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The age of the industrial internet: part 1

World Cement,

Over the past 200 years, the world has experienced two major innovations: the industrial revolution and the digital and internet revolution. First came the industrial revolution, where machines and factories, railways and electricity, changed the lives of the masses. Then the digital and internet revolution brought us computing power, data networks, communication and unprecedented access to information.

Today, we are experiencing another metamorphic change: the industrial internet. This brings together advanced technology, analytics and the increased creativity of people at work.

The industrial internet

The industrial internet is the integration of complex physical machinery with networked sensors, intelligent analytics and people at work. Industrial machinery, including that used in the lime industry, is being increasingly equipped with electric sensors that allow them to see, hear and feel more than ever. This results in quicker generation of data and increasingly sophisticated analysis, which provides insights that allow operators to use a machine in entirely new ways, and in a more efficient manner. This technology can be used in the lime industry in entire plants for calcination, hydration, milling and any other industrial aggregate.

Electric sensors have, of course, been around for some time; however, sales have increased markedly over the past few years due to declining costs and the technological advances in cloud computing. This has resulted in a rise in the remote availability of data, the virtualisation of entire IT infrastructures and a rapid decrease in costs of data storage. Due to technology such as this, machinery is not just intelligent, it is self aware, predictive, reactive, as well as social.

In a lime plant, this means that equipment such as the belt conveyors and bucket elevators, stone sizing and distribution systems, firing systems and emission analysers, quicklime storage, trucks and trains for quicklime delivery, and all the other machinery, is capable of communicating with each other and with the plant operators.

New technology

QualiCal was the first Italian company registered to the Industrial Internet Consortium™ (IIC), a global nonprofit partnership of industry, government and academia. The IIC was founded in March 2014 to bring together the organisations and technologies necessary to accelerate growth of the industrial internet by identifying, assembling and promoting best practices. Membership includes small and large technology innovators, vertical market leaders, researchers, universities and governments.

With 20 years of experience in the lime market, QualiCal has developed methods of incorporating new technology brought about by the industrial internet into a plant setting. QualiCal identified Parallel Flow Regenerative (PFR) technology as the best suited for the calcination process in vertical lime kilns. For this reason, the company implemented the technology in the design of its Synthesis® Twin Shaft lime kiln. At present, more than 20 Synthesis kilns are in operation worldwide and a further 20 new kiln projects are underway, ranging from the smallest Synthesis 40 (capacity: 150 – 200 tpd) to the largest Synthesis 145 (capacity: 800 tpd). Furthermore, QualiCal has developed QualiCUBE®, a unique and original plug and play solution for quicklime hydration, hydrated lime classification and grinding and lime sizing.

QualiCUBE® Modular Plant.

Increasing efficiency and reducing downtime

The PFR production process itself is very stable; however, most kiln or hydration plant stoppages are due to breakdown maintenance events and unexpected problems, which can result in increased production costs for the operator and a decrease in the quality of the final products. Issues such as this can also have an impact on the onsite team in terms of stress and urgency to promptly solve the problem.

The industrial internet allows plant operators to increase efficiency and reduce downtime by implementing preventative maintenance. QualiCal has developed the MOSAICO platform, a suite of applications that can be installed in any lime plant to analyse and predict certain issues that could be overlooked by human operators. In essence, the lime plant is communicating with the technicians and the maintenance team; even when production is running smoothly, the team knows which areas need to be attended to.

Case study: Abu Dhabi

A 600 tpd Synthesis kiln currently in operation in Abu Dhabi has been equipped with a MOSAICO QualiTAG application that collects a full set of information (to be shared with all plant personnel) from a QR code placed on each piece of equipment.

Faults or malfunctions in any of the equipment, which may require the simultaneous involvement of mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, process technologists, etc., can be detected immediately, and all personnel will have instant access to the data and analysis of the faults.

MOSAICO QualiAPP screenshot.

Case study: Germany

All six Synthesis kilns that are currently in operation in Germany have been equipped with smart MOSAICO THUNDER™ notification systems. The system monitors the kiln parameters, which are then analysed in the cloud (allowing for better analysis at a lower cost), helping to predict and prevent major faults such as kiln blockages, overheating, or any prohibited emission into the atmosphere. The same benefits are also achieved in the control of the heat energy and the electrical energy needed to operate the lime plants.

Lime kilns equipped with the new monitoring and diagnostic MOSAICO QualiAIR® application allow the Process Air blowers to communicate with each other and adjust the speed of their rotors in a coordinated manner, depending on the set kiln production rate, the kiln pressures, the operating efficiency curve of the blowers and motors, and the scheduled maintenance programme.

Read part 2 here.

Written by Dr Carlo Cella, QualiCal International, Italy. This is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the March 2015 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can read the full article by logging in. They can also read the magazine on smart phones and tablets by downloading World Cement’s app.

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