While necessary to many manufacturing and other processes, compressed air is often very expensive due to its high energy consumption caused by system leaks and other faults.
In an effort to reduce the operating costs of compressed air systems, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Sparks Dynamics have collaboratively developed an automated fault detection and diagnostic system for identifying unwanted conditions to enhance system efficiency and reliability.
In 2013, following a technology showcase, an entrepreneur approached a NIST researcher about the potential of adapting NIST algorithms for rule-based analysis and fault detection from HVAC systems to industrial compressed air systems. In 2014, NIST and Sparks Dynamics entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to further develop NIST’s fault detection algorithms into a software program that the CRADA team validated using NIST’s compressed air plant as a testbed. In developing the algorithm for commercial applications, the CRADA team overcame several obstacles that reflect the excellence of these technology transfer efforts.
The CRADA team also met the challenge of testing and validating the prototype product that often exists when industry stakeholders are unwilling to risk using new technology.
First, the CRADA team bridged the gap between basic research tools that cannot always be readily used in a commercial environment and a software environment suitable for developing and supporting commercial products. NIST and Sparks Dynamics worked hard to develop this unlikely partnership, with the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) assisting with project development guidance and technical expertise.
The CRADA team also met the challenge of testing and validating the prototype product that often exists when industry stakeholders are unwilling to risk using new technology. The staff at NIST’s Facilities Management Division and NIST’s laboratories came together in an unprecedented effort to test the technology with Sparks Dynamics staff using NIST’s own compressed air plant that services NIST’s laboratories. The results were so successful in improving the operation of the NIST plant that Sparks Dynamics is now commercializing a monitoring and analytics solution, brand named ReMASTER, based on the CRADA results
While the collaboration between Sparks Dynamics and NIST focused on optimizing the performance of a specific compressed air system, the fault detection technology resulting from this collaboration has broader commercial applications in many other industrial electromechanical systems. The efficiency in operations will reduce energy consumption and manufacturing costs while also fostering technological advancement of artificial intelligence in manufacturing.