Bring Legacy Equipment to the Industrial Internet of Things Age

This photo of industrial equipment by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

There are reasons to bring legacy equipment into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) Age.

Most manufacturers work with older equipment. A 2017 McKinsey report notes factory machinery and tools have an average age of 11 years. Industrial equipment lasts by design; we even use the term “industrial strength” to attribute higher-than-usual durability and power to everything from bug spray to boots. And when something is still working–and working well–a full upgrade to something new can be a difficult sell.

But many of these older legacy systems were created before the age of connected manufacturing systems, which bring with them a number of added benefits. A connected “smart factory” can mean higher productivity, increased flexibility, a safer manufacturing floor, and lower costs.

One option that bridges the gap between a full upgrade and missing out on all these benefits is to perform a retrofit of connected IoT gateway and data feedback devices. But until recently, this kind of upgrade was a complicated and costly affair. But it doesn’t have to be anymore, and more options are available.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things?

IIoT or the Industrial Internet of Things is the industrial extension of IoT. Automation in a traditional factory improves through the use of interconnected smart sensors. Other instruments work with sensors to take advantage of data collection and analysis. This happens on a networked (Internet) platform.

Options for Connecting your Factory Floor

There are several options now available for connecting your legacy systems to the IoT. These include

  • Retrofitting IIoT Connectivity. IoT gateways use software, sensors, and industrial-based control systems to provide a simple connection that can send data in real-time.
  • Using Video Cameras. Video analytics allow cameras to recognize objects, people, or issues on your floor automatically.
  • Using Edge Devices. Data can be accessed via local devices. This can improve security and provide access to process data more quickly.
  • Using Biometric Devices. Your employees can become part of your data acquisition through the use of biometric wearables or tags. This works in conjunction with additional upgrades.
Infographic: Bring Legacy Equipment Into the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) Age
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A History of GE Speedtronic Turbine Control

GE has a long history of providing industrial control systems for gas and steam turbines.

Speedtronic turbine control from General Electric is one of the world’s most reliable turbine control systems. Find out more below.

GE Industrial Gas turbine cross section
Cross-section of a GE industrial gas turbine

A History of Turbine Science

Gas turbine theory is not new to the world; in fact, Leonardo Da Vinci designed a reaction-type turbine. While nothing like the turbines of today, Da Vinci’s chimney jack’ used hot air rising from a hearth to turn an axial rotor attached to a roasting spit located over the fire. In this way, food on the spit turned without need for an attendant, harnessing the power of burning gases.

Early History

 GE was one of the first modern companies to understand the power of turbine applications. High-profile projects like Niagara Falls (1918) and the Grand Coulee Dam project (1942) used GE turbines. The first gas turbine used to generate electric power in the US came from General Electric. It was a 3.5-MW unit installed at Belle Isle Station, Oklahoma City, OK, in 1949.

Expansion of Products

GE’s gas turbine division is now over a century old. It has advanced gas turbine jet engine design along with commercializing industrial gas turbines for the first time. GE turbines are also used for power generation. You can find them in nuclear power plants, combined-cycle gas turbine plants, and in steam turbine systems and boiler systems.

Graphic explaining GE Frame 5 Turbine Characteristics
Graphic explaining physical characteristics of GE Frame 5 components. Includes Models and shipping dates of Speedtronic series.
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Introduction of Speedtronic Turbine Control

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the early 2000s, GE developed and sold sophisticated turbine control systems for their gas and steam turbines. These systems sold under the SPEEDTRONIC trademark name. Speedtronic systems started with the Mark I series, continuing through the release of the Mark VIe.

While each system had significant improvements, many Mark I and Mark II control systems are still in active use around the world today.  The longevity of these systems is attibutable to GE’s adherence to specific gas and steam turbine control philosophies. These emphasize “safety of operation, reliability, flexibility, maintainability, and ease of use, in that order,” according to company documents. The gas philosophy maintains: 

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