Smart sensors can be major change agents, says S5 founder

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S5 System founder and CEO Davoud Nassehi
Intelligent devices can improve efficiency and safety

An Australian engineering company believes its innovative products can “make industry smarter” by solving three common workplace problems using AI technology that takes minutes to install, is affordable and offers rapid payback on investment.

S5 System, based in Perth, Western Australia, has produced three OEM-agnostic asset management products and is advancing research and development to expand the application range of its specialised monitors, sensors and control devices.

S5 System founder and CEO Davoud Nassehi says the company’s current focus is on growing  awareness of three market-ready products, BoltTight, which monitors the tightness of bolted joints; WearMon, wear liners with real-time monitoring; and GETsmart, a ground engaging tool dislodgement detection system.

They are currently being used on WA mine sites by the likes of gold major Newmont and diversified mining and services group, Mineral Resources.

Nassehi says he saw an urgent need for the products in his time working in the mining and telecommunications industries. An engineer by trade, he has an affinity for “fixing problems”.

“Knowing that industries are going to Industry 4.0, I wanted to help them transition from Industry 3.0 and increase the available insights into machinery, plant and feed processes with more realistic data to use in later lifecycle stages,” he said.

“It makes the workplace safer, more secure and more agile, and saves money by allowing users to know what’s happening in their systems, through monitoring and all the good things that are becoming possible by using IoT.”

The wireless, easy-to-install products can be fitted to any equipment brand, are suitable for the harshest mining environments, and don’t rely on cameras to provide feedback. Installation is not dependent on existing infrastructure, Nassehi says.

“They are plug-and-play products,” he said.

“They require zero maintenance, are self-diagnostic and the batteries don’t need to be replaced for years.”

BoltTight uses patented technology to constantly monitor the compression force in bolted joints. The highly robust washers are designed in the major standard metric and imperial sizes. The washers send data using ZigBee wireless technology to a hub that collects data from all the nearby washers and transfers it to the server for analysis, monitoring and data storage purposes.

Any critical failure can be detected, and a real-time audio-visual alarm notifies the operation and maintenance team of the exact location of the failed bolt in the plant’s 3D models. Due to the low upfront cost, Nassehi says the return on investment can be realised “in a few months”.

“Currently, in the market, there are very few bolted-connection intelligent solutions,” he says.

“Some use ultrasonic or other non-destructive test tools, which are expensive and require manually checking every joint by experienced technicians.

“There are smart bolt options attempted in the market; however, embedding electronics inside a bolt compromises its specification and integrity.”

“Miners have been looking for a reliable way of detecting GET failures and locating failed parts for years”

Having experienced first-hand the expensive and time-consuming job of replacing wear liners in equipment such as mills, crushers, feeders and transfer chutes, Nassehi conceived the WearMon system.

The non-invasive online condition-monitoring system can be directly installed on any type of mining plant liner material such as rubber, metallic, ceramic, polyurethan and polyethylene. Via battery- powered wireless wear sensors on one of the bolts, it offers accurate real-time and historical wear data; machine learning; predictive, condition-based maintenance; suggested shutdown planning information; accurate inventory requirements; and service forecasts, Nassehi says.

“This system continuously monitors the remaining thickness at each sensor location and reports to the server,” he said.

“Information then is processed on the server and forms a basis to predict the remaining life.

“If the next scheduled maintenance state is pre-set, then the shutdown date can be entered directly into the software and if there is a planned shutdown date entered into system then the software algorithm will determine which liners will need to be changed out and predicts the number and location of required material accordingly.

“Alternatively, if maintenance dates are flexible, the system generates predictions with accurate estimate of the serviceable life of the liners and suggests a replacement date.”

S5’s GETsmart system also has sensors at its foundation. They are inserted into a digger’s ground engaging tools and shrouds, and connect wirelessly to the in-cab monitor which actively scans all sensors. When it detects a tooth break, a real-time audio-visual alarm noti­fies the operator and they can remotely stop the downstream crusher.

Nassehi said unlike competitor options, the GETsmart system doesn’t rely on cameras – which can get dirty very quickly in a mining environment and so impair visibility – for feedback.

“Estimated to cost the mining industry between 1-5% of total production each year, broken GET are a massive global problem for the mining industry,” he said.

“Miners have been looking for a reliable way of detecting GET failures and locating failed parts for years.”

Creating brand and product awareness has been one of S5 System’s biggest hurdles since Nassehi started the business in 2017. Now a team of five people, the company is looking for more companies to test their products.

Nassehi is keen to offer free demonstrations to show people how easily and quickly the technology can be integrated into existing operations.

“At the moment, companies don’t know we exist; they don’t know we have a solution to their problems,” he said.

“But once the market is awakened to us, they will see they can have a competitive advantage with our products.

“We are looking for early adopters.”

 

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