Lockheed Martin, Naval Research Lab Bring Breakthrough in Wear-Particle Analysis to Commercial Marketplace
AKRON, OHIO, January 21st, 2002 -- Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems has brought to the commercial marketplace a laser-based technology that detects and identifies faults or failures in mechanical systems resulting from excess wear. Early customer reviews have touted the technology as a "revolutionary" breakthrough in wear-particle analysis that will help prevent costly catastrophic equipment breakdowns. The technology, called LaserNet Fines (LNF), is PC-based and combines laser imaging and artificial intelligence to monitor wear condition of critical machinery components in ships, on aircraft and on the factory floor. LNF is among the technologies conceived in the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) that have entered commercial use.
Lockheed Martin was selected by NRL in 1996 to serve as the prime contractor to commercialize LNF. Lockheed Martin orchestrated LNF's progress through a number of development and product design steps to make it a viable commercial product.
LNF detects contamination and wear particles in hydraulic, fuel and lubricating systems and identifies underlying causes of that contamination. LNF determines size distributions and shape characteristics of debris particles and classifies the particles according to the mechanical wear process responsible for their generation. Additionally, LNF identifies contaminants from external sources such as sand, fiber and water.
Lockheed Martin engineers used commercially available personal computer components, including a flat-panel display and graphical user interface, to give the competitively priced LNF the look of a modern personal computer. The graphical user interface presents to operators a data snapshot on a top-level display. Operators then move through additional displays to evaluate graphs and other data to assess current machine condition against past results, relying on a database that stores and correlates thousands of images to obtain valid statistics.
"LaserNet Fines detects wear particles in lubricating fluids and develops a trend analysis based on the type, size and shape of the particles. With this data, it is possible for maintenance crews to determine when equipment may fail and when to take preventive measures to replace equipment prior to failure," Dave Filicky, Lockheed Martin program manager, said.
Lockheed Martin has signed a distributor's agreement with Spectro, Inc., a Massachusetts provider of high-tech laboratory analysis equipment, to resell LaserNet Fines to commercial users throughout the world. Spectro has made an initial purchase of 40 units. Spectro has orders for more than 20 of the 40 units and anticipates additional orders.
LaserNet Fines' small size, less than two cubic feet, and ease of operation allow it to be used on board ships, in factories and even inline with the subject machine to provide real-time data. Previously, such information could only be obtained by shipping lubricant samples to distant laboratories. In the case of the Navy, the samples would be sent from ship to shore-a process measured in terms of weeks or even months rather than minutes. The brick-and-mortar labs are staffed by highly trained personnel who use optical microscopes and prepare lubricant samples on slides.
In contrast to a brick-and-mortar lab process, LNF puts in the hands of machinery operators or on-site maintenance crews the ability to take lubricant samples at scheduled intervals from their equipment, pour it into an external container on the LaserNet Fines unit, and turn on the unit for it to conduct the analysis. LaserNet Fines produces results within minutes to drastically reduce troubleshooting, a practice that accounts for up to 75 percent of equipment maintenance costs, according to industry estimates.
Preventive maintenance is a boon to users of equipment that operates around the clock or that provides a system-critical function such as power generation. "By assessing what's happening in enclosed areas of a machine, LaserNet Fines keeps maintenance crews from tearing down equipment just to inspect the component. The lubricant sample and the trend data are adequate to assess the situation," Filicky said.
The Navy team that moved LaserNet Fines out of the laboratory and into the commercial sector with assistance from Lockheed Martin was awarded the 2001 Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. Paul A. Schneider, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, wrote in a congratulatory letter that LaserNet Fines is "an important technology that can significantly impact the cost and effectiveness of engine and machine maintenance in various military systemsÂ¿ Although the technology was initially developed for military purposes, you (NRL personnel) recognized the commercial applications and worked in conjunction with Lockheed Martin Corporation under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to implement LaserNet Fines in their instrumentation."
Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems-Radar Systems in Akron is one of five major lines of business comprising the Lockheed Martin NE&SS business segment. NE&SS provides surface ship and submarine weapon systems, antisubmarine warfare and ocean surveillance systems, missile launching systems, radar and sensor systems, ships systems integration services and other advanced systems and services to customers worldwide. NE&SS is a unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. The corporation's principal business areas are aeronautics, space, systems integration and technology services.
Spectro Inc. is an instrumentation company that specializes in analytical instruments for machine condition monitoring based on oil and fuel analysis. It was founded in 1981 and moved from Chicago to Littleton, Mass., in 1983.
The Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C. is the Navy's corporate laboratory. NRL conducts a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development directed toward maritime applications of new and improved materials, techniques, equipment, system, and ocean, atmospheric, and space sciences and related technologies.