Success Stories – GasTOPS Ltd.

The Company

GasTOPS, founded in 1979, is a privately held technology-based company that provides innovative fluid sensing and analysis systems as well as specialized technical services for the support of machinery monitoring, control and maintenance systems. The company has operations at 3 locations in Canada (Ottawa, Ontario; Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John's, NFLD & Labrador). Internationally, they maintain a network of strategic partnerships in Europe, China, Middle East, Malaysia, Japan and Russia as well as an Application Centre in Huntsville, Alabama which focuses on providing technical solutions to the US military.

With a staff of close to 125 personnel, including over 30 engaged in R&D, GasTOPS serves clients in a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, defence, marine, energy and industrial sectors.

GasTOPS' solutions are deployed wherever machinery applications demand high standards of safety, reliability, equipment readiness and cost-effective operations including aircraft engines and gearboxes, wind turbines and railway locomotives, to name a few.

The Project

GasTOPS' SADI project Development of a Laser-based Oil Analyzer for At-line Assessment of Jet Engines project was a 3-year $3 million R&D initiative that has resulted in the development of new technologies and value-added diagnostics tools at a speed and scope necessary to capture new markets. Chip detector debris and oil analysis are important predictive maintenance techniques that provide meaningful and accurate information on both lubricant and machine conditions. By tracking chip detector debris and oil analysis sample results over the life of a particular machine, trends can be established which can help eliminate costly repairs and improve engine safety.

On-site chip detector debris and oil analysis using a laser-based optical analytical tool is a leading-edge technology. Currently, the debris on a chip detector is typically examined by a technician to provide a go/no-go decision. If inconclusive, the chip debris and possibly anoil sample are sent for laboratory analysis (which can take days to complete) and is susceptible to possible contamination, errors in testing and thus unreliable outcomes. It can also result in additional down time for the aircraft fleet or equipment. This new platform is expected to result in a paradigm shift in how critical machinery is maintained and tested by allowing for a full realm of debris analysis to be completed on site (adjacent to the machinery) using a Canadian designed and manufactured product. Furthermore, the project will enhance Canada's competitiveness and knowledge base in the use of laser-based optical analysis tools, which has the potential for various widespread applications in aerospace, marine, energy, rail and industrial sectors.

"The work undertaken as part of the SADI activities is a ground breaking technology that will allow operators to effectively and efficiently assess the degradation of their machinery at-line, allowing for improved performance and reduced maintenance costs."

John Turner, Program Manager, Software Systems, GasTOPS

Results

This capability in laser design and spectrometry has resulted in several new prototypes; ChipCHECK (rugged, field deployable, low-cost laser-based diagnostic tool), and a separate device to make patches (prepare the oil sample for testing).

GasTOPS' rugged field deployable maintenance decision support tool
ChipCHECK: GasTOPS' rugged field deployable maintenance decision support tool developed during the SADI project

These emerging technologies have subsequently increased the overall competitiveness of GasTOPS in the marketplace and will allow them to excel in the analytical tools and software for machine condition monitoring. ChipCHECK's speed and flexibly of analysis offers significant advances over traditional methods as it can be deployed in the field, is extremely simple to use and requires little or no maintenance. Currently ChipCHECK has the capability to perform the analysis of a sample within minutes, allowing for a rapid and reliable assessment of engine health, which is a significant improvement over current oil analysis techniques which have a typical turnaround time of days.

In addition, the SADI project has also allowed GasTOPS to improve their human resource capacity particularly in the area of (i) optics engineering, (ii) analytical spectroscopy and (iii) laser design and safety. These enhanced capabilities are transferable to future projects and constitute key assets and skills sets to remain technical leaders in the area of Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and to continue to evolve the technology to meet market needs.

Over the course of the SADI project, GasTOPS worked in collaboration with both Carleton University and Queen's University's Co-op programs to sponsor a number of engineering students per academic term (approximately 6 over the course of the SADI project). GasTOPS has subsequently hired several of the students on a full time basis. In the view of GasTOPS, the students were given significant opportunity to contribute to the development work and in turn, the experience exposed them to real world R&D in an interesting and innovative environment.

In Summary

The use of these advanced diagnostic tools, which has already had favorable reviews from potential customers, will deliver real-time results that will allow customers to (i) schedule maintenance before a failure occurs (ii) avoid the expense of unrequired maintenance (iii) avoid the disruption of taking an engine out of service unnecessarily. The result is higher equipment availability, greater productivity, lower maintenance costs, and optimal equipment performance.

The successful development and commercialization of the new laser-based oil analysis products developed as part of this SADI project is important to the company's strategic growth and future market position. The project is expected to allow GasTOPS to be the first to market with this leading edge technology and enhance Canada's knowledge base in the use of laser-based optical analytical tools, which has the potential for various widespread applications in aerospace as well as energy, marine, rail and industrial sectors. It will allow GasTOPS to expand its current product line and continue to focus on the key object of its business, which is to improve the maintenance productivity and safety of mission critical equipment for their customers while delivering long-term cost-savings as well as environmental and safety benefits.

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