By Rob McPherson
Identifying equipment issues prior to equipment failure prevents the need to replace a complete unit. If an operator checks for the following common signs during the operation of a pump or gearbox, it may allow for greater reliability leading to savings in a reduction of unplanned downtime and an economical repair of a unit verses a complete unit replacement.
One common sign of potential equipment failure is misalignment of a coupled pump to the motor or a gearbox to the drive component. A pump can also be damaged if either the inlet or outlet is misaligned due to pipe strain. Misalignment allows the bearings to fail prematurely leading to heavy vibrations as described in the section below. Correct installation, including laser alignment after the unit has ran for a short period of time, will assure proper loads on the bearings per the manufacturer design points. Periodic inspection including alignment checks assist in preventing equipment failure. If a unit is found to be out of alignment after running for a period of time, it is recommended the unit be inspected to assure no additional damage has occurred as a result of the misalignment.
Determining vibration levels at start-up, during operation and timely intervals throughout the life of a unit is an integral part of identifying a problem before it becomes a major failure. Early vibration detection in rotating equipment provides a sign of forthcoming failure. Within a pump, vibration can be a sign of cavitation, impeller erosion, improperly balanced impeller, loose shaft, failed bearings or a coupling issue. Within a gearbox, this early detection can be a sign of a damaged gear or failed bearings.
Decreased efficiencies within an operating system can also be a sign of a problem within a pump. Pumps are designed to run at the best efficiency point (BEP), the point where a pump provides the most cost-effective operation with energy efficiency and maintenance. By using a flow meter, one can monitor the efficiency of a pump system and assist in determining changes within the unit, such as increased wear ring clearances requiring inspection and/or repair.
Monitoring rotating equipment’s lubrication system and completing oil analysis can provide an early indication of equipment problems. Oil can display signs of increased heat, contamination from the product and bearing life. Proper oil analysis can also provide a cost savings in oil usage if the oil shows no signs of problems.
While the above are not the only indicators of forthcoming problems with rotating equipment, each is a place to begin to assist in preventing unplanned downtime and catastrophic failures. Repair costs can be limited the earlier a unit is removed from service and inspected due to misalignment, increased vibrations, decreased efficiencies and oil/lubrication monitoring.
OTP Industrial Solutions is pleased to assist with the inspection of alignment, vibration monitoring and oil analysis. Contact your local OTP sales representative or office location to discuss your rotating equipment needs for additional resources and assistance.