Machines and technological systems in industrial automation have evolved drastically in such a way that it has increased productivity, overall efficiency, and operator workload, which in turn has reduced the number of issues attributable to human errors. Meanwhile, industrial automation applications have also extended its services to companies of all sizes & sectors with more prominence in the automobile, food, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries.
Embien Technologies is a leading provider of services and solutions that aid in increasing the surging demands of industrial automation. In this case study, we will be exploring our expertise in employing various technologies for enabling remote monitoring feature in boiler systems.
An existing customer came up with a requirement to monitor their boiler system remotely from anywhere inside the plant, and offer support for alert notifications to engineers located far away from the boiler room. They wanted to enable precautionary measures, planning, and scheduling of periodic maintenance of the boiler, based on the predicted data acquired from the boiler. They also expected to reduce the workload of engineers required to be present in the boiler room regularly.
Further to the requirement, Embien designed and developed a Boiler Monitoring System and commissioned it in the field successfully.
The boiler is the heart of the production plant that functions 24X7 and supplies steam continuously for the production process. Thus, system monitoring and periodic maintenance are of much importance. Various parameters such as temperature/pressure, feed water temperature, flue stack temperature, Fuel flow, steam flow, etc., were supposed to be monitored and maintained in order to make sure that none of the above parameters cross their limit of activity.
Our customer had a boiler system that had a control panel that monitored the parameters via sensors and shut down the boiler in times of crossing the limit of the threshold. Finding the root cause for this issue was indeed a critical activity, as it would interrupt the whole production process & there were no specific sources available to identify the parameter that caused the limit crossing threshold.
Embien Technologies clearly understood the customer needs and designed a remote boiler monitoring system, along with the following subsystems, without affecting their current setup.
The following figure depicts the setup of the boiler monitoring system
DAQ being the front end device was connected to the sensors placed in the boiler. Embien’s ready to deploy platform “eStorm-L1” was used as a DAQ device, as this platform equipped multiple analog inputs and digital IO’s for acquiring boiler parameters from sensors. At various positions, suitable analog front end circuits and signal conditioning circuits for analog sensors like RTD, and digital sensors like an inductive sensor, were provided. DAQ device transmitted the acquired parameters to the HMI via the RS485 interface & communication was enabled by the standard MODBUS protocol.
Readily available COTS HMI, enabled from Embien’s partner ecosystem had a 10” display with multiple peripherals and connectivities such as RS485, RS232, USB, Ethernet was used. It also offered support for Android OS, which made it suitable for this application. HMI - mainly used for maintaining the local server database, running the webserver internally, and for presenting the boiler data graphically to the remote user. The HMI was placed in the boiler room to provide the engineers the access to change the threshold settings, alarm conditions, etc., dynamically, and also review the boiler conditions locally. In addition to the local access, the webserver enabled remote modification of configuration settings.
Powered by iMX6 processor, the COTS HMI runs on the Android operating system. Embien’s graphic library - Sparklet was used to design various widgets for pictorial presentation of the boiler parameters. Ethernet was used as a communication interface to enable remote access to the boiler, whereas the Wi-Fi router for enabling network connectivity.
With this, any PC connected to the network will be able to view the boiler parameters via a customized web server application that runs on a particular IP address. Alarm indications can be notified locally on an HMI display as well as on any remote PC through a webserver application.
We completed all the development related work within a short period of 6 weeks using a complete in-house solution that included HMI, ready-to-deploy “eStorm-B1” platform, and GUI library “Sparklet". We also provided a futuristic expansion of the system in the form of a cloud server update, boiler remote control, efficiency calculation, etc. Apart from this, we also used the AWS cloud server for enabling remote access even if the user was outside the factory.