and parts
ordering. And the technology can also
be used for a more proactive approach.
The applications for ultrasound
technology are wide and varied. Hallum
cites leak detection in compressed air
and gas systems, vacuum systems and
the like. The technology can also be
used to ascertain the condition of
valves and steam traps; turbulent flow
can be heard if there is a leak. When it
comes to mechanical inspection,
ultrasound can be used with rotating
equipment such as bears, gearboxes,
pumps etc. In lubrication, the
technology can be used to help
improve the way grease is applied to
bearings. It can also be used alongside
other technologies such as thermal
imaging to help with electrical
inspection to detect conditions such as
corona, arcing, and tracking.
In today’s industrial environment,
ultrasound is used via networks for
remote monitoring, with the latest
technology being used to continuously
monitor assets such as bearings,
motors and gearboxes remotely from
outside the facility. It also provides the
ability to remotely lubricate, from
anywhere at any time.
When looking at ultrasound for
mechanical inspection, it is important to
take into consideration the reasons
behind premature bearing failure.
Hallum asserts that over 80% of such is
down to poor lubrication practices.
Traditionally, using portable ultrasound
devices, the engineer used the device
to build routes in the software, upload it
to the probe, and then used the probe
to collate the route-based data, setting
base levels and making sound
recordings. This was then uploaded
back to the software to trend over a
period of time. This data was then used
to aid the development of a condition-based
lubrication programme using
The next evolution in UE’s ultrasound
technology was the 4Cast online
monitoring system. This can be used
with a permanently mounted
monitoring device and remote access
sensors to monitor decibel readings,
record sound levels, and trigger an
alarm once a preset level is reached.
The sound file can then be listened to
remotely from the engineer’s desktop.
This enables closer monitoring of
critical assets, around the clock.
Friction is always the key area to
identify when carrying out mechanical
inspection using an ultrasound device.
“Typically, facilities can have hundreds
of thousands of bearings, each with
different lubrication needs,” says
Hallum. “We know what is required –
the issue is having the time to care for
the bearings in the right way, making
sure that we do what is required to