James Fisher Mimic was approached by a major cruise line operator and asked to help avoid early failure of turbochargers.

The cruise line company declared that they had a population of around 150 large turbochargers.Of these just under 100 were of a particular make and design and due to reasons unknown an average of 4 of these failed (catastrophically) each year. The financial cost to the company was approximately $1,000,000 per year but this did not take into account the hidden costs of dissatisfied customers (passengers) or the very real risk of injury to crew and/or even an increased fire risk that could endanger the whole vessel.

The solution

After conducting a failure modes analysis (FMEA) James Fisher Mimic (JFM) designed and created a turbocharger monitoring unit (TCM). Data collection involved vibration signatures, gas inlet and outlet temperatures, scavenge air pressure and rotor speed.

The units had to be automated and self-contained and accessible from remote (both on board and off the ship). They were to identify rotor deterioration and to indicate this immediately to the vessels control room watchkeepers.

The unit was also required to indicate to nominated personnel ashore whenever a turbocharger alert was initiated. Furthermore, the units had to be self-monitoring, such that any failed sensor, inaccurate speed signal, or loss of hard drive had to be flagged to both on board and shore side users.

The results

JFM designed and developed the TCM units as per the requirement and following installation by the cruise crew they were commissioned by JFM.

The units correctly identified the early onset of failure on 6 occasions during the first year in use.In the second and third years they identified a further 8 failures.

No failures, other than two due to foreign object damage, went unreported and the success of the system resulted in a potential saving in excess of $3,000,000 to the cruise company even after deductions for the capital cost of purchasing the units.

The 22 units, installed across the 100 turbochargers population continue to operate and continue to provide early warning of catastrophic failures.

Figure below shows typical values recorded during turbocharger operation.

Mimic turbocharger monitoring software identified the early onset of 14 turbocharger failures.