147. Idea – What is an Intelligent Motor Relay? Transcript

00:00 Mike: 

I think my approach is this. It’s simplicity. If you look at a manufacturing plant, the largest number of assets and the consumers of power, that leads to the product manufacturing are motors. The ability to have this type of advanced protection and monitoring really is the most seamless way to extend reliability of those motor systems. And it lives in the equipment as it’s running, it doesn’t require a technician to walk around and capture data and analyze it. So it works in a live online environment that can continually keep you updated and provide ongoing continued protection to those types of assets. 

00:44 Chris: 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes that keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger. And on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market, instead, we focus on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world. 

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we’re going to be digging into a fun topic about motor reliability using intelligent relays. So with us today we have a subject matter expert. Mr. Mike Rathbun. Mike welcome. 

01:25 Mike: 

Thanks, Chris, glad to be here with you again. 

01:28 Chris: 

Always fun. So we’re going to talk about intelligent relays today and maybe to get us started we can give our listeners a little bit of insight about some of the typical motor failures that industrial users see on a regular basis that maybe these relays could help with. So maybe just walk us through some of those initial failures that we see on these motor assets. 

01:48 Mike: 

So any general failure, you have the common ones where they’re commonly referred to as the somebody let the smoke out of the motor. You kind of wrap those up in electrical failures with a multitude of types of failures. I think what gets lost and considering some of the new technologies that are wrapped around intelligent relays, is that any type of condition that a motor’s exposed to, whether it’s mechanical failure, electrical failure, even in its early stages can be expressed or seen in the consumption of current and the voltage by that motor. And its basic premise that’s really the basics of intelligent relays and our ability to provide advanced protection to those types of apparatus. 

02:37 Chris: 

So we’re talking more on the electrical type failures with the relays are designed to, to help prevent or to understand better?

02:45 Mike: 

Yeah, I think for this discussion the electrical failures such as voltage imbalances, current imbalances, overloading, single phasing, grounding conditions. All of those types of things can be easily expressed or calculated using a relay.

03:03 Chris: 

Okay, so maybe give our listeners a visual picture. They may not understand what intelligent relay is when you speak to that. Can you give us a point of reference, maybe what that relay looks like or where it would be found in a control room just to paint that broader picture here? 

03:22 Mike: 

I think most common for the industrial environment and a lot of the customers that we serve would be associated with a motor control center and the individual motor control buckets that are providing the starting and stopping of the associated motors is where you would find this device in its basic form. Not only does it provide the basic function of a traditional overload relay, but it does monitor and capture the voltage levels and current levels and provides greater detail of the data associated with those values, as well as the ability to tune alarms and trip functions to any of the various aspects of voltage and current, while it’s being consumed by a motor.

04:16 Chris: 

Okay. So Mike, any rules of thumb when it comes to selecting assets that you’d want to put an intelligent relay on. Is size a consideration? Just trying to kinda, how do you pick, where to put them all? 

04:29 Mike: 

I think the easy answer to this is where’s the biggest problem at? Size may not be the biggest issue. It could come down to what’s the problematic motor that you’re commonly having to change or where you see a lot of failure. We get down to it the ability to extend reliability and provide enhanced protection is really gonna come into play with those assets that are more prone to failure. And that can be for a variety of reasons.

The type of equipment is driving the environment the application of that. So I would typically start there. Beyond that costs and the efficiency associated with making motor changes could come into play there, obviously a foreign horsepower motor that’s a relatively expensive asset may make sense to have extended protection on that just from a dollars and cents point of view.

05:23 Chris: 

Exactly. Cost was one area I was going to definitely ask you about, is there like a typical price point or things like that, that you would look at for, putting intelligent relay on or, I guess the way the technology has evolved, you can go down to relatively small motors and get this type of data out of it. I mean, what’s maybe like the smallest motor you’ve seen some intelligent relays being used on in the field? 

05:45 Mike: 

Great question. There really is no limit, Chris, on the size of the motor that this type of technology could be utilized on. I have seen environments or applications where something as small as a five-horsepower motor is absolutely critical to a process and just having the ability to be able to closely monitor and detect the conditions associated with that five-horsepower motor are really critical to the underlying, manufacturing process. 

With the scaling of technology in the past 10 years, this type of protection that, 15, 20 years ago, you would only commonly see with your larger, maybe medium voltage applications has shrunk in size and in cost that makes it affordable for any application based on the need, regardless of size.

06:39 Chris: 

I mean, speaking of that size, Mike is a question that maybe some of our listeners may have. Can you put more to one motor on, an intelligent relay or is it a one-to-one device? 

06:53 Mike: 

That’s actually an interesting question. This really is going to come down to the models. There are models of intelligent relays that will accommodate multiple winding motors, as well as multiple motors on a given application, really it comes down to the specific model and the specification of that relay that would accommodate that. 

07:12 Chris: 

Okay. So that’s cool to think that can be done then, huh? 

07:16 Mike: 


07:17 Chris: 

Very nice. Very nice. Let’s kind of get into some, maybe some of the basic parameters that we should be focusing on to enhance that motor reliability for our listeners. Here’s what you really need to focus on to get the most bang out of your buck with an intelligent relay. 

07:32 Mike: 

So that’s a great area to consider. And I commonly get into this conversation with people around the subject. And I think what I like to do is preface that with some facts that I think a lot of people aren’t aware of. That I’m sure everybody’s heard of the NEMA Organization that sets the standards for just about anything, any type of electrical apparatus, but specifically for motors for eight that are used throughout manufacturing.

And in those parameters were NEMA is established with the guidelines or specifics of what a motor with a NEMA rating has to be able to do or how it has to perform is that an AC motor without really ever knowing this or seeing this is only required to operate successfully under running conditions, as long as the voltage and the frequency are at the rated nameplate values. As little as a 1% change in imbalances of the voltage associated with that motor basically voids the warranty or the capability of that motor. 

So I like to start at that point about the reality of what a motor’s actually expected to be able to perform to by the manufacturer and by NEMA, then we start looking at the capabilities or protections and settings. So knowing that a motor really is only designed to operate at its capability with less than 1% of voltage imbalance it would make sense that if we have a relay that could definitively monitor voltage and current imbalances, that would be a great starting point. That’s not commonly seen in traditional relays or traditional motor controls.

So from a practical sense the way those numbers typically work together would be a protection setting associated with the voltage. And it could be of the following a plus or minus 5% either high or low of the nameplate voltage value, a 1% imbalance between the phases of the voltage and that could accumulate to a 5% current imbalance. So we look at those very commonly and trying to enhance protection on a motor circuit. Just because those are the things that happen that you don’t see until after the fact that can lead to a large number of the electrical failures of motors.

10:07 Chris: 

So Mike, we have the, thank you for that, by the way. So we’re capturing voltage current. We’re looking at those imbalances. There’s a lot there, obviously tight tolerances for motors and how they’re designed to run. So we have that data in, in the intelligent relay, now, what do we do with it? Where do we go from here? 

10:26 Mike: 

So I think that’s the game-changer with this type of technology is once you have the ability to capture and be able to define set points and protection and monitoring to that level with an intelligent relay, the obvious next step is to be able to easily integrate that type of functionality and information into a plant’s process.

And that really builds out from a communications capability within these devices and that can be a wide range. Protocols and different types of platforms that companies use throughout their control systems within the plants. I think that’s an important piece. Not only just to have the ability to locally be able to provide that enhanced level of protection and monitoring but be able to integrate and communicate that data.

So if you could imagine an intelligent relay acting upon any of these protection fundamentals, but then being able to display guidance and status and condition through a control system up to an operator so that they have an understanding beyond something’s not working, a motor’s not running. Do I just restart it and continue to restart it? But having that extended communications capability we can now offer that operator something more intelligent and in terms of guidance on what has happened, what steps could be taken next to correct the situation and enhance its ability to perform whatever production he’s involved in.

12:02 Chris: 

We’ve talked about faults in the past and typically when I say faults, you think of drives. Relays, they give you faults as well, correct? 

12:09 Mike: 

Yeah, that is correct. That is correct. And depending on the relay and the models and capabilities vary. It could be a very wide array of faults that it could react to and it can be pre-programmed within that system. 

12:23 Chris: 

Would these faults, Mike, you know, they’re giving you information, but are they stopping the system or are they programmable? Say, if you get this fault, you can run through it, but just know this fault exists? 

12:35 Mike: 

So the answer is yes and yes, all of those options are available in most of these types of relay. So let me give you an example of a common application of an advanced relay as we’re setting up faults and warnings. If I’m trying to monitor and protect against an under or over-voltage condition, I would set a warning that would give you potentially a visual and audible or a message type of warning, say at 95% of a trip value. So in this case, we’re going to get a warning, but the motor’s not going to shut down. It’s going to continue to run, but you’re alerted that a situation could be occurring or getting close. 

From there we could also gauge a fault or a trip function based on that same under or over-voltage condition that would be set at 100% to potentially 105% of our defined value. So I think with this we’ve seen a lot of success with that trying to distinguish between what’s an abnormal condition and what is a serious condition that needs to take a circuit out of operation. 

13:50 Chris: 

Okay. Very good. So, I mean, That gives us some definite insight to the faults and how to use that. You mentioned communication earlier, are there typical protocols that are used with intelligent relays and devices like this? 

14:03 Mike: 

Of course, there is. I mean, we do live in the United States and I think as we all know, Rockwell Allen-Bradley has a really strong foothold on a lot of the control platforms and systems associated with its products. So Ethernet IP is probably one of the most common that we see in the industrial environment. That enables the ability as an open protocol for devices manufactured by a wide variety of OEMs to be able to communicate easily on a common platform. So Ethernet IP is probably one of the most common that we see throughout the integration.

Some others that you may be familiar with PROFINET. BACnet some of the older Profibus and some of the older serial type communications are still out there, even though they are starting to be replaced with more of the Ethernet type based communications. 

14:59 Chris: 

Absolutely. Definitely a lot of different communication options out there for us and for our users to use. And Mike in every episode we like to get to the why, you know, why does is this important, why is this idea going to help improve industry for our listeners? So if you had to summarize, why should our listeners start utilizing intelligent relays in their systems. What would that answer be?

15:22 Mike: 

I think my approach is this. It’s simplicity. If you look at a manufacturing plant, typical industrial plant, the largest number of assets and the consumers of power, that leads to the product manufacturing are motors. The ability to have this type of advanced protection and monitoring really is the most seamless way to extend reliability of those motor systems. And it lives in the equipment as it’s running, it doesn’t require a technician to walk around and capture data and analyze it. So it works in a live online environment that can continually keep you updated and provide ongoing continued protection to those types of assets.

16:09 Chris: 

We’re transitioning right to industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. There’s so much. Everybody wants more data and smart motor relays, intelligent relays, definitely give us access to that and hopefully we’ll make our plants better run longer, you know, be safer.

There’s a safety factor that ties into this as well. So Mike, any parting advice or wisdom that you’d like to offer to our listeners around this topic? 

16:36 Mike: 

I think if this is something that’s new to any of our listeners that hasn’t really explored this and may be afraid that it’s over-encompassing that these are large systems that have to be, or large projects that have to be entertained. I would say you could start small kind of where we started within our discussion and look at some of the applications in your plan that are really problematic and then work with an OEM or distributor that has a good support level around these. And look at integrating in small steps. You don’t necessarily have to outfit an entire plant with smart motor protection. It could be as simple as starting with one asset and applying that technology. 

17:25 Chris: 

Absolutely. That proof of concept. And, figure it out. And then, once you get that buy-in and you figure out how to really get the most bang out of the data, then you can extrapolate that across the plant.

17:37 Mike: 

Absolutely. That’s a great way to express it. And I like your connection with industry 4.0 because no matter what it is the future. And it’s not just the future. It is now the ability to harness the data and the understanding of your systems and be able to convey that information back into managing production is critical now and becoming more and more critical as systems become further automated. 

18:04 Chris: 

Absolutely. Well, Mike, thank you so much. You really brought a lot of information here, a pretty complex topic, but you really broke it down for us and in many different areas for our listeners. So once again, just thank you for everything you provided here today.

18:19 Mike: 

Hey, you’re welcome. I enjoyed it. And thanks. Thanks for having me, Chris.

18:25 Chris: 

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