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Advancing bolt load measurement

An image of the InterBolt system

STRESS TESTING InterBolt uses a precision gauge pin in the loaded region of a bolt or stud to create a minute gap between itself and the sensor, which serving as a reliable measuring device for load on the bolt

18th August 2023

By: Donna Slater

Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

     

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Ensuring the reliability of bolted connections is vital for safety, performance and operational efficiency in mining and engineering applications, leading to bolt technology developer InterBolt developing the InterBolt System, which is available in South Africa through Wanawake Industrial Supplies.

Wanawake Industrial Supplies MD Sean Sandham explains that traditional bolt load measurement methods have been laborious and limited, often requiring specialised equipment and on-site technicians with varying results depending on skill levels and equipment accuracy.

However, he points out that the new InterBolt System presents a “game-changing solution by embedding a high-accuracy bolt load sensor directly into the bolt or threaded stud, ushering in a new era of real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance”.

The InterBolt System relies on a simple, yet powerful principle. “When a bolt is loaded, it acts like a very stiff spring, stretching in proportion to the applied load,” describes Sandham.

He notes that InterBolt capitalises on this phenomenon, by embedding a precision gauge pin into the loaded region of a bolt or stud. “As the bolt stretches under load, the gauge pin creates a minute gap between itself and the sensor, serving as a reliable measuring device.”

The gauge pin is securely fixed within the fastener using a specialised permanent bonding technique, ensuring consistent and precise measurements.

Owing to its miniature size, the gauge pin’s insertion has low impact on the bolt’s cross-sectional area, making the embedding technology almost negligible to its load capacity.

“InterBolt goes beyond conventional bolt load measurement by seamlessly integrating into a comprehensive condition monitoring ecosystem that supports both on-site and remote monitoring of bolt loads,” says Sandham.

This integration, he notes, empowers engineers and technicians with an all-encompassing solution to monitor bolted connections throughout their operational life, ultimately preventing unnecessary breakdowns, reducing maintenance inputs and expenditure on bolts, as well as reducing downtime so that operations can increase profits.

The InterBolt System offers several monitoring capabilities, including visual monitoring, whereby an integrated light-emitting diode indicator provides technicians with instant visual verification that the bolt is within the target load range during installation.

It also provides on-site monitoring, whereby bolt load samples can be conveniently viewed on site using the InterBolt tablet application, ensuring all bolts are tightened correctly before technicians leave the site, thereby reducing any risk of errors.

Further, InterBolt also offers remote monitoring, whereby bolt load samples are efficiently transmitted to the InterBolt cloud through a gateway, where they are securely stored, analysed and visualised. “This real-time data allows for monitoring from operational control rooms and enables timely maintenance actions,” he notes.

Standing out from competitor products, the InterBolt System sets new standards in bolt load monitoring with a battery life of 15 years, ensuring continuous and uninterrupted monitoring over an extended period, as well as an operability range of 2 km, owing to the system's long-range wireless communication capability.

InterBolt also offers three measurement modes, namely visual verification, local monitoring and remote monitoring.

The system integrates “seamlessly” with a comprehensive ecosystem of applications and cloud-based software, he states, adding that this offers holistic bolt load data management, analysis, and operator feedback solutions.

Moreover, InterBolt’s user-friendly design allows for quick and straightforward installation and configuration, reducing downtime during implementation.

Niche Mining, Wind Markets

Sandham tells Mining Weekly that InterBolt has a wide market target, which is currently focused on the mining and wind energy industries – sectors critically reliant on secure and reliable bolted connections.

“In the demanding and challenging mining sector, reliable bolted connections are essential for the safety and efficiency of equipment.

“InterBolt's robust design and resistance to harsh operating environments make it the ideal choice for critical areas such as sag mills, ball mills, gyratory crushers and screens,” he highlights.

The system provides accurate measurement and continuous monitoring of bolt loads in mining equipment. “This ensures optimal performance and prevents potential equipment failures that could lead to costly downtime,” says Sandham.

He explains that the InterBolt system is capable of withstanding extreme conditions, including vibrations, impacts and temperature fluctuations, thereby ensuring uninterrupted operations in the most challenging mining and wind energy environments.

Specifically for the wind energy industry, InterBolt’s embedded gauge pin technology ensures accurate bolt load measurements without the need for manual inspections in very hard to reach installations. “Technicians can trust in precise measurements during installation and continuous remote monitoring throughout equipment operation,” states Sandham.

In addition, the InterBolt System actively monitors bolt loads during equipment operation, providing automated alerts through email or text messages when deviations occur from pre-determined ranges. This proactive approach enables prompt maintenance actions and mitigates potential risks.

With the capability for long-term data collection, he says InterBolt facilitates predictive maintenance strategies in the wind industry. “By analysing historical data, wind farms can optimise maintenance schedules, saving valuable time and resources.”

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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