Why Isn’t Real-Time Oil Analysis Common?

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Rafe sits down with Dr Guillermo Miro – Application Engineer at Atten2 to discuss all things regarding online/inline oil sampling and analysis. He explains that the current suite of deployable sensors technologies cannot replace the testing offered in standard laboratories, but can offer some complementary data that enhances the overall view of equipment condition.

Rafe Britton: The first question I’d really sort of like to ask you would be about the idea that oil condition monitoring hasn’t significantly changed for very, very long time. You go and take a sample, a hundred mils or whatever it is, you send it to the lab, you get your report back. Most people look at the report and if they see a box that’s yellow or red, then go and take action. That hasn’t changed as far as I’m aware for many, many years. So why have things changed now?

Why are we starting to see a few companies offer online oil monitoring? And what are some of the technologies that needed to be developed in order to provide this to the market? 

Guillermo Miro: So we will start from the beginning. Condition monitoring, especially for lubricants, is decades old. The sensors have just the period in the last 10 to 20 years to cover some of the aspects that the lab analysis cannot cover. Some issues that are well-known in the industry; for example, good sampling practices and hygiene, or instead of measuring the fluid, measuring what it’s really in the equipment in different conditions. Sometimes lab analysis cannot deal with that. So sensors at the moment are complimentary to the lab because they are offering different type of data, but they cannot deal with all the data or all the types of parameters that the lab can offer. Some of the failure modes or some of the information that can come out from the lubricant is not available online at the moment.

So with the technologies as has enabled the creation of the online sensors is the evolution of the electronics. Also, as I mentioned, Moore’s Law, so every time the chips are smaller are cheaper, are more powerful.

So let’s take a look just at the mobile phone that we have right now, compared with twenty years ago. I remember the same has taken place with oil condition monitoring. Our first devices for the R&D prototypes were a shoe box, and now the sensor can fit in your hand, the same device, even with more powerful tools. So this evolution in terms of reduction of price and the reduction of, of size and increase in robustness, this, this is what has led to the boom of online sensors in the market.