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Title:
ROTARY UNION WITH INTEGRAL SENSOR ARRAY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/136235
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The disclosure describes a rotary device that includes a housing, a rotating machine component, a rotating member associated with the rotating machine component, a non-rotating member disposed within the housing adjacent the rotating member, and a sensor array disposed in the housing. The sensor array includes a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a wireless communication device. The wireless communication device is configured to communicate with a central control that is remotely located relative to the housing using electromagnetic waves.

Inventors:
PETROU, Anton A. (46 Copperfield Drive, Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, 60047, US)
BUDZUS, Christoph (Lattengasse 18b, Elz, Hessen, Hessen, DE)
GULIANA, Sargon (4931 West Farwell, Skokie, Illinois, 60077, US)
Application Number:
US2017/015351
Publication Date:
August 10, 2017
Filing Date:
January 27, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
DEUBLIN COMPANY (2050 Norman Drive, Waukegan, Illinois, 60085, US)
International Classes:
F16L27/00; F16L27/08; F16L39/06
Foreign References:
US2794659A1957-06-04
US20080016950A12008-01-24
US20080003092A12008-01-03
US20080047329A12008-02-28
CN203784521U2014-08-20
US2549951A1951-04-24
JP5773297B12015-09-02
US20020069837A12002-06-13
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SOUPOS, Elias P. (Leydig, Voit & Mayer Ltd.,Two Prudential Plaza, Suite 490, Chicago Illinois, 60601, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:1

1. A rotary union configured for transferring a fluid, the rotary union comprising: a housing having a media channel therein, the housing further having a pocket, the pocket being fiuidiy isolated from the media channel;

a rotating machine component rotatably supported in the housing; a rotating seal member associated with the rotating machine component; a non-rotating seal member s! idably and seaiably disposed within the housing adjacent the rotating seal mem er; and

a sensor array disposed in the pocket, the sensor array including a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a communication device;

wherein the sensor array is fiuidiy isolated from the media channel when the non-rotating seal member is in contact with the rotating seal member to form a mechanical face seal

2. The rotary union of claim 1 , wherein the housing is made from a plastic material and wherein the communication device is a wireless communication device that includes an antenna.

3. The rotary union of claim 2, wherein the control device receives information about an operating state of the rotary union from at least one of the pluralit of sensors, and communicates the information to a central control via the wireless communication device in real time.

4. The rotary union of claim 1, wherein the plurality of sensors includes an aecelerometer, a temperature sensor, a motion sensor, a humidity sensor and a magnetic pici ip sensor,

5. The rotary union of claim 1, further comprising;

an expandable seal disposed between and seaiably engaging each of the non- rotating seal member and the housing;

wherein the expandable seal includes two end portions, one of the two end portions is engaged with the non-rotating seal member and the other of the two end portions is engaged with the housing, and an expandable portion disposed axiaily 38 between the two end portions, the expandable portion having an axial length that varies based on a pressure of the fluid present in the media channel

6. The rotary union of claim 5, wherein the expandable portion includes at least one bellows.

7. The rotary union of claim 5, wherein the expandable seal is made from a least one of a rubber, tetra-fluoro-ethylene, or fluoro-e la stonier material.

8. A rotary device, comprising:

a housing made from a non-metallic material;

a rotating machine component rotatably supported in the housing; a rotating member associated with the rotating machine component;

a non-rotating member disposed within the housing adjacent the rotating member; and

a sensor array disposed in the housing, the sensor array including a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a wireless

communication device;

wherein the wireless communication device is configured to communicate with a central control that is remotely located relative to the housing using electromagnetic waves; and

wherein the wireless communication device is arranged to remain in communication with the central control for any mounting orientation of the housing- relative to the sensor array and the central control.

9. The rotary device of claim 8, wherein the housing is made from a plastic material.

10. The rotary device of claim 8, wherein the control device receives information about an operating state of the rotary device from at least one of the plurality of sensors, and communicates the information to the central control in real time.

1 1. The rotar device of claim 8, wherein the plurality of sensors includes an accelerometer, at least one temperature sensor, a motion sensor, a humidity sensor and a magnetic pickup sensor. 39

12. The rotary device of claim 8, wherein the rotary device is a rotary union, and wherein the rotary union further comprises:

an expandable seai disposed between and sealably engaging each of the non- rotating seal member and the housing;

wherein the expandable seal includes two end portions, one of the two end portions being engaged with the non-rotating seal member and the other of the two end portions being engaged with the housing, and an expandable portion disposed axiaily between the two end portions, the expandable portion having an axial length that varies based on a pressure of the fluid present in the media channel,

S 3. The rotary device of claim 12, wherein the expandable portion includes at least one bellows, and is made from at least one of a rubber, tetra-fltsoro-ethy!ene, or fluoro- elastomer material,

14. The rotary device of claim 8, wherein the sensor array is disposed in a pocket defined within the housing, th pocket being fluidiy separated and isolated from the media channel.

15. A method for operating a rotary device, the method comprising:

providing a housing made from a non-metallic material and including a pocket;

rotatabiy supporting a rotatable machine component in the housing, the rotatable machine component having a rotatable member associated therewith;

mounting a non-rotating member within the housing adjacent the rotating member; and

providing a sensor array in the pocket, the sensor array including a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a wireless

communication device;

fluidiy isolating the sensor array within the pocket;

monitoring a plurality of operating parameters with the sensor array: and wirelessly communicating the operating parameters to a central control that is remotely located relative to the housing using electromagnetic waves;

wherein the wireless communication is independent of an orientation of the housing relative to the sensor array and the central control,

16. The method of claim 15, wherein providing the housing includes molding th housing and the pocket from a plastic material.

17. The method of claim 15, wherein the plurality of sensors includes an

acceleroraeter, a temperature sensor, a motion sensor, a humidity sensor and a magnetic pickup sensor.

18. The method of claim 15, further comprising siidably and sealably mounting the non-rotating seal member by:

providing an expandable seal disposed between and sealably engaging each of the non-rotating member and the housing;

wherein the expandable seal includes two end portions, one of the two end portions being engaged with the non-rotating member and the other of the two end portions being engaged with the housing, and an expandable portion disposed axiaily between the two end portions, the expandable portion having an axial length that varies based on a pressure of a fluid present in the housing.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the expandable portion includes at least one bellows, and is made from at least one of a rubber, tetra-iluoro-ethylene, or fluoro-elastomer materia!.

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising providing a biasing force on the non-rotating member by eiastically deforming the expandable seal under a fluid pressure of the fluid.

Description:
I

ROTARY UNION WITH INTEGRAL SENSOR ARRAY

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 62/289,659, filed on February 1 , 2016, which is incorporated hereiii in its eniireiy by this reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0002] The present invention relates to rotary devices such as rotary unions, swivel unions, slip rings and die like.

BACKGROUND OF THE DiSLCOSURE

[0003] Fluid coupling devices such as rotary unions are used in industrial applications, for example, machining of metals or plastics, work holding, printing, plastic film

manufacture, papermaking. and other industrial processes that require a fluid medium to be transferred from a stationary source such as a pump or reservoir into a rotating element such as a machine tool spindle, work-piece clamping system, or rotating drums or cylinder. Often these applications require relatively high media pressures, flow rates, or high machine tool rotational speeds.

(0004] Rotary unions used in such applications convey fluid medium used by the equipment for cooling, heating, or for actuating one or more rotating elements. Typical fluid media include water-based liquids, hydraulic or cooling oils, air, and others. In certain instances, for example, when evacuating media from a fluid passage, rotary unions may operate under vacuum. Machines using rotary unions typically include precision

components, such as bearings, gears, electrical components, and others, that are expensive and/or difficult to repair or replace during service. These components are often subject to corrosive environments or to damage if exposed to fluid leaking or venting from the rotary union during operation. Fluid leaking from a union is also typically undesirable.

[Θ005] A rotary union typically includes a stationary member, sometimes referred to as the housing, which has an inlet port for receiving fluid medium. A non-rotating seal member is mounted within the housing. A rotating member, which is sometimes referred to as a rotor, includes a rotating seal member and an outlet port for delivering fluid to a rotating component. A seal surface of the non-rotating seal member is biased into fluid-tight engagement with the seal surface of the rotating seal member, generally by a spring, media pressure, or other method, thus enabling a seal to be formed between the rotating and non- rotating components of the union. The seal permits transfer of fluid medium through the union without significant leakage between the non-rotating and rotating portions. Fluid medium passing through the rotary union may lubricate the engaged seal surfaces to minimize wear of the seal members, When a rotary union is used with non-lubricating media (such as dry air) or without any media, the engaged seal surfaces experience a "dry running" condition, which causes rapid seal wear due to lack of adequate lubrication. Extended periods of dry running can cause severe damage to the seal members, thereby requiring expensive and time-consuming replacement of one or both seal members,

[0006] High-speed machining equipment, such as computer-numericai-control (CMC) milling machines, drilling machines, turning machines, transfer lines, and so forth, use rotary unions to supply a medium directly to the cutting edge of a tool for cooling and lubrication in an arrangement that is commonly referred to as "through spindle coolant." A through spindle coolant arrangement extends the service life of costly cutting tools, increases productivity by allowing higher cutting speeds, and flushes material chips that can damage the work-piece or cutting tool away from the cutting surfaces of the tool. Different work-piece materials typically require different media for optimal productivity and performance. For example, air or aerosol media may provide better thermal control when machining very hard materials, while liquid coolants may offer better performance when machining softer materials, such as aluminum. In addition, certain kinds of work may be performed more effectively and less expensively without a through-spindle medium.

{0007] A variety of designs intended to avoid dry running with non-lubricating media or no media are known. For example, rotary unions having seal surfaces that disengage when opposing fluid pressures are present, such as the arrangement disclosed in U.S. Patent 5,538.292, can be complex and expensive to manufacture, Rotary unions having seal surfaces that disengage automatical ly in the absence of media, such as the arrangement disclosed in U.S. Patent 4,976,282, are less complex to manufacture and incorporate in a machine, but are prone to engagement of the seal surfaces when non-lubricating media is used. Seal surfaces with special geometries for non-contacting operation with gases, such as those disclosed in U.S. Patents 6,325,380 and 6,726,913, do not provide effective sealing with liquid media. Similarly, seal surfaces with special geometries to distribute the medium evenly, such as the seal arrangement disclosed in U.S. Patent 6, 1 9, 160, offer no advantage when non-lubricating media is used. Rotary unions that engage the sea! surfaces at all times, even with a reduced bias, such as the unions disclosed in U.S. Patent 6,929,099, are prone to damage from dry running at high rotating speeds,

jOOOSj However, even with use of improved sealing and mechanisms to avoid dry- running of unions, any union will eventually require repair or replacement. Some machine operators may replace unions periodically to prevent a sudden loss in pertormance, or may operate a machine with a union that requires replacement. Such and other measures typically have costly consequences. Periodic inspections of unions are also time consuming and costly as unions are typically found within a machine and require effort by a technician to access them and assess their condition.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0009] The disclosure describes, in one aspect, a rotary union configured for transferring a fluid. The rotary union includes a housing having a media channel therein, the housing further having a pocket, the pocket being fluidly isolated from the media channel; a rotating machine component rotatably supported in the housing: a rotating seal member associated with the rotating machine component; a non-rotating seal member sHdably and sealably disposed within the housing adjacent the rotating seal member; and a sensor array disposed in the pocket, the sensor array including a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a communication device. The sensor array is fluidly isolated from the media channel when the non-rotating sea! member is in contact with the rotating seal member to form a mechanical face seal.

[0010] in another aspect, the disclosure describes a rotary device. The rotary device includes a housing made from a non-metallic material, a rotating machine component rotatably supported in the housing, a rotating member associated with the rotating machine component, a non-rotating member disposed within the housing adjacent the rotating member, and a sensor array disposed in the housing, The sensor array includes a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a wireless communication device, The wireless communication device is configured to communicate with a central control that is remotely located relative to the housing using electromagnetic waves. The wireless communication device is arranged to remain in communication with the central control for any mounting orientation of the housing relative to the sensor array and the central control [001 I j In yet another aspect, the disclosure describes a method for operating a rotary device. The method includes providing a housing made from a non-metallic material and including a pocket. The method further includes rotatab!y supporting a rotatable machine component in the housing, the rotatable machine component having a rotatable member associated therewith, mounting a non-rotating member within the housing adjacent the rotating member, and providing a sensor array in the pocket, the sensor array including a plurality of sensing elements that are integrated with a control device and a wireless communication device. The method also includes fluidly isolating the sensor array within the pocket, monitoring a plurality of operating parameters with the sensor array and wirelessly communicating the operating parameters to a central control that is remotely located relative to the housing using electromagnetic waves. The wireless communication is independent of an orientation of the housing relative to the sensor array and the central control.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a rotary union in accordance with the disclosure.

[0013] FIG, 2 is section view of the rotary union shown in FIG, 1 ,

[0014] FIG, 3 is a perspective view, and FIG. 4A is an enlarged, detail view of a seal in accordance with the disclosure; FIG. 4B is an enlarged, detail view of an alternative embodiment of a collar for a seal in accordance with the disclosure.

[0015] FIGS. 5 and 6 are different views of a sensor module in accordance with the disclosure.

[0016] FIG. 7 is a schematic view of a union moni toring system or arrangement of components in accordance with the disclosure.

[0017] FIGS. 8-10 are flowcharts for methods in accordance with the disclosure.

[0018] FIGS. 1 1 and 12 are perspective views of a rotary union in accordance with the disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0019] In the drawings, which form a part of this specification, FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a rotary union 100, and FIG. 2 shows a section view through the rotary union 100 to illustrate various internal components. It should be appreciated that in the exemplary embodiments shown herein, a rotary union is illustrated but the systems and methods described in the present disclosure are equally applicable to any rotary device that includes stationary and fully or partially rotatable components in sliding contact with one another. Examples of rotary devices, therefore, can include rotary unions or swivel joints, which are used to convey fluids through fuliy or partialiy rotatable joints or components, and can also include devices for connecting electrical leads across fully or partially rotatable interfaces such as slip rings, in reference to the exemplary rotary union illustrated herein, the rotary union 100 includes a rotating seal member 102 and a non-rotating seal member 1 04 that is axially moveable relative to a housing 106. A segmented conduit or media channel 1 12 extends through the housing 106, and also the rotating and non-rotating seal members 102 and 104 respectively.

[0020] Portions of the media channel 1 12 are defined in different components of the rotary union 100 to provide a fluid passageway through the rotary union 100 when the rotating and non-rotating seal members 102 and 104 are engaged. The media channel 1 12 may be selectively arranged to sealingly enclose fluids when the rotating and non-rotating seal members 102 and 1 4 are engaged to one another, and be open for venting to the atmosphere when the rotating and non-rotating seal members 102 and 104 are not engaged.

[0021 ] The rotating seal member 302, which is embodied here as a seal ring attached to the rotating machine component 108, but which may alternatively be integrated with the rotating machine component 108, can be any type of machine component such as a spindle on a CNC milling machine. A mechanical face seal created when the rotating seal member 102 is engaged with the non-rotating seal member 104 seals the media channel i 12 for transferring a fluid medium from a fluid inlet 1 10 of the housing 106 to an outlet 1 1 1 formed at the end of the rotating machine component 108, as is known in the art. The rotating machine component 108 has a bore 109 that defines a portion of the media channel 1 32.

[0022} The non-rotating seal member 104 is slidably and sealingly disposed within a bore 128 of the housing 106. The structural arrangement permitting sliding of the non-rotating seal member 1 4 relative to the non-rotating machine component 1 if) enables the selective engagement and disengagement of the non-rotating seal member 104 with the rotating seal member 102, and compensates for axial displacement that may be present between the rotating machine component 108 and the housing i 06.

[0Θ23] The selective variation of fluid pressure within the media passage 1 12 during operation of the rotary union 100 yields net Irydraulic forces that are applied to urge the moveable non-rotating seal member 1 04 to move relative to the housing 106 such that a sealing engagement can occur along an interface 1 34 between the rotating seal member 102 and the non-rotating seal member 104. Extension of the seal member 104 relative to the housing 106 and engagement of corresponding sealing surfaces formed at opposing faces of the rotating seal member 102 and the non-rotating seal member 104 create a fluid passage along the media channel 1 12, The non-rotating seal member 104 may be keyed into its receiving bore in the housing 106 to prevent its rotation, especially when sealing engagement exists between the rotating seal member 102 and the non-rotating seal member 104.

[0024] The housing ] 06 sealingly engages the non-rotating seal member 104, and defines various hydraulic chambers therein for the selective engagement between the rotating and non-rotating seal members 102 and 104. More specifically, the housing 106 includes a stepped bore portion 1 16 that accommodates therein and sealabfy engages one end of an expanding seal 1 18, which is formed with a bellows portion 120 that is disposed between straight portions 122 (also see FIG. 3 and the enlarged detail sections shown in FIG. 4A and FIG. 4B). The expanding seal 1 1 8 may be formed of an elastic material such as rubber, TPE. a fluoroelastomer, and other materials, and includes rigid collars 124 along the straight portions 122. The expanding seal 1 1 8 engages the stepped bore portion 1 16 at one end, and a recess 126 formed in the non-rotating seal member 104 at another end. When the non-rotating seal member 1 4 is urged by hydraulic forces to move towards engagement with the rotating seal member 102, the expanding sea! 1 1 8 expands in an axial direction as the bellows portion 120 increases in length along a centeriine 128 of the expanding seal 1 18, which in the illustrated embodiment has a generally cylindrical shape that is disposed concentrically with the rotating machine component 108 and the rotating seal member 102,

[0025] As can be seen in FIGS, 4A and 4B, the stepped bore portion 1 16 and the recess 126 form rounded or chamfered edges facing the expanding seal 1 18 to help retain the seal in place and also to avoid possible damage or tears to the seal material during use. Specifically, these edges, which are denoted as edges 130 in FIGS. 4A and 4B, have a radius of curvature, R, that generally matches a radius of curvature, R', of an interface S 32 between the straight portions 122 and the bellows portion i 20 on the expanding seal 1 18 (see FIG. 3). The compatibility of the radii at the area of contact between the interface 132 and the edges 130 ensures a low-stress contact between moving or deforming portions of the expanding seal 1 18, the housing 106 and the non-rotating seal member 104.

[0026] During operation of the rotary union 100, the expandable seal 1 18 is generally retained in place because it axially constrained at both ends by the housing 106 and the non- rotating seal member 104. The expandable seal 1 18 is also radially retained in place through the engagement of the outer cylindrical surface of the straight portion 122 with an inner cylindrical surface of the stepped bore portion 1 16. Such engagement may be sufficient to maintain the expandable sea! ί 18 in position during operation with no internal pressure, or positive pressure, However, if the media channel 1 12 is exposed to negative pressure (vacuum), such as may be used to evacuate fluids within the media channel 1 12, the possibility may exist that the expandable sea! may e!astieaily deform, at least temporarily, and especially in areas along the radially outer cylindrical contact interfaces with the straight portions 122.

[0027] To ensure that continuous contact is present along the straight portions, the collars 124 are inserted internally in the straight portions 122, Each collar 124 forms a shaft section 134, which has a hollow cylindrical shape, and may optionally also include a ledge 135 (shown in F G. 4B), which extends radially outwardly relative to the shaft section. The ledge 135 may extend radially outvvardiy with respect to the shaft section 134 to an outer diameter that is larger than a typical inner diameter 138 of the media channel ί 12, or at least an inner diameter of a component that surrounds the expandable seal 1 I S such as the non-rotating seal member 104 and an opening 140 in the housing.

[0028] When inserted into each straight portion 122, each collar may be oriented such that the ledge 135 is disposed on the side of the bellows portion 120. in the illustrated embodiment, where no ledge is included, the coilars 124 are inserted fully into each respective straight portion 122 such that they fully cover, in an axial direction, an engagement region of the straight portions 122 with the housing or non-rotating seal member. When the expandable seal 1 18 is instalied in the rotary union 300, and the collars 124 are in position, each collar 124 is sized to impart a preselected radially outward and compressive force into the straight portion 122 of the expandable seal 3 38 to provide a sealing engagement between the two ends of the expandable sea! 1 18 and the respective mating component, which as can be seen in FIGS. 4A and 4B includes the housing 106 and the non-rotating seal member 104. When lubricants are used in the media channel 1 12. which may enter along the interfaces between the expandable seal ί 1 and the components in which it is installed, an axial force may tend to push either end of the sea! axia!ly with respect to its mating components. To limit such sliding conditions, the collar 124 acts to limit the axial motion of the straight portions 122.

[0029] Depending on the uncompressed length of the expandable sea! 1 18 along its centeriine, the expandable seal 1 1 8 can also be used to provide a pre-load or pre-tension to the rotating and non-rotating seal members 302 and 104. Such pre-tension may be augmented or supplemented in a static fashion by springs 136, which are illustrated in the exemplary embodiment of FIG. 4A and are shown as compression springs. More specifically, where certain rotary unions may include a spring tending to push the seal members into contact with one another, the spring and other secondary seals can be eliminated and replaced or assisted, as in the illustrated embodiment by the expandable seal 118, which fulfills the role of maintaining a fluid seal as the non-rotating seal member 104 moves with respect to the housing 106, and also can be selected such that it fulfills the role of pre-tensioning the seal members, i.e. pushing the seal members towards a seal engagement direction towards one another in an elastic fashion, if the length of the expandable seal 1 18 is selected to be larger than the axial opening for the seal that is provided. Dynamically, when a fluid under positive gage pressure is present in the media channel 1 12, the biasing force of the expandable seal 1 1 8 may be further augmented by a hydraulic force tending to expand the seal. In the illustrated embodiments, the expandable seal 1 1 8 includes a bellows with two convolutions, or bellows that are generally M-shaped, but a single or more than two convolutions can be used.

[0030] in reference now back to FIGS, 1 and 2, the rotary union 100 further includes two roller bearing assemblies 142 disposed between the housing 106 and the rotating machine component 108. More specifically, the housing 106 forms a bearing region 144 that accommodates one or more bearings 146, two of which are shown in the illustrated embodiment. The bearings 146 are shown as ball bearings, each including an outer race 148, an inner race 1 52, and a plurality of balls 154 disposed therebetween. Each outer race 148 and inner race 152 is formed as a ring, where the outer race 148 radially engages an inner generaliy cylindrical surface 1 6 of the bearing region 144 of the housing 106, and where the inner race 152 engages an outer generally cylindrical surface 1 58 of the rotating machine component 108. in the illustrated embodiment, the inner surface 156 of the bearing region 144 is formed in a metal insert 159 that is inserted and connected to the otherwise plastic housing 106.

[0031] The bearings 146 are axsaliy constrained within the inner generally cylindrical surface 156 by C-rings 160. When the C-rings 160 are sequentially removed, the entire assembly of rotating and non-rotating components and seal members can be removed from the housing 106 through a front opening 162 to advantageously facilitate assembly, disassembly and service of the rotary union 100. An inner C-ring 160 is disposed closer to the non-rotating seal member 104 and is engaged along an inner diameter thereof around the rotating machine component 108. An outer C-ring 160, which is disposed closer to the front opening 162, is engaged along an outer diameter thereof within the inner generally cylindrical surface 156 of the bearing region 144 of the housing 106. The housing 106 further forms one or more drain opening(s) 164 adjacent the sealing interface between the rotating sea! member 102 and the non-rotating seal member 104.

[0032] A rotor 166, which axially occupies a space between the inner bearing 146 and an annular end-surface of the bearing region 144, has a generally disc shape and is disposed around an inner end of the rotating machine component 108. The rotor 166 includes one or more magnets 68 disposed at regular angular intervals around a periphery thereof. An outer ledge 170 formed on the rotating machine component 108, in cooperation with the bearings 146 and the rotor 166, help to axially constrain and rotatably mount the rotating machine component 1 8 and the rotor 166 with respect to the housing.

[0033] The rotary union 100 described herein may be manufactured and assembled by various methods. In the illustrated embodiment, the main components of the rotary union 100, such as the housing 106, the rotating machine component 108 and, possibly, the rotor 166, are manufactured by use of plastic materials, which may be formed in any suitable way, including by use of three-dimensional printing machines. Metal inserts 107 may be added at the fluid interfaces of the housing 106. Alternatively, and depending on the operating environment of the rotary union, the type and temperature of the fluid that will at times occupy the media channel 1 12, some or ail of these and other components may be manufactured using different materials such as metal and different manufacturing methods.

[0034] Relevant to the present disclosure, the rotary union 100 further includes a sensor array 200 disposed in a pocket 202 that is defined in the housing S 06 and enclosed by a cover 204, as shown, for example, in FIGS. 1 and 2. In the illustrated embodiment, the pocket 202 is shown to be fluid ly separated or isolated from the media channel when the rotating and non-rotating seal members 102 and 104 are in contact. Further, the sensor array 200 has a portion that protrudes from the pocket and overlaps axially one of the drain openings 164 and also an interface of the rotating and non-rotating seal rings 102 and 104, The sensor array 200 in the illustrated embodiment is a fully-operative sensor array that includes one or more sensors arranged on a substrate, which also includes power and communication devices. In general, any type of fully-operative or independent sensor array may be used. Exemplary illustrations of the sensor array 200, which inhabits a circuit board 206. is shown from both sides in FIGS. 5 and 6. n reference to FIG. 5, which shows a front side of the array 200, the sensor array includes various components, including an antenna 206, a radio frequency connector 208, an accelerometer 209, two infrared (I ) temperature sensors 210 and 21 1 , a motion sensor 212, a humidity sensor 213, a micro-control unit (MCU) 214, but other sensors and devices may be used. As shown, the first IR temperature sensor 210 is disposed to measure a temperature of the housing 106, and the second IR temperature sensor 21 1 is disposed adjacent the non-rotating seai member 104 and configured to measure a temperature of the rotating and/or non-rotating seal members 102 and 104. Additional sensors may include fluid pressure sensors, strain gauges, and other sensors used for detecting, directly or indirectly, a pressure of the fluid media present in the media channel,

[0035] On its back side, as shown in FIG. 6, the sensor array 200 includes a memory- storage device 216, a magnetic pickup sensor 218, a power storage device 220, and other devices. These various devices and sensors may be used to advantageously detect, track, monitor, alert, notify and infer various operating parameters of the rotary union that can be used to determine the operating state and general operational parameters which could be used to determine the "health" of the rotary union 100 and the machine in which the rotary union 100 is operating. Data gathered could also he used to compare, analyze and optimize operations,

[0036] In one contemplated embodiment, the magnets 168 disposed along the rotor 166 may be used to generate a rotating magnetic field during operation of the union 100, which can be used to generate electrical power at a coi! to charge a power storage device 220 or, in general, to power the sensor array 200, The coil, which can be embodied along with the magnetic pickup sensor 218, or another equivalent electrical component, can provide a solution for powering the sensor array 200 as well as recharging the battery, thus eliminating the need to periodically change batteries. Along these lines, other power sources may be used such as piezoelectric elements operating to generate electrical potential when the union vibrates, photovoltaic cells for applications where the union is exposed to natural or artificial lighting, and the like, In an alternative embodiment, the power storage device 220 may be embodied as a battery, which can be replaced when its power has depleted, or it can also be a connection for a wired supply of elec trical power from an external source.

[0037] More specifically, various signals indicative of the physical conditions of the rotary union and its surrounding environment can be generated by the various sensors in the sensor array 200 and communicated to the MCU 214 for processing and/or transmission to an external receiver tor relay to a machine operator or monitor. In the exemplary embodiment shown and described in the present disclosure, the antenna 206 and/or radio frequency connector 208 may be used to effect wireless communication of information to and from the sensor array, as will be described below relative to FIG. 7. Regarding the various sensor signals that can be used to determine or monitor rotary union health, the temperature sensor 210 may be used to monitor the temperature of, or the space or material immediately around, the rotary union 100 as an indication of the condition of the rotating and non-rotating seal members .102 and 104, Additionally, this or other sensors or sensor arrays may be used to monitor and record fluid pressure and/or fluid temperature of the working media. In this respect, dry running or excessive friction at the sealing interface during operation will raise the temperature of the seal members relative to the housing, and thus heat the surrounding structures in the rotary union, which will cause an increase in the temperature sensed by the temperature sensor 21 1 , which will be reflected i the temperature signal provided to the MCU 214 as a temperature difference that can be used to determine a seal failure.

[0Θ38] Similarly, other sensors may be used to determine the operating state of the rotary union 100, The humidity sensor 213 may be used to sense the presence or an increase in humidity, which can be an indication of seal leakage. n one embodiment, to avoid false- positive leakage signals, the MCU 214, in the presence of cold fluid passing through the media channel ] 12 in a humid environment, may detect humidity from condensation and not signal a leakage unless additional indications of a leakage are provided, for example, a heating of the seal interface and fluid motion through at least one of the drain openings. The magnetic pickup sensor 218 may sense the magnets 168 (FIG. 2) as they pass by the sensor 218 while the rotary union 100 operates and the rotor 166 (FIG. 2) is rotating to provide an indication of the speed of rotation, and also of the number of revolutions the rotary union has undergone, which in conjunction with a counter can provide an indication of the service life of the rotary union 100. The accelerometer 209 may sense vibration in the rotar union 100 to provide an indication of the balance and, thus, the structural state of the rotating components within the rotary union 100 and those components connected to the union to detect structural issues associated with the rotary union 100 or the machine in which the rotary union 100 is installed. Other sensors may also be used to monitor and record flow rate and/or pressure of the fluid media.

[0039] The various operating parameter signals generated by the sensors discussed above, and possibly additional or different signals generated by other sensors, may be continuously transmitted in real time, or at least during operation of the rotary union 100, to a control center 300, as shown in the schematic diagram shown in FIG. ?. FIG. 7 shows two out of numerous other possible embodiments for the wireless communication of information between the rotary union 100 and, specifically, the sensor array 200, and the control center 300. In the illustrated, exemplary embodiments, two options are shown.

[0040] in a first option, shown on the left side of FIG. 7, the antenna 206 (shown in FIG. 5) of a rotary union 100 installed in a machine 301 is configured to transmit and receive information either via an appropriate wireless network, and/or through a wired connection, in the illustrated embodiment, a local area network (LAN) 304 is used to communicate with a mobile computing device 302, but any other wireless network such as a wide area network (WAN), or a direct wifi connection may be used. The mobile computing device 302 may be embodied in any known type of device, including a Smartphone, tablet, portable computer, or wireless signal gateway device. The mobile computing device may be a handheld device or may alternatively be a device that is integrated with, or part of, a larger machine such as the machine 301 into which the rotary union 100 is installed and operating, in addition to the wireless connection to the network 304, the mobile computing device further includes an internet connection 306 that connects the mobile computing device 302 to the Internet 308. The internet connection 306 may be direct, for example, via a cellular data connection, or indirect such as over wifi. In one embodiment, the functionality of the control center 300 may be integrated locally into the mobile computing device 302, thus obviating the need for further connections. As can be appreciated, the Internet 308 may be part of the world wide web, or may alternatively be a distributed network operating in a cloud configuration across multiple locations simultaneously. In this arrangement, the control center 300 is configured to exchange information with the rotary union 100 via the Internet 308 by use of a dedicated connection 310. Because of the range limitations of certain types of networks, and also the flexibility of using a mobile computing device, the first option may be well suited for smaller installations where a handful of machines 301 are installed in relatively close proximity to one another. For larger installations, a second option may be used, which is shown on the right side of FIG. 7.

[0041] In the second option, the antenna 206 (shown in FIG. 5) of a rotary union 100 installed in a machine 31 1 is configured to transmit and receive information wireless!y in a dedicated low-power, local area network 312 or, in an alternative embodiment, a wide area network. The local area network 3 12 is a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh network standard targeted at wide development of Song battery life devices in wireless control and monitoring applications. Information over the network 3 12 may be managed by a dedicated gateway device 314, which may be a standalone device handling one or more rotary unions 100 operating in the same or multiple machines 31 1 , The gateway traffics information from the network 312 to an Internet connection 216, which is connected to the internet 308 and thus to the control center 300. Alternatively, the connection to the control center 300 may be made directly with the rotary union 100 in a configuration of the union that is capable of direct internet connection. Apart from these two options, additional embodiments can include a direct wifi, wired network, or cellular data network connection between the rotary union 100 and the control center 300.

[0042] in the information exchange systems shown in FIG. 7, various diagnostic and monitoring functions relative to the rotary union 100 can be realized. For example, customized mobile applications operating in the mobile computing device 302, or specialized computer applications operating in computers located at the control center 300, can be used to monitor the operation of specific rotary unions 3 0 to assess their operating state either locally or remotely. Such applications can provide further advantages such as automating rotary union re-orders, to replace unions that are determined to he neartng their service life by use of these systems, providing troubleshooting guides for unusual operating conditions detected by the sensor arrays 200, and even providing a live connection to a customer or technical specialist via chat or phone connection when issues are encountered.

[0043] A " flowchart for a method of operating a rotary union is shown in FIG. 8. The method includes operating the rotary union in a machine at 402. In accordance with the disclosure, the rotary union includes a sensor array that is integrated with the rotary union and includes wireless communication capability, in an optional embodiment, operation of the rotary union includes using a rotational motion of the union to generate electrical power to operate the sensor array at 404. The method of operating the union further includes sensing one or more operating parameters of the rotary union using one or more sensors of the sensor array at 406. Each of one or more sensors generates a sensor signal at 408, which sensor signal is received and/or processed by a control unit at 410. The control unit 410 effects a transmission of the sensor signal(s) to a control center at 412, In one embodiment, the control unit 410 is further configured to store the sensor signals using an on-board memory storage device. The stored sensor signals, which may also include time-stamp, date and other information, may be available for later retrieval from the control unit. Moreover, the control center 412 may be a centrally located processing center for one or more unions, and additionally or alternatively may be a mobile electronic device that is present in close physical proximity to the rotary union, either permanently or transiently as an operator passes by the rotary union carrying the mobile electric device, for example, during a live inspection of the operating state of the union,

[0044] The control center receives and processes the sensor signal(s) 414 to diagnose an operating state of the rotary union at 416. in the event of an abnormal operating condition, which is determined at 418, the control center may initiate a mitigation process at 420, which includes bin is not limited to informing a machine operator of the abnormal operating condition or, depending on the preferences of the operator, automatically recommend to the operator and/or automatically initiate, with prior authorization of the machine operator, shipment of a replacement rotary union, in addition, the determination at 418 may automatically prompt or initiate creation and transmission of an alert to a subscriber, informing the subscriber of the operating state of the union,

[ΘΘ45] A flowchart for a method of detecting a seal failure in a rotary device is shown in FIG. 9. The method includes operating the device at 502, which includes operating at least two temperature sensors and a controller. The first temperature sensor is configured to measure a temperature associated with a mechanical interface between the rotating and the non-rotating members, for example, by measuring the body temperature of the rotating and/or non-rotating members at 504, The members may be seal rings or may alternatively be electrical connection rings when the rotary device is embodied as a slip ring. In one embodiment, the temperature at 504 is acquired using an IR sensor, The second temperature sensor is configured to measure a temperature associated with the housing of the rotary device, for example, a bulk housing material temperature at 506. The controller receives the first and second temperature readings at 508, and compares the body temperature to the mechanical interface temperature at 510. When the first and second temperatures are within a predetermined range of one another at 512, the monitoring continues. When the first temperature exceeds the second temperature by a predetermined amount at 514, the controller may signal a fault at 51 6,

[0046] A flowchart for a method of detecting a leak, which avoids false positive leak indications, is shown in FIG. 10, The method includes operating the rotary device at 602, which includes operating a leak sensor, a humidity sensor, a fluid temperature sensor, a housing temperature sensor and, optionally, a motion sensor and also an IR temperature sensor. The leak sensor monitors for presence of fluid at a drain passage at 604, the hum idity sensor monitors ambient humidity at 606, th fluid temperature monitors fluid media temperature 608 that is present in the media channel, the housing temperature sensor measures the temperature of the housing at 610, and the IR temperature sensor measures a temperature at the interface between the rotating and non-rotating seal members at 612. The motion sensor may optionally measure vibration of the rotary union. All signals are provided to the controller, which combines the various sensor signals into a set at 614, and compares the set to one or more predefined sets of conditions present in memory at 616. When the set matches a leak condition set present in memory, the controller signals a fault at 618, or otherwise continues monitoring the various parameters as previously described.

[0047] The sets present in memory also include sets determined to be false positives, even if the leak sensor provides a leak indication, due to operating effects. For example, in high ambient humidity of a union operating with a cold fluid, which also coo!s the housing, condensation may form around the leak sensor without an actual leak being present. The predefined sets stored in memory may, for instance, indicate whether the temperature of the union during operation is below a dew point for the given ambient humidity, in which case, without a further indication of failure, it may be presumed that liquid water is condensing on the union rather than leaking from within the union. Accordingly, a leak signal may be provided under condensation circumstances only if another failure indication is also present, tor instance, an overheating seal interface, excessive vibration of the union, and the like.

[0048] All references, including publications, patent applications, technical

documentation and user manuals, patents, and other material cited herein are hereby- incorporated by reference to the same extent as if each reference were individually and specifically indicated to be incorporated by reference and were set forth in its entirety herein. [ΘΘ49] The use of the terms "a" and "an" and "the" and similar referents in the context of describing the invention (especially in the context of the following claims) are to be construed to cover both the singular and the plural, unless otherwise indicated herein or clearly contradicted by context. The terms "comprising," "having," "including," and "containing" are to be construed as open-ended terms (i.e., meaning "including, but not limited to,") unless otherwise noted. Recitation of ranges of values herein are merely intended to serve as a shorthand method of referring individually to each separate value falling within the range, unless otherwise indicated herein, and each separate value is incorporated into the specification as if it were individually recited herein. Ail methods described herein can be performed in any suitable order unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context. The use of any and ail examples, or exemplary language (e.g., "such as") provided herein, is intended merely to better illuminate the invention and does not pose a limitation on the scope of the invention unless otherwise claimed, No language in the specification should be construed as indicating any non-elaimed element as essential to the practice of the invention,

[0050J Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.