DATA ACQUISITION SERIES PART I: IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT DATA AND SELECTING YOUR HARDWARE
DECEMBER 13, 2018
In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, it is more important than ever to increase productivity and stay competitive through harnessing the untapped power of your data and using the insights from that data to add value and growth to your company.
The first and most important steps in beginning your efforts are to identify your goals and determine what kind of data is right for your needs. Goals can include, but are not limited to, higher product quality, greater production efficiency, more precise and accurate technological functions, and cost savings through reduced production waste.
Whatever your goal, be it product quality and production accuracy or machine health monitoring and efficiency, it is critical to determine what insight you would like to obtain. This step is essential because, without a clear project goal, jumping into a data acquisition project can lead to data that is low in quality and/or data that is not beneficial to your efforts, causing an unnecessary waste of time and money.
The next key step is to determine what kinds of data you would like to extract and what type of hardware is best suited for the task.
In choosing your hardware, you must keep in mind what kind of software you may want to utilize. Your software must be compatible with your hardware and your computer operating system.
There are multiple hardware components required for any data acquisition system, including the DAQ hardware, sensors, analog-to-digital converters, signal conditioning circuitry, and clocks.
The data collection hardware serves as the interface between sensor signals and a computer. To establish this part of your system, an external breakout box and cables are needed, as well as a data card that connects the cable from the box to the computer. Additionally, external hard drives or other solutions may be required to help store data.
Sensors can help collect practically any type of measurement, from vibration and lubrication conditions to temperature and speed. The choice of sensor will depend on your specific needs.
For instance, if you would like to measure the RPM for a rotating component, you would use a suitable tachometer. If you want to measure the force on a hydraulic press, you might consider a pressure gauge. If you wish to measure the vibration of a machine, an accelerometer would be your best bet.
It is also important to determine the correct placement of a sensor. Not only will this give you more accurate readings, but it will also reduce noise. Noise can create many anomalies and false alarms within your data sets that can be challenging to filter through in order to determine actionable intelligence.
Signal Conditioning Circuitry and Analog-to-Digital Converters
The raw data received by sensors is converted into measurable signals. Signals can either be analog or digital. Analog signals are continuous values, whereas digital signals are discrete values, usually binary in modern technologies. In order to collect analog signals and create digital values, signal conditioning circuitry and analog-to-digital converters are required.
Signal conditioning circuitry transforms the collected physical signals into different forms. One common example is low-pass filtration of an analog voltage signal before it is passed through an analog-to-digital converters.
It is also important to select the right signal conditioning hardware for signals that are difficult to measure with your data acquisition device, such as excessively low or high voltage, excited ICP accelerometer data sets, or linearizing nonlinear signals.
ADC converters transform analog signals into digital values that can be read by your computer software.
Clocks provide the timing data for your measurements and are usually triggered by scheduled instruction from your software.
Alternatively, you can invest in a multifunction device, which combines analog-to-digital converters with clocks on a single device.
When determining the budget for your effort, it is worthwhile to note that the DAQ hardware is usually the most expensive component. Including an ADC or accommodating for multiple sensor types can also increase the cost significantly.
In addition, considerations must be made in terms of the environment that surrounds your data collection hardware. Hardware that can resist harsh conditions, such as exposure to dust, water, or heat, is more expensive and an industrial PC may be needed in that case to interface with your hardware.
By selecting and setting up your hardware properly, you are one step closer to achieving the best data collection results.
Join us for Part II of our Data Acquisition Blog Series, Choosing Your Software.
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