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02 Sep

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One of the greatest opportunities our technical engineers have is the chance to walk through various plants around the country. They visited power plants, food-processing plants, refineries, manufacturing facilities and a long list of others.

During these trips and audits, they have discovered several recurring lubrication issues that seem to be widespread throughout the industry. The following is a list of the most common problems and how they should be resolved.

1. Lack of Procedures:

Great lubrication programs are only as good as the people who do the work. However, the retirement of technicians has been the problem of greatest concern.

As a lot of people are reaching retirement age and subsequently retiring, they are taking with them a great deal of personal experience and knowledge of how they do their jobs.

Documented procedures can lessen the blow and help new personnel understand the proper way a task should be performed.

You want to write a procedure not only for the application of lubricants (oil changes, re-greasing, etc.) but also for how lubricants are handled in storage, decontaminated upon arrival and even disposed of after use.

Procedures should be developed with best practices in mind. For example, new oil should be sampled upon delivery to confirm its properties and tested for contaminants. If necessary, the new oil should be decontaminated before being released for service or put into bulk storage containers. In other words, you must design procedures in a manner that enables the lubrication program to reach a world-class level.

2. Improper Sampling Points and Hardware:

If used correctly, oil analysis can be an extremely valuable tool. It allows you to monitor not only the health of the oil but also the health of the machine, as well as catch failures before they become catastrophic. In order to obtain all the benefits of oil analysis, you first must have the correct sample points and hardware.

All machines to be included in the oil analysis program should be evaluated for the proper sampling hardware. Splash-bathed components such as bearings and gearboxes can be equipped with minimized sampling valves with pilot tube extensions.

Circulating systems should be examined for the best possible sampling points as well. These systems typically require several points.

3. Over greasing

Most plants I visit do not recognize that grease guns are precision instruments. They also fail to see the problems that can be caused by the misuse of grease guns.

Just like many other people, I was taught to grease a bearing by simply attaching the grease gun and working the lever until grease was seen purging from somewhere.

While this may be effective for hinge pins and other applications where purging grease won’t cause damage, it shouldn’t be employed for all grease applications.

Over greasing is a very common problem and can result in higher operating temperatures, premature bearing failure and an increased risk of contaminant ingression.

Bearings require a set volume of grease to be properly lubricated. A popular formula used to determine the volume of grease needed is the outside diameter (in inches) multiplied by the width (in inches) multiplied by 0.114.

This will provide the volume of grease in ounces that the bearing requires. Make your life easier and use our handy calculator for determining bearing grease volume and frequency.

Once you have calculated the volume of grease for the bearing, you need to know how much grease the grease gun is dispelling per stroke. To do this, simply pump 10 shots of grease onto a plate and weigh it on a digital scale. Next, divide the weight of the grease by 10.

This will give you the amount per stroke of output. Remember, certain grease guns can produce pressures up to 15,000 psi and can cause numerous problems if not properly managed.

While calculating the re grease requirements for all bearings onsite and determining the output of grease guns are a great place to start, there are other concerns that must be addressed as well. For instance, the output of grease can vary between guns.

The best way to counteract this problem is to standardize with a single type of grease gun so the output will be similar for each one. Grease guns should also be dedicated to a single type of grease and checked at least once a year.

4. Lack of a Labeling System:

Labeling is a key part of any world-class lube program. Not only does it reduce the chance for cross-contamination by minimizing confusion as to which lubricants go where, it also allows individuals who may not be as familiar with the lube program to top-up with the correct oil or grease.

Of course, labels can be used for more than just identifying lubricants. On a recent project, the lube labels were barcoded to allow all assets in the plant to be integrated into the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for automatic work-order generation.

The best label design incorporates a color/shape scheme for each lubricant used. This offers a quick visual reference as to which lubricant is inside the machine.

ROCOL has developed the Lubricant Identification System (LIS), which includes all basic information for a machine type such as base oil, application and viscosity. As mentioned previously, once a labeling system has been established, the labels should be applied to all lubricant storage containers and application devices.

5. Use of OEM Breathers and Dust Caps:

Most original equipment manufacturer (OEM) accessories like breathers do little to restrict the ingression of tiny particles into oil and critical spaces, which can damage machine surfaces. Some of these breathers are simply a cap filled with steel wool or a mesh screen that serves as a block for larger particles.

Considering the lubricant film in a journal bearing is approximately 5 to 10 microns, any particles of this size contaminating the oil will greatly increase the likelihood of wear and subsequent machine failure.

These tolerance-sized particles do the greatest damage and have the highest probability of causing machine wear.

Not only do many OEM breathers allow particles into the oil, they also do nothing to restrict moisture from entering the oil. Oil is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs moisture from the ambient air. In areas with high humidity or steam, moisture will pass through these types of breathers and be absorbed into the oil, causing rust, increased oxidation and hydrolysis rates, and a higher corrosive potential of acids formed by oxidation and hydrolysis.

OEM breathers should be replaced with higher quality versions to restrict particulate and moisture ingression. With several breather manufacturers on the market, the key is to get the breather that is right for your particular environment and operating conditions. In very dry environments, a spin-on particulate filter may work fine provided that ambient humidity is low. In more moist environments, a hybrid-style breather may be the best choice.

This type of breather employs a particulate filter to trap hard particles followed by a desiccating phase to strip moisture from the incoming air. All of these breathers can be threaded into the current breather port for quick and easy installation.

28 Jul

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All gearboxes must receive periodic maintenance including an oil change. Oil should be checked regularly for contamination from dirt, debris, and other fluids such as water. The oil should also be changed periodically based on hours of operation and on oil temperature. Oil that operates at elevated temperatures (above 150° F) needs to be changed more often than oil that operates at 120° F. As the temperature increases up to 180° F, the oil change frequency increases significantly. Elevated temperatures accelerate the breakdown of the oil’s molecular structure thereby inhibiting its ability to form a protective film. If oil continuously operates above 200° F, a circulating lube oil system should be considered to cool the oil.

American Gear Manufacturers Association recommends that oil is supposed to be changed after the first 500 hours or 4 weeks of operation, whichever comes first. After the initial operation of the unit, AGMA recommends that oil 
is supposed to be changed every 2500 hours of operation or every 6 months, whichever comes first. AGMA further suggests that these intervals can be adjusted based on the gearbox system configuration as recommended by the manufacturer. Furthermore, having a condition monitoring program that identifies changes in the lubricant such as color, viscosity, oxidation, water concentration, contaminant concentration, percentage of sludge, and change in oil chemistry is important. There also a lot of additives that can be implemented to extend the lubricant change intervals.

In addition to oil, the physical condition of the gearbox including the foundation, protective coating, seals, breathers, circulating oil system, couplings, and bearings should be inspected periodically.  A problem with any of these items identified in the early stage by plant personnel can help avoid a catastrophic premature failure of the gearbox. A worn bearing may cause wear on gear teeth, but prolonged operation in this condition can lead to more severe conditions resulting in broken gear teeth which can feed to other gears in the train and cause damage to more components that might not have otherwise required replacement. An adverse condition may not be obvious to the operator but a periodic inspection of the gearing and any changes or acceleration in wear patterns indicate that something has changed and it should be investigated.

Condition monitoring programs evaluate changes in operating parameters and provide valuable quantitative data that can help forecast when failures might occur. These services can be performed by in-house personnel or contracted. Oil temperature, level, and condition, vibration, noise and physical condition of seals and breathers are some of the parameters that should be monitored. After an initial baseline evaluation of the system, periodic inspections, photographs, and data analysis are used to identify and evaluate any changes or trends that might signal a problem.

14 Jul

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Since there are different types of lubricants that a facility may use, it’s essential for plant and production managers to have an understanding of lubricant usages and the benefits of their implementation for their machines &products longevity and safety.

18 Aug

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Productivity and extended uptime are key in today’s economy. Automatic lubrication systems have been designed to increase uptime of machines and vehicles. Next to that, automatic lubrication offers more advantages in terms of cost savings, durability, productivity and safety.

1- The Multi-point Challenge: Food and beverage manufacturing operations often have hundreds or even thousands of lubrication points in a single facility. Although automatic lubrication systems have been around for decades, much of this work is still conducted using manual labor, particularly when the lubricant is grease. While the food and beverage industry is moving toward higher-speed, higher-volume automated equipment, it is becoming increasingly impractical for the industry to depend on labor-intensive manual grease gun lubrication. ''Bearing giant SKF has estimated that 57 percent of all bearing failures are lubrication-related," explains Richard Hanley, president of Lubrication Scientifics. "That rate can be reduced dramatically by automating the lubrication process, which ensures that the right amount and type of lubrication are delivered to every equipment bearing point." Automated lubrication systems can be used in a wide variety of industries in addition to food processing, including the pulp and paper, chemical processing, steel, petrochemical and mining industries. From an economic point of view, the payback period for most of these systems is less than a year. In some cases, engineered lubrication systems with advanced monitoring capabilities can save millions of dollars in downtime costs per year. Automated lubrication systems eliminate the cost and sometimes hazardous task of manually applying controlled amounts of lubricant to multiple equipment locations at frequent time intervals while the equipment is operating. "More frequent delivery of smaller amounts of lubricant is particularly important to bearing points on high-speed equipment," Hanley says. "This prevents overheating the bearings due to excessive lubricant buildup and ensures longer operating life."

2- The harsh environments: Food-processing plants are exposed to some of the harshest environmental factors, including extreme room temperatures and mandatory caustic wash-down procedures. U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require all processing lines and equipment be adequately sanitized as often as necessary. In the food-processing industry, corrosion problems are normally prevented through the use of equipment made of stainless steel. However, since a broad offering of stainless-steel metering valves has not been readily available, the only effective anti-corrosion solution for automatic lubrication system components has been to enclose the plated-carbon-steel metering valves into stainless-steel enclosures.

3- System Types: automated lubrication systems can be beneficial for plants that need to supply precise lubricant amounts to many points, ensuring longer machine life, safe operation, reduced unscheduled downtime and more economical operating costs. Automatic lubrication systems come in many types, such as single-line parallel, series progressive, dual line and multi-line, each with its specific advantages and application areas. Because of this wide range, generally any application can be lubricated with an automatic lubrication system.


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