A little more than three years ago, Eaton Corp.’s Hydraulics division announced a breakthrough technology with its LifeSense Hose, a smart hydraulic hose condition-monitoring system that detects failure-related events in a hose and sends notices that the product is approaching the end of its useful life.
While I was at Eaton’s Distributor Meeting last fall, I had the opportunity to sit in on a session highlighting the updates to this line and how the company is continuing to market it, particularly for mobile machinery and large trucks such as refuse vehicles.
Hose failures and replacement: costly considerations
Eaton developed the LifeSense hydraulic hose to combat the high costs associated with hose failure and replacement. On one end of the spectrum, running a hose until it fails or ruptures can be extremely costly, in terms of hose and fluid loss but also because of damage to machines and critical downtime. On the other hand, using a predictive maintenance schedule—in which hoses are switched out based on rated operating hours—can also be expensive. In this situation, machine owners could be losing money by replacing a hose too soon, because it could still have a long life in it.
According to Product Manager Kelly Floyd, the LifeSense diagnostics unit helps determine how much life is left in a hose. She said that about 80% of the types of failures machine operators and owners see can be detected with LifeSense. Obviously, an accident that ruptures a hose can’t be avoided, for instance.
Because of the embedded technologies, LifeSense hose comes at a premium, but Eaton said the extra costs are worth it in the long run.
For example, said Floyd, a municipality who normally spends $97,000 on critical hoses actually spends $97,000 plus $39,000 in unplanned downtime, equaling a total cost of $136,000. By converting to LifeSense, first year costs are $173,000 (initial spend) plus $8000 (downtime), equaling $181,000. In year two, however, the costs drop to $48,000 (two-year spend) plus $8000 (unplanned downtime), equaling just $56,000. So although the up-front costs of LifeSense are greater in the first year, the municipality would save $80,000 in just two years. That’s a big savings, said Kelly.
“There is no hydraulic hose that will outperform this,” Floyd said. “This is the best hydraulic hose available.”
How it works
The LifeSense hose features a protective hose sleeve and a sensor assembly on the hose. The sensor sends signals to a hose diagnostics unit that is housed in the cab of the vehicle. This unit features lights or alarms to notify the operator of a problem with each hose assembly. A red light signals a hose failure is imminent, while a flashing light indicates a sensor is loose or a wire has failed.
The signals can be sent over a wired or wireless network. Currently, Eaton’s wired diagnostics includes wire lengths of 10, 25, 50, and 150 ft, rated at 12 or 24 VDC. The hose diagnostic unit can monitor up to 11 hose assemblies.
The wireless option also operates on a 12- or 24-VDC system, for monitoring up to 100 hoses with a 433 MHz frequency communication protocol. Although the sensors continuously monitor data, it will transmit operating data only once per shift (every seven hours) or as a vehicle passes through the gateway (for example, as a vehicle leaves a garage or enters it, where a gateway is housed). Alerts may be sent via the gateway or through text message via WiFi or Ethernet. The data is accessed through Eaton’s LifeSense web portal, which offers data on system monitoring, hose installation, and connection status. Currently, the wireless sensor has a battery life that is greater than six years but Eaton is currently working on a battery that will recharge itself.
LifeSense hose is currently available in two-wire braid designs in sizes -08, -12 and -16 (1/2, ¾, and 1 in.), rated for 293, 215, and 172 bar, respectively (4250, 3125, and 2500 psi). Eaton plans to offer -04 and -06 wire-braid designs as well as spiral hose in the near future. Eaton is also exploring cellular and satellite expansion of the wireless diagnostics options, with CANBus interface development also under way.