INTELLIGENT AIR COMPRESSOR
FIELD OF INVENTION
The present invention relates, in general, to air compressors and, more particularly, this invention relates to air compressors used on locomotives for supplying compressed air to brake systems and other uses and, still more particularly, it relates to an air compressor arrangement in which a computer or microprocessor is employed to read the outputs of sensors located at critical locations on and/or in the air compressor and its associated apparatus for the purpose of providing information on the operating condition of the air compressor and such associated apparatus and for shutting down the compressor upon the occurrence of a critical event.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Air compressors in locomotives supply pressurized air to the brake equipment disposed on the locomotives and any railway cars connected to the locomotives as well as for other air utilizing systems (such as air operated horns). The operation of the air compressor is critical in that without the pressurized air supplied by the compressor the locomotive and cars cannot be braked for slowing and stopping purposes. Yet, as a component located in a locomotive, the compressor is generally unattended other than when appropriate checks and maintenance procedures are undertaken.
The air compressor in a locomotive per se operates under the control of a governor. Such governor senses the need for increased air pressure and orders the compressor to supply such air pressure. In addition, when the air pressure has been re-supplied to a certain predetermined psi level, the governor turns off the air compressor.
When the air compressor is off, residual air in the compressor and associated components can be unloaded by operation of a magnet valve in an unloader line so that the air compressor, when ordered to restart, does not have to start against such residual pressure. This protects the electric motor employed to drive the compressor, if the compressor is driven by such a motor, i.e., some compressors are driven directly off the diesel engine of the locomotive, as is well known in the railway art.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
What is therefore needed in the locomotive air compressor art and what the present invention supplies is a means for diagnosing the operating conditions and parameters of an air compressor, and reporting the same to an operator/engineer of the locomotive as well as providing controls that will stop the air compressor in the event of a critical event, such as excessive air pressure, excessive compressor or motor temperature or a loss of oil and/or oil pressure in the compressor. This is effected by locating a plurality of sensors at critical locations in association with the air compressor and in any apparatus associated therewith. Such sensors output electrical signals to an information processor having embedded therein electrical controls and information providing architecture that are effective for purposes, such as (1) continuing normal compressor operations, (2) noting the need for routine and/or extraordinary compressor maintenance and (3) ordering shut-down of the compressor.
OBJECTIVES OF THE INVENTION
It is, therefore, an objective of the invention to provide an "intelligent" air compressor capable of providing its own diagnostics of critical conditions occurring in the compressor.
Another objective is to provide a computer, or a dedicated microprocessor, having circuit architecture that permits the incorporation of features to provide automatic protection of an air compressor as well as the automatic supply of
5 information to an operator of a locomotive concerning the condition of the air compressor.
Still another objective is to provide an information processor that enables the user thereof to load and unload an air compressor, to start and stop the air compressor and to note
1° the occurrence of both a cut-in and a cut-out of such air compressor.
A further objective is to provide a computer or microprocessor that reports the need for maintenance of the air compressor, which maintenance may include the replace15 ment of degraded components.
Another objective of the invention is to use a computer in the cab of a locomotive, or a dedicated microprocessor in the locomotive, that will call for the shutdown of an air com2Q pressor in the locomotive on the occurrence of a critical event, such as low oil pressure in the compressor, overheating of the compressor or a worn component in the air compressor as sensed by appropriate sensors.
Yet another objective is to provide a system that will 25 monitor the quality of the compressed air entering the locomotive compressed air system.
Still yet another objective is to provide a system in which the temperature, humidity, oil and particulate content can be measured.
30 In addition to the objectives and advantages listed above, various additional objectives and advantages of the intelligent air compressor operation system will become more readily apparent to those persons who are skilled in the air compressor art from a reading of the detailed description
35 section of this document. These additional objectives and advantages will become particularly apparent when such description is taken in conjunction with the attached drawing Figures and with the appended claims.
40 BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a schematic representation of the processes of the invention using a plurality of sensors and a locomotive computer connected to receive outputs of such sensors and 45 use the same in response thereto; and
FIG. 2 is a schematic representation similar to that of FIG. 1 except that a dedicated microprocessor is used to receive sensor outputs and use the same in response thereto.
50 BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF A PRESENTLY
PREFERRED AND VARIOUS ALTERNATIVE
EMBODIMENTS OF THE PRESENT
Prior to proceeding to the more detailed description of the present invention, it should be noted that identical components having identical functions have been designated with identical reference numerals throughout the drawing Figures
go for the sake of clarity and understanding of the invention. Refer now, more particularly, to the drawings, wherein a schematic diagram of the system and processes of the invention are presented. As shown therein an information processor, such as a locomotive computer 10, or a dedicated
65 microprocessor 40 (FIG. 2), which can be a portable laptop computer, for example, is electrically connected to a plurality of sensors generally designated by numerals 12, 14 and