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Articles from 2018 In February

Your Most Pressing Medtech Career Questions Answered

BIOMEDevice San Jose attendees got answers to their pressing questions during the "Jumpstart Your Career in Medtech" panel discussion live on Center Stage on December 7. Speaking were:Brian Cole, Managing Partner, Medtech Executive Search Inc.Nikolas Kerr, Vice President, Product Marketing, Si-BoneJacqueline Moshref, Senior Manager, Human Resources & Administration, Spinal KineticsMike Wallace, Founder and CEO, 880 Medical Inc.MD+DI reached out to these experts. Click through this slideshow for their perspectives.[Image courtesy of 3D_CREATION/SHUTTERSTOCK]

Industry first: ITW Pillar Technologies receives patent for corona treatment system on-board maintenance indicator

Industry first: ITW Pillar Technologies receives patent for corona treatment system on-board maintenance indicator

ITW Pillar Technologies (Hartland, WI) reports that it has been granted a patent for an on-board Maintenance Indicator for corona treatment systems. The device alerts maintenance personnel of contamination to the corona treater’s ground roll, which otherwise can go undetected for a significant amount of time, resulting in product rejects.

Patent stamp
Image courtesy Stuart Miles/

"This breakthrough development is critical, since it is well-known in the converting industry that when a certain level of contamination accumulates at the ground roll surface, treatment level sub-optimization effects will occur in the form of back-side treatment,” explained Steve Helker, Treatment Systems Sales Manager. “This deterioration in surface treatment level can go undetected by packaging converters for extended periods of time and result in significant amounts of non-performing and rejected product.”

By the time the Maintenance Indicator signal goes off, other key internal components such as electrodes will exhibit a similar level of contamination and also will require attention, added Helker. “This is why this innovative technology can provide our customers immediate payback and significant cost savings—from avoiding major ground roll replacement costs to [achieving] significant reductions in rejected materials and downtime.” 

Maintenance Indicator technology is immediately available for all new and existing corona systems, said the company. Adding the system to ITW Pillar Technologies corona systems will extend customers’ ground roll warranty by one full year. 

Medtronic Finds Another Value-Based Care Partner

Pixabay/GERALT Medtronic Finds Another Value-Based Care Partner

Dublin, Ireland-based Medtronic continues to lead the charge toward value-based care with a new five-year strategic partnership with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), an eight-hospital network in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The partnership is aimed at developing innovative, sustainable, and integrated value-based solutions to improve healthcare outcomes for LVHN's patients.

The partnership will create programs that span more than 70 major medical conditions, with the goal of positively impacting as many as 500,000 patients and reducing their cost of care by $100 million. 

The organizations said the partnership will leverage Medtronic's technical insights and operational efficiency expertise and LVHN's clinical expertise. It also creates an opportunity for piloting and beta-testing programs, processes, and technology at LVHN across multiple disease states with a goal of creating new technologies and services that will drive better outcomes for patients at a reduced cost. 

"This agreement is exciting not only for Medtronic and LVHN, but also for the healthcare industry, by serving as a template for how we can work together to achieve our mutual goals of better clinical and economic outcomes," said Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak. "By working in partnership, trusting each other, and combining our expertise, we will create new models of care that are more connected and coordinated. Ultimately, these value-based programs will contribute to a more sustainable health system and a healthier community."

Ishrak talked about the importance of value-based care during Medtronic's most recent earnings call and said the efforts the company has made toward value-based care are beginning to translate into real numbers.

Brian Nester, president and CEO at LVHN, said the partnership will enable both organizations to improve patient experiences and outcomes at a reduced cost. Initial programs will address conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and lung cancer, with additional areas to be identified as the partnership progresses.

Medtronic and LVHN will initially develop programs across 10 to 15 conditions and value-capture initiatives in three main areas: therapy optimization, episodic care bundles, and chronic care management. The programs are designed to deliver improved efficiency, outcomes, and patient experience.

A key element enabling the success of the strategic partnership between Medtronic and LVHN will be the development of an innovative data collection and analysis initiative that will allow the two companies to demonstrate improved outcomes and economic value.

The collaboration will aim to develop, test, and validate their data science capabilities in creating the total product life cycle (TPLC) for a given patient population. This will require the utilization and application of data science techniques that will reliably extract real-world data from multiple data sources, including LVHN's electronic health records, for high-quality evidence generation. This data will be used to measure current outcome variance and drive implementation and measurability of new solutions aimed at improving healthcare value, the organizations said.

With Enemies Aplenty, PixarBio Takes Another Shot at InVivo

Pixabay With Enemies Aplenty, PixarBio Takes Another Shot at InVivo

PixarBio appears to have plenty of legal foes already, including a disgruntled employee demanding unpaid wages, former landlords trying to collect $1.8 million in unpaid rent, a former executive of the company, a lender, and the SEC.

But that isn't stopping the company from taking another shot at what is perhaps its biggest enemy of all, InVivo Therapeutics. In a recent regulatory filing with the SEC, PixarBio said it plans to sue InVivo Therapeutics for libel and for the patent rights to the company's scaffold device.

PixarBio and its CEO Frank Reynolds attempted a hostile takeover of InVivo last year, the company that Reynolds abruptly quit three years earlier. The takeover was unsuccessful and InVivo management seemed baffled by it. In the rather lengthy bid, Reynolds not-so-subtly tied himself to President Donald Trump (who at the time was still campaigning for the job) as a "fellow Wharton alumni" and said he wanted to "make U.S. pharma great again."

Reynolds was CEO of InVivo Therapeutics for about eight years until he walked away without warning in August 2013, citing a medical condition. A co-founder of the company, Reynolds also served as its CFO and board chairman. Just three months after leaving InVivo he formed PixarBio. Around the same time, InVivo sued Reynolds for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties, breach of contract, conversion, misappropriation of corporate assets, unjust enrichment, and corporate waste. Reynolds countered with a lawsuit of his own, but neither case has been resolved.

InVivo is developing a Neuro-Spinal Scaffold device for people with spinal cord injuries, which Reynolds claims he owns at least some of the patents for.

The company, however, said that Reynolds is not an inventor on any of its patents or patent applications. InVivo said the company has an exclusive license in the field of spinal cord injury to all patents and patent applications for its Neuro-Spinal Scaffold.

In the recent SEC filing, PixarBio said it plans to sue InVivo for defamation with respect to patent rights to the technology. The company claims that InVivo filed multiple patents based on Reynold's inventions during the time of his employment there, and that "he personally selected, hired, contracted, and paid with personal checks multiple patent law firms" which filed patents for the Neuro-Spinal Scaffold.

PixarBio also said it will sue InVivo for libel based on the January 2017 press release in which it said Reynolds is not an inventor on any of the company's patents or patent applications.

The company also disclosed in the filing that in January 2018 it received a letter from an attorney representing Katrin Holzhaus, a former chief administration officer and corporate secretary, "alleging certain legal claims." PixarBio said it does not expect the matter will advance to litigation and that its management will likely discuss the allegations with Holzhaus' attorney.

Another former employee, Mary Phelan, filed a lawsuit against the company in September 2017 for $82,909 in unpaid wages. Phelan had worked for PixarBio as the company's controller from January 2016 until May 22, 2017, when she was terminated, according to the filing. Phelan claims the company stopped paying her in March 2017 and that she has not received the salary due to her. 

PixarBio said it reached an agreement with the New Jersey Department of Labor to settle with Phelan through a series of payments "in full satisfaction of a similar claim." As such, the company said it expects a successful outcome of the lawsuit, which was filed in Massachusetts.

De Lage Landen Financial Services (DLL) has also sued both PixarBio and Reynolds for three counts of breach of lease and one count of unjust enrichment. DLL has sued for $24,170 in past due rent, $234,810 in accelerated rent, $64,992 in attorney's fees, and $1,187 in processing and court costs. DLL has also sued Reynolds as the guarantor for the aggregate sum of $325,161, plus 18% interest a year from June 1, 2016, court costs, and additional attorney's fees. A judgment was made against PixarBio in the amount of $330,000 and the company said it has three pieces of equipment that it plans to sell for $200,000 and will use the proceeds to settle the judgment for $200,000.

The company is also being sued by its former landlord, Cummings Properties, for about $1.8 million in unpaid rent.

Finally, SEC investigators that had previously looked into the company based on possible "manipulative or deceptive activities" have reportedly recommended that the agency sue PixarBio. The Boston Business Journal reported that the company denied any wrongdoing and that Reynolds said "PixarBio will charge forward regardless of any SEC ruling."

Not long after the company’s takeover attempt failed, the SEC halted trading of PixarBio shares due to possible “manipulative or deceptive activities.”

Panel to debate virtues of 3D printing versus injection molding at ADM Cleveland

Panel to debate virtues of 3D printing versus injection molding at ADM Cleveland

3D printingCan high-volume parts be made via 3D printing, bypassing the mold and molding machine and disrupting an entire industry? That is a big question that injection molders and moldmakers have just started asking themselves. As 3D printing takes its place alongside traditional manufacturing equipment, just what does the future portend for injection molding?

At Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Expo in Cleveland, you’ll want to listen in on a panel discussion devoted to this topic. Panelists Thomas Davis, Applications Engineer for Protolabs North Carolina; Scott Kraemer, Production Development Engineer for Carbon Inc.; and John Budreau of PTI Engineered Plastics will hash it out on March 8 at 2 PM. The expo runs March 7 and 8 at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland.

Some people argue that 3D printing is not disruptive to the injection molding industry, especially when it comes to high-volume parts. According to Kraemer, though, the “most disruptive” thing about 3D printing is that “we can make parts on the fly without any cost for tooling and engineering changes.”

As far as what has been the greatest enabler of this technology, Kraemer said, “it is the fact that we can start running production within a day or two, not six to eight weeks after kickoff, to make the tooling.”

Davis notes that metal 3D printing has been disruptive to the approach of the aerospace industry. “Combining complex assemblies and lightweighting have changed the way these engineers approach parts that have a high value proposition and low part-quantity need,” Davis said. “The most enabling consideration would be the design freedom the technology provides.”

The role that 3D printing can play in the injection molding industry doesn’t appear to be in high-volume parts, but rather in low-volume, high-value parts, as Kraemer pointed out. Davis agreed. “I believe that 3D printing will have an impact on the low-volume production industry in the near future,” he said. “With the elimination of tooling costs, this reduces the overall tooling package spend. Not every part will be a fit for this technology, but some parts will,” said Davis.

Davis commented that 3D printing is just another tool for engineers to work with. “It is a consideration for production when the parts have a high value proposition, are too complex to manufacture with traditional methods, and part quantities are on the low end,” he said. “It also is vital for prototyping, of course. Injection molding has not existed in a vacuum for the last 20 years and has been able to adapt to technology advancements. Automated software helps design tooling quicker and cheaper aluminum tooling cuts costs and mitigates risks against costly and time-consuming tooling rework for iterations.”

Does 3D printing also play a role for moldmakers? According to Kraemer, it’s analogous to what the EDM machine did more than 25 years ago. “It did not replace the CNC machine, but now it sits next to it,” he explained. “The EDM machine is another way to remove metal from a solid block. 3D printing is another way of making parts. Engineering changes can be done in minutes or hours without the need for welding or cutting of steel. Time to production is much faster. This enables moldmakers to offer mold options for total tool packages.”

Should moldmakers be wary of 3D-printed molds, given the capabilities of 3D metal printers? Davis noted that 3D printed molds can help with faster, less-expensive design iterations; however, the surface finish is still limited and the number of shots per mold is low. “The space that it occupies is rather narrow,” Davis said. “If the part quantity needed is low, it’s best to print; if it’s on the order of, say, a hundred, then it’s best to proceed with fast, cheap aluminum tooling.”

When asked about the future of 3D printing in the molding and moldmaking industry, Kraemer, again, pointed to the EDM machine. “In the beginning, most shops did not have an EDM machine. Now, just about every shop has one. Similarly, you will need a 3D printer to make certain parts moving forward,” he commented. “The next big step in adopting this technology comes from OEMs deciding to use newer materials being developed for additive and incorporating them into their designs up front. Once this happens, you will see large-scale mold shops buying 3D printers for production work, sitting near their injection molding machines.”

New processing technologies are out there—Carbon, HP Multijet, 3D Systems’ Figure 4 Desktop Metal—noted Davis, “and as they mature, material availability will increase to close the gaps in overall material properties (mechanical and thermal), costs and colors. This will enable printed parts to be seen as more fit for end-use and low-volume production.

ADM Expo will feature five zones on the show floor—packaging, automation and robotics, design and manufacturing, plastics and medical manufacturing. Hundreds of suppliers and numerous conference sessions, such as the one previewed in this article, await attendees on March 7 and 8, 2018, at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Visit the ADM Cleveland website for more information.

Nanotubes permit transparent PE blown plastic film with permanent conductivity

Nanotubes permit transparent PE blown plastic film with permanent conductivity

Anti-static bags, flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) liners, static shielding bags and films, protective tapes and conductive films are the types of packaging that have all been designed to protect certain goods and products from static electricity.

TUBALL nano-tube film

Conventional alternatives have drawbacks. Permanent anti-static additives, such as carbon black, lead to the degradation of mechanical properties and a darkening effect, and migrating anti-static additives result in non-permanent conductivity at various humidity levels. These problems can now be avoided with single-wall carbon nanotubes, which offer the best value proposition in terms of price per property, making them an exciting new option for the industry.

A European manufacturer (the company’s name is covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement) has recently succeeded in producing high-performance polyethylene anti-static film with TUBALL nanotubes produced by OCSiAl (Leudelange, Luxembourg) by using blown-film extrusion.

By introducing 0.01 wt.% of TUBALL nanotubes via the easy-to-handle TUBALL MATRIX 810 concentrate, a surface resistivity in the range 5×10^9 to 10^11 Ω/sq was achieved, which meets the ANSI/ESD S541-2003 and IEC 61340-5-1-2007 standards on protection against electrostatic effects for packaging materials.

EastPack 2018 highlights two industry mega-trends: smart manufacturing and 3D printing June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. There you’ll find the latest cobots, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a 2-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

The light transmittance of these anti-static PE blown films is 90% in comparison with neat film, which is not achievable with carbon black. Moreover, the stress at break in the perpendicular direction is increased by around 60%, which improves the durability of this PE film. 

These findings demonstrate one of the key features of TUBALL nanotubes—their ability to create a 3D conductive and reinforcing network even at very low loadings. In contrast to other conventional additives, nanotube-formulated films also show promise in terms of thermal stability.

Application of the TUBALL MATRIX concentrate has enabled a standard clean manufacturing process without the powder or dust associated with using carbon black. All these developments and advantages have encouraged the company to continue testing TUBALL nanotubes and to discover their potential for producing other anti-static parts from polyolefin polymers by various processes, including extrusion and injection molding. 

Dexcom Shows It Can Still Hang With Abbott

Dexcom Dexcom Shows It Can Still Hang With Abbott

When Abbott Laboratories received FDA approval for its FreeStyle Libre Flash, a glucose monitoring system that can be used as replacement for blood monitoring, no other competitor was impacted more than DexCom.  Shares of the San Diego-based company crashed more than 36% upon news of the FreeStyle Libre's approval.

DexCom also lost out to Abbott when Bigfoot Biomedical selected the Abbott Park, IL-based company as a partner for a diabetes management system designed to analyze patients' glucose readings. 

However, DexCom showed it still had some fight left by soundly beating Wall Street expectations and growing revenue by 29% in its most recent reported quarter.  The San Diego-based company brought in revenue of $221 million in the period exceeding consensus estimates of $215.9 million.

"Looking ahead to 2018, we provided our initial outlook in early January and we continue to anticipate total revenues of $830 million to $850 million with sensor volumes, international growth and the patient base all expected to grow faster than our revenues,”DexCom CFO Quentin Blackford, said according to a Seeking Alpha Transcript.

DexCom has been hardly resting on its laurels. In November of 2017,  the company announced a development agreement with Eli Lilly and Company to include the DexCom CGM to improve the future of diabetes management.

“Our recently-announced collaboration with Eli Lilly, which is intended to generate both pump and smart pen integration, is also moving forward nicely and recently saw first in-human experience,” Steven Pacelli, DexCom’s executive vice president of strategy and corporate development said according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “We continue to drive other pump and smart pen integrations and expect to update the market when appropriate.”

DexCom is also working with Google’s Verily LifeSciences to develop a mini-CGM. Ultimately the two companies want to build a disposable sensor that is like a tiny bandage on the skin.

“Turning to the non-intensive opportunity, development of a fully disposable real-time CGM system with Verily is moving ahead with the first generation system currently expected to complete development this year,” Pacelli said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “As we have stated previously, the timing of this product launch is contingent on a number of factors, including our no calibration regulatory strategy with G6. Our smaller and more cost effective second generation system is taking shape and we are optimistic in our ability to introduce this device in 2020.”

For the past two years there have been tremendous shakeups in the diabetes market. Recently Johnson & Johnson revealed plans to shut down its insulin pump business, Animas Corp. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based company said the nearly 90,000 patients using its insulin pumps would have the option to switch to Medtronic pumps.

Johnson and Johnson has also been reviewing the sale of its entire diabetes care business, which has seen a significant decline in sales in the past few years.

The diabetes care market has also had two significant device approvals from both Abbott and Medtronic.

In September 2016, Medtronic obtained a nod from FDA for the MiniMed 670G System, dubbed the artificial pancreas. 

The 670G is the first FDA-approved device intended to automatically monitor glucose (sugar) and provide appropriate basal insulin doses. Nearly a year later, Abbott fired back and received the greenlight to market the FreeStyle Libre Flash.

Baltimore bans EPS foam carry-out containers

Baltimore bans EPS foam carry-out containers

Baltimore seems to have a littering problem. But rather than encourage citizens to discard waste appropriately—say, in recycling containers—the city is finding it easier and more convenient to ban EPS foam carry-out containers outright. And not just ban these containers, but actually make restaurant owners criminals if they dare defy the ban! Using EPS foam carry-out containers is a misdemeanor that carries a $1,000 fine.  

The ban was instigated by Baltimore City Councilman John Bullock, who told the Baltimore Sun that he doesn’t “expect anyone to go to jail because of this. There is a fine attached to it. We want to change behavior.”

If Councilman Bullock wants to “change behavior,” I say he should begin by fining litterbugs! If people were fined $100 for littering—remember those signs we used to see around our cities?—the municipality could fill its coffers and maybe, just maybe, people would think twice before throwing trash into the waterways. After all, we’re not talking just about plastic—glass, metal, textiles and more are thrown into waterways. Most of that stuff sinks; plastic—especially EPS foam—floats. That makes the material an easy target because it’s visible.

Betsy Bowers, Executive Director of the EPS Industry Alliance (Crofton, MD), told PlasticsToday that Baltimore has a program to collect floating trash in the city’s waterways. “Baltimore’s Mr. Trash Wheel collects a lot of polystyrene on top of the water because it floats,” she said. “The Mr. Trash Wheel program released a great report on the various materials it is able to collect because it picks the trash off the top of the water. What drops to the bottom doesn’t get collected.”

Bowers said she believes that the ban is a result of public opinion and many of the misperceptions and misinformation surrounding EPS foam. “Restaurant owners don’t support [the ban on EPS] because there’s no environmentally good alternative,” Bowers said. “We know that coated paper is not a good alternative.”

Bowers is right about that. As I’ve written before, paper coated with polymer is not recyclable, which means it must be put into landfill.

The citizens of Baltimore have eight drop off locations, including a convenience center where they can drop off recyclables that aren’t picked up through regular pickups. Additionally, Bowers noted that there is “quite a large dumpster dedicated to EPS that is picked up regularly.”

Two years ago, the city of Baltimore applied for the EPS Industry Alliance’s EPS Excellence in Recycling award, but it came in second place. Perhaps there are some sour grapes among city council people?

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young told the Baltimore Sun that he was once against the ban but after talking to some elementary school children about the ban, he was convinced it was the right thing to do.

“It’s challenging for cities when they have an activist who is well meaning but not necessarily well informed,” said Bowers. “School children don’t know any better. They think they are doing something good. We would like to see cities do a better job of looking at information they are basing their policies on, making sure it’s accurate. EPS is very popular to ban, but the EPS industry continues to thrive.”

If city or state environmental policies regarding plastics are going to be determined by 8 year olds, then I’m convinced more than ever we in the industry need to get into the schools and begin teaching the science of plastics. We need to educate youngsters about the value of plastic, its benefits over other materials, and why banning plastic can have the unintended consequence of harm from other materials such as paper, which also carries negative environmental impacts.

BarrierPack Recyclable pouches and film support a circular economy

BarrierPack Recyclable pouches and film support a circular economy

Mondi BarrierPak RecyclableBarrierPack Recyclable, an innovative new polyethylene plastic laminate for premade pouches, provides positive environmental outcomes and value creation through a sustainable material with performance properties equivalent to conventional materials. It was developed in direct response to the need to reduce plastic waste without compromising on quality or functionality, and it supports a circular economy.

“Our new laminate, BarrierPack Recyclable, is a leap forward for sustainable packaging,” said Carl Stonley, Technical Account Manager at Mondi Consumer Goods Packaging. “In addition to being fully recyclable, it offers exceptional mechanical properties and is ideal for a range of packaging style formats. Constructed using two layers of PE film, BarrierPack Recyclable is a highly functional, flexible, packaging material that’s easy to open and reclose for consumer convenience. It’s functional in that the material is stiffer, stronger and lighter than a conventional PET/PE laminate of the same thickness and it can be formed directly on form-fill-seal machinery, as well as used for premade packaging.”

The moisture barrier provided by BarrierPack Recyclable makes it ideal for a wide range of applications, such as dry food, food ingredients, personal care and pet care applications.

It is currently not available in the United States. But as we've seen in the past, many European developments find their way stateside and vice versa.

ADM Cleveland 2018 showcases the latest in robotics, automation, plastics, packaging and design engineering through 5 integrated events including Pack and PLASTEC. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

New sustainable alternative

Sustainable plastic packaging is evolving faster than the general understanding of the related materials and recycling issues. Industry-wide initiatives are driving development of recyclable packaging for a circular economy that maximizes the lifecycle of plastic and minimizes its ecological footprint.

BarrierPack answers the market’s need for sustainable alternatives for flexible laminates by offering full recyclability, validated by extensive trials by CeDo Recyling in the Netherlands, a leader in recycling technologies

Ton Emans, Managing Director at CeDo Recycling & President of Plastics Recyclers Europe, said: “The European Commission announced a strategy in January 2018 to ensure that all plastics packaging is recyclable by 2030. This innovation shows that flexible plastic packaging can become truly circular. Flexible material designed for recycling is key to enabling circularity to safeguard precious resources in Europe.”

“Mondi is committed to developing sustainable plastics using circular economy design approaches, so we are delighted to be able to bring this valuable innovation to market,” Stonley added.

Mondi’s BarrierPack Recyclable laminate is debuting at the Packaging Innovations trade show in Birmingham, UK, February 28 to March 3 in Booth F19.

Predictive Maintenance Is Replacing the Plant’s Retiring Knowledge Worker

Predictive Maintenance Is Replacing the Plant’s Retiring Knowledge Worker

The retiring Baby Boomer at the plant may get replaced by predictive maintenance software. Just as robots are stepping up to do the mind-numbing and dangerous repetitive manual labor jobs in manufacturing, we’re now seeing that sensors and artificial intelligence begin to replace the plant’s knowledge workers who can smell a failing motor at 50 yards.

RRAMAC, predictive maintenance, Tom Craven, Cleveland Design and Manufacturing Expo, machine learning, artificial intelligence, sensors
This screen shot shows a predictiv.e maintenance system monitoring equipment health. Image courtesy of RRAMAC Connected Systems.

Those highly knowledgeable workers with 20 to 40 years of experience with pant equipment are retiring in a stream that will soon become a flood. These workers have gained years of expertise ferreting out the weakness of plant equipment, judging its health through sound, vibration, even smell. You can’t hire a new grad to replace this expertise. But you can hire software to do it.

Using Sensors to Replace the Five Senses

These experienced workers have been doing predictive maintenance on plant equipment by using their five senses. “The retiring knowledge worker has been doing the same job for 20 or 30 years. They can hear things in the equipment,” Tom Craven, VP of product strategy at RRAMAC Connected Systems, told Design News. “What they do gets into operational efficiency, but also, it’s predictive maintenance. They’ll hear a rattle and know what to do about it. Or they can detect a specific smell that can be a motor current problem. They smell the electrical burn and know that something bad is going to happen.”

Craven will present the session, Best Practices in Successfully Performing Predictive Maintenance, at the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Expo in Cleveland on March 8, 2018.

Craven noted that software is getting developed to detect anomalies in plant equipment, with the goal of catching the failing equipment before it causes any stoppage. “That rattle that the knowledge worker hears has other symptoms that can be picked up by a vibration sensor,” said Craven. “The predictive maintenance system is a combination of sensors and machine learning. The knowledge worker is responding to his five senses and he has the experience to know what to do to correct the problem. The machine learning feeds the system data that knows what to do to correct the equiopment.”

Using Data to Analyze Equipment Health

Predictive maintenance systems take equipment health monitoring into the realm of data analysis, creating a data picture of a healthy machine and searching for anomalies that may be out of sync with that picture. “The machine learning is artificial intelligence applied to a machine. What happens over time is you record data, which includes multiple vibration points, motor current, and temperature,” said Craven. “You look for anomalies. In some cases, it’s obvious – motor current issues are easy to associate with a failure.”

The analysis of machine health becomes complicated when the machine – over its normal course of performance – goes through changes in its vibration, voltage, or temperature. “Where data analysis becomes more complex, is when an anomalous vibration may be normal. Vibrations may vary during the cycles of the machine,” said Craven. “What happens is in these cases, is you look at multiple variables and run a mathematical calculation that can flag the anomaly.”



The artificial intelligence can learn the difference between anomalous machine readings that are healthy and anomalous readings that are unhealthy. “The predictive maintenance system detects when something has changed and is atypical. You can teach the system that this atypical change is OK,” said Craven. “The system learns that one particular anomaly can cause this failure, another anomaly can cause a different failure, and yet another anomaly does not result in a failure at all.”


Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.


For the second year,  Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland  is back at the Huntington Convention Center, March 7-8, 2018.  Register today  for loads of free, can’t-miss education focusing on Smart Manufacturing, 3D Printing, Battery technologies, Medtech, and more!