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Early Warning To Plant Operators Provided By Oil analysis and vibration monitoring

Today, modern lubricants are regarded as ‘high end construction parts’ that play an integral role within the equipment or machine on which they are used. It is therefore critical that any systems set up to monitor the condition of a machine are also capable of monitoring the condition of the lubricant.

The latest generation of condition monitoring systems do just this, enabling plant operators to monitor both the condition of lubricating oils and the vibration of critical components such as gears and rolling bearings, on a wide range of heavy duty rotating plant and machinery.

Industrial gears and gearboxes, for example, are critical to the smooth operation of heavy plant, including wind turbines. If excess wear or damage is allowed to develop within a gearbox, this could result in secondary damage to other drive train systems, leading to high repair costs and costly downtime.

Fixed (online) condition monitoring systems can be set up to monitor both the condition of the lubricating oil and the vibration of rotating parts, enabling the early detection of damage to heavy duty, oil-lubricated industrial gears. Schaeffler’s FAG Wear Debris Check oil monitoring system indicates damage or wear to bearings, cages and gears within a gearbox or other industrial gear unit. The system requires no calibration and is suitable for use in almost every industry sector, including wind turbine gearbox drive trains, providing plant operators with a reliable system for preventing unplanned downtime and reducing MRO costs.

The system’s oil monitor works by utilising an inductive particle counter (sensor), which is able to distinguish between ferrous and non-ferrous metal particles that are present in the lubricating oil. On a typical gearbox application, the particle counter or sensor is installed in the oil flow, directly before the oil filter, or as a separate circuit. The sensor operates on the principle that any wear to a component such as a bearing or gear tooth will result in small metal particles being rubbed off into the oil, often several months prior to an actual failure.

The sensor provides information on the number of particulates present in the oil, and then classifies these according to their physical size. Analysing the oil in this way enables damage and wear to the gears to be detected much earlier, even in planetary gearboxes used on wind turbines.

In addition to oil analysis, the FAG Wear Debris Check can be set up to operate in conjunction with online condition monitoring systems, including Schaeffler’s FAG WiPro s, a system dedicated to the condition monitoring of wind turbines. This means that companies can also monitor the vibration behaviour of the machine and its components, including rolling bearings and gear wheels. By using special interfaces, these systems can be easily integrated with online vibration monitoring systems, which can be adapted or retrofitted to suit customer requirements. By installing vibration sensors on the machine or gearbox that needs to be monitored, changes in the operating behaviour are detected, indicating early signs of damage. This enables the plant to start suitable repair work or plan some scheduled maintenance in order to prevent failure of the machine, resulting in costly production downtime.

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