Archive | Lubrication


5:41 pm
June 23, 2017
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Real-Time Lube Intelligence System

1705mtprod01pSensei real-time lubrication intelligence system wirelessly transmits oil level and ambient air temperature to a customizable, web-based dashboard. The system includes three components. An oil sensor measures oil level, oil consumption and ambient temperature. A gateway/router receives data and transmits it to the cloud. The gateway accommodates as many as 64 sensors at a radius of 250 ft. Repeaters expand the network as needed. The third component is an intuitive, web-based dashboard for real-time intelligence with no need to install software. The dashboard is customizable with displays for oil level by device, daily alerts, and other functions.
Trico Corp.
Pewaukee, WI


6:17 pm
June 16, 2017
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Help Your Air Compressors Beat the Heat

Atlas Copco USA - Spring Cleaning

Special summertime attention to several maintenance items can help keep compressed air systems up and running efficiently despite increased heat and humidity.

Summertime: The word conjures up images of relaxing on a beach with peaceful waves lapping at the shore. Most people equate summer with some degree of fun in the sun. For facility mangers, though, it can be a stressful time, given the unscheduled “vacations” that air compressors like to take during summer months and an associated rise in maintenance and energy costs.

With often-extreme temperatures and substantial increases in humidity, summertime presents textbook conditions for unexpected compressor shutdowns. Failure of this equipment can result in high repair costs and, more important, a disruption in production schedules that can lead to more costs and, ultimately, less revenue.

What can your operations do to battle the effect of summer on these systems? Beth Morgan of Atlas Copco Compressors (, Rock Hill, SC) points to the following items that deserve special attention in terms of summer maintenance.

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Sufficient and temperate airflow is crucial to compressor performance. During the sweltering months of summer, confirm there is nothing prohibiting air from flowing freely around the unit and that the recommended ambient temperature is maintained. Repair loose foam or panels and remove any obstructions in or around the unit.

A compressor’s oil isn’t protected from the consequences of hot weather. Sweltering heat can decrease oil life expectancy, leading to damaging repercussions on the unit’s element. Using the correct oil (replaced at proper intervals, of course), and keeping oil filters clean will help ensure that your compressors run cool and consume less energy.

Inspect the quality of compressor coolers. Clogged or blocked coolers can cause an air compressor to overheat. Be sure to examine the cooling fan for dust and residue that can prevent it from working properly. A neglected cooler may become blocked, requiring removal for a deeper cleaning.

Summer’s humidity can lead to greater levels of condensate from a compressor than what you would see in cooler months. Make sure drains are working properly and capable of handling the extra water. Confirm that the condensate is filtered properly to prevent oil from being released into the drain.

When air filters become dirty, airflow is inhibited. If that happens, the compressor must compensate for the drops in pressure, which leads to higher running temperatures. Oil filters are another matter. Oil quality deteriorates at higher temperatures, leaving behind greater deposits in the filter. Be sure to replace your units’ air and oil filters at the beginning of summer. Your compressor systems will run cooler, and use less energy with clean filters. MT

Beth Morgan is a manager with the Compressor Technique Service (CTS) division of Atlas Copco Compressors LLC, Rock Hill, SC. For more information, visit


8:12 pm
June 15, 2017
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Manage Used and Waste Oils Wisely

Heed these tips to simultaneously befriend your budget and the environment.

This storage area for used and waste oils is problematic.

This storage area for used and waste oils is problematic.

By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

There was a time when the terms “used oil“ and “waste oil” meant the same thing and could be used interchangeably. Not anymore. Federal, state, and local environmental regulations have effectively redefined both terms as distinct oil states that must be dealt with in very different ways. Because legislation differs among authorities and jurisdictions, it’s the responsibility of plant owners/operators to contact appropriate authorities for clarification on regulations under local law regarding the definition, management, and disposal of the used and waste oils at their sites.

Identifying ‘used’ oil

Used oil is generally defined as a product refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and, as a result of such use, is contaminated and unsuitable for its original purpose due to the presence of impurities (water or dirt) or the loss of original properties (through loss of additives).

Like virgin stock oils, used oil should be thought of as a resource that can be reprocessed in situ with an industrial filter cart to clean and polish the oil while it’s in the machine reservoir. Or, it can be shipped to an oil recycler where it will be treated using settling, dehydration, filtration, coagulation, and centrifugation to remove contaminants and, if needed, refortified with its required additive package and placed back into service—all at a fraction of the cost of new oil, with no disposal management and associated fees.

Alternatively, used oil can be re-refined into lubricant or fuel oil products that can legally be sold as new oil. Re-refined products must be processed to meet the same stringent requirements and standards set for their virgin-oil counterparts. Once the re-refining is completed, the products are considered brand new oils.

Less expensive to manufacture and purchase, re-refined products conserve virgin-oil stocks—10 barrels of crude are conserved for every barrel of re-refined new oil made from used oil—and minimize the negative environmental impact of oil disposal.

Typical used-oil candidates for re-refining include:

• compressor oil
• electrical insulating oil (except that likely to contain PCBs)
• crankcase (engine) oil
• gear oil
• hydraulic oil (non-synthetic)
• industrial process oil
• neat (undiluted) metalworking fluids and oils
• refrigeration oil
• transfer oil
• transformer oil
• transmission oil
• turbine oil.

In some jurisdictions, used oil is allowed as a fuel oil and can be burned for heat.

Although used oil is generally considered a commodity, in a handful of states it is viewed as a hazardous material and, as such, must be treated as hazardous waste when stored for disposal. Plants must check with their local authorities in this regard.

Identifying ‘waste oil’

Waste oil differs from used oil in that it reflects new oil that has become contaminated and, consequently, is deemed no longer useful for service. In the view of many jurisdictions, such oil is a hazardous waste. Used oil, cross-contaminated with chlorinated products or other chemical products, must be treated as a hazardous liquid and disposed of accordingly. Once again, it’s imperative for facility personnel to check with their local authorities to understand the legislative definitions and requirements.

Management tips

Collecting used and waste oil on site is a natural occurrence in any industrial plant and allowable in all jurisdictions. There are, however, regulations regarding its labelling, storage, spillage, and disposal.

The photo above reflects a typical outdoor storage area for the collection of used and waste oils in a plant. Although it shows a designated area, it exposes a very poor—and expensive—oil-management approach that contravenes most of today’s regulations in the following ways:

Used- or waste-oil tanks must be clearly labelled and accessible.

The tanks in the photo are grated pits that would be classified as confined spaces and not allowed in many jurisdictions. Only one of these two restricted-access pit tanks is labelled as “Waste Oil,” a fact that’s partially obscured by the barrels.

Given the proximity of the two pits to each other, poor access to the rear one, and their uncontrolled exposure to outside elements, most regulatory agencies would probably classify oil pumped from both of those tanks as hazardous waste, requiring costly disposal procedures.


• Decommission the pits.
• Install two above-ground steel tanks in accordance with regulations, designating each separately for used oil and waste oil. For correct tank sizing, work with your oil-disposal company to ascertain its minimum and maximum haulage capability.
• Clearly label each tank in accordance with local regulations.
• Move tanks into a controlled indoor space or cover the area  to protect from outside elements.
• All tanks are to be bunded (placing the tank inside a leak proof bermed concrete, asphalt, or steel/plastic catch-basin control area. The bund must equal or exceed the volume of the largest tank in that bunded area.
• Padlock tanks shut when not in use.

Dedicated oil-transfer containers must be used to control cross-contamination.

In the photo example the company has a variety of different-sized open pails containing non-descript oils and what appears to be a white chemical product. Once again, all of those fluids are exposed to the elements and to each another. That automatically makes all of them hazardous waste. The only way to be sure used oil does not become contaminated with hazardous waste is to never mix it with anything else and store used oil separately from all solvents, chemicals, and other incompatible products.


• List all oil and non-oil products used in the plant and work with your oil-disposal partner to decide which products are to be treated as recyclable used oil, waste oil, and hazardous materials (chemicals and non-oils).
• Use closed, dedicated containers for used oil, waste oils, and other products stored in the same area.
• Log any bulk transfer of oils into the tanks.
• Record all products being held in the area on a manifest and log their release to the disposal company.
• Retain all records in a accordance with the company’s record-retention schedule.

Spill controls are mandatory.

Although the photo above also shows evidence of a contained spill around the oil pallet, the contaminated spill material hasn’t been removed and is itself an uncontained, contaminated oil product.


In accordance with most safety legislation, every oil-storage facility will generally be required to have and keep the following information and equipment up to date:

• spill contingency plan and procedures
• spill-control equipment
• fire plan
• emergency-evacuation plan.

If a site’s oil-storage building is indoors or in a closed area, it will require ventilation as regulated by local building codes.

The cost of doing business

Disposing of hazardous waste can be time-consuming and costly. Research local oil recyclers and hazardous-waste haulage companies to determine what they charge for their services. Some will handle both oil reclamation and disposal of hazardous waste. Such organization should be able to work with your site to set up a value-based program that adheres to all local regulations. MT

Editor’s Note: Recycling and disposing of old oil is closely associated with lubrication-consolidation efforts in a plant. This feature addresses that topic with insight from Des-Case.

Contributing editor Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the book Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc. (Innerkip, Ontario), Bannister specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001 standards, asset-management systems, and development of training programs. Contact him at or telephone 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“Store and Handle Lubricants Properly”

“Put Portable Filter Carts to Work”


4:47 pm
May 15, 2017
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Beware Self-Inflicted Reliability Problems

modern manufacturing industry and mechanization concept, abstrac

Think of this expert advice as a reality check for your operations and take action accordingly.

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

The root cause of poor reliability can come from many sources, including aging plant assets, poor design decisions, even disregard for reliability by those who built and/or installed the equipment. Then, there are the many other reasons outside of your control that could be contributing to the reliability problems your site is experiencing today. While any reliability-improvement initiative will require that all of those issues be addressed, according to Jason Tranter of Mobius Institute (, Bainbridge Island, WA), operations must first deal with those of the “self-inflicted” variety.

Don’t think you have self-inflicted reliability problems? Tranter begs to differ. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but yes, you do,” he said. “That’s good news, though, since it is much easier to deal with the self-inflicted root causes than the inherent reliability problems you adopted.”

What does Tranter mean by self-inflicted? To determine why equipment fails prematurely and/or why you experience slowdowns, safety incidences, or quality problems, he explained that personnel could go through a detailed reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) analysis process, or perform root-cause failure analysis (RCFA) after each failure occurs. “Better yet”, he said, “they can learn from the experience gained at thousands of plants around the world and consider some of the most common root causes of equipment failure.”

Focusing on rotating equipment, Tranter outlined those types of problems as follows, starting with the most obvious and working backward to their root causes.

#3. Cause of Reliability Problems: Imperfect operating and maintenance practices

Most of the equipment in a plant or facility, i.e. motors, pumps, fans, compressors, and turbines, is designed to run for many, many years without unplanned downtime. While those types of assets may incorporate some components that wear out, many items, such as bearings and gears, are designed to provide years of trouble-free operation. This, however, assumes that all of the parts were installed correctly, the components are precision aligned, the bearings and gears are correctly lubricated, all fasteners are tightened to the correct torque, there is no resonance, belts are tightened to the correct tension, and the rotors are precision balanced.

It also assumes that the equipment is operated as designed. Pumps, for example, should be operated at their best efficiency points (BEPs). “If you are unsure these types of situations are occurring,” Tranter cautioned, “then they almost certainly are.” He pointed to several areas where seemingly minor issues could be causing serious problems:


Just 5/60th of a degree of angular misalignment can cut bearing life in half. (Reference: Harris, Tedric A., A Rolling Bearing Analysis, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1984.)

Shaft alignment. When two shafts are “collinear” (no angle or offset between their centerlines) it reduces stress on the bearings, couplings, shafts, and the rest of the machine components. Research has revealed that just 5/60th of a degree of angular misalignment can cut bearing life in half (see Fig. 1).

If you use laser alignment with appropriate tolerances, and you remove soft foot, then this will not be a source of poor reliability. By the way, just because your vibration analyst does not detect misalignment does not mean that your machines are precision aligned.

The life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load.

The life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load.

Balancing. When you balance to ISO 1940 grade G 1.0, the cyclical forces on the bearings, shaft, and structure are minimized and you gain reliability. If you do not have a balancing standard, then unbalance will be a root cause of failure. If you wait until the unbalance generates “high” vibration, then you will have reduced the life of the equipment and supporting structure. That’s because the life of a bearing is inversely proportional to the cube of the load (see Fig. 2). Tranter noted that, while this calculation sounds very complicated, it basically means that if you double the load, a bearing’s life will be reduced to an eighth (23).

Tiny 3-µm particles cause more damage than 40-µm and 10-µm particles (Reference: A Study by Dr. P. B. McPherson)

Tiny 3-µm particles cause more damage than 40-µm and 10-µm particles (Reference: A Study by Dr. P. B. McPherson)

Lubrication. When you correctly lubricate bearings and gears, whether with grease or oil, and that lubricant is free of contaminants, you will achieve maximum life. But if bearings are not adequately greased, their life will be reduced. If the oil is contaminated, the viscosity is incorrect, or additives are depleted, then the life of gears and bearings will be greatly reduced.

Research was performed to determine which particles caused the greatest damage. It wasn’t the 40-µm particles or the 10-µm particles, it was the tiny 3-µm particles (see Fig. 3).

By the time you can see water in oil, the life of the bearing has been halved.

By the time you can see water in oil, the life of the bearing has been halved.

According to Tranter, personnel may think that if they can’t see water in oil then the oil must be fine. Sadly, that is not correct (see Fig. 4). By the time water can be seen in the oil, the life of the bearing has been halved. “We could continue the discussion,” he said, “but suffice it to say that there is a great deal we can do to avoid problems that arise due to imperfect maintenance and operating practices.”

#2. Cause of Reliability Problems: Desire and organizational culture

It’s one thing to understand all of the above root causes. “It’s another,” Tranter observed, “to obtain approval to establish standards and purchase all of the tools, such as laser-alignment systems, that enable technicians and operators to do their jobs correctly. But owning the tools and having standard operating procedures won’t solve the problem.” As he put it, the problem will only be solved when technicians and operators want to use those tools properly and are given the time and encouragement to do so.

Thus, the issue of “desire” and its link to organizational culture must be considered as a root cause of self-inflicted reliability problems and addressed accordingly.

#1. Cause of Reliability Problems: Inadequate management support

Tranter believes a strong case could be made that the root cause of all failures derives from lack of senior-management support for a culture of reliability. Without their support it will be impossible to change the culture and thus change behavior.

“Think about initiatives to improve safety at your plant,” he said. “If senior management didn’t support them, would those initiatives have been successful? Senior-management support leads to people being employed in safety roles, investment in training and tools, and posting of signage that provides warning and feedback on progress, among other things. It also keeps sites from cutting corners that would risk safety, and it makes it clear how important safety is to the future of the organization.”

According to Tranter, the type of management support that drives safety at a site needs to be leveraged to drive reliability improvement. “Everyone within the organization,” he said, “needs to understand that reliability is critically important to the organization and that senior management will stand strong when shortcuts that compromise reliability are available.” Without adequate senior management support, he concluded, meaningful culture change won’t occur, and reliability-improvement initiatives won’t be able to eliminate self-inflicted root causes of problems. MT

Jason Tranter, BE (Hons), CMRP, VA-IV is CEO and founder of Mobius Institute (Balnarring, Victoria, Australia, and Bainbridge Island, WA). For more information on this topic and other reliability issues, including vibration monitoring and training and certification of vibration analysts, contact him at, or visit

Where Does Condition Monitoring Fit?

By Jason Tranter, Mobius Institute

Condition monitoring plays several crucial roles in the battle against self-inflicted reliability problems. For example, providing an early warning of impending problems minimizes the impact of premature failure, and detecting and eliminating the root causes ensures that we achieve the greatest life and value from our precious assets.

Many plant personnel, however, believe that if they have a condition-monitoring program in place, equipment reliability will be optimized. That, unfortunately, is not true.

Most detected faults are avoidable. While it is important to get an early warning, it is much more important to avoid the problem in the first place. Condition monitoring can help by detecting the root causes of failure, including misalignment, unbalance, lubrication issues, and looseness, among others. If those problems are cost-effectively nipped in the bud, then we avoid future failures.

Another way condition monitoring plays a role in plants is in acceptance testing. As part of the purchase agreement, condition-monitoring specialists can perform tests to ensure the new or overhauled equipment is “fit for purpose.”

You may be surprised at how many problems you actually bring into your plant.


3:36 pm
May 15, 2017
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Put Portable Filter Carts to Work

Portable filter carts play a crucial role in equipment uptime by being able to deliver lubricants at the right cleanliness level and transfer and clean oil while machinery runs. (Source: EngTech Industries Inc.)

Portable filter carts play a crucial role in equipment uptime by being able to deliver lubricants at the right cleanliness level and transfer and clean oil while machinery runs. (Source: EngTech Industries Inc.)

Don’t set up a lube program without one or more of these multi-taskers.

By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK)CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

The ability to control contamination is an important aspect of any lubrication-management program, especially where lubricant cleanliness is concerned. A constant supply of clean oil is essential to lubricant life and, more important, bearing life.

One of the most efficient and practical tools available to ensure lubricant cleanliness is the portable filter cart. In a typical industrial environment, portable filter carts are used to transfer and clean all types of lube, gear, and hydraulic oils. The carts’ three principal applications in a lubrication-management program are:

• transferring oil from its original container into a machine reservoir
• pre-filtering and cleanup of virgin stock (new) oil in preparation for machine use
• reconditioning and cleanup of oil currently in service.

In addition, use of specialized filters on the outlet side can extract any free and emulsified water present in the oil.


The primary function of any filter cart is to filter fluids. A typical cart design will employ a two-stage filtration approach in which a gear pump is connected to both filters. The inlet, or suction, side is the first-stage, low-pressure side (approximately 5 psid) designed to capture larger contaminant particles exceeding 150 microns in size.

Oil is pumped through the inlet filter to the second-stage, high-pressure (approximately 25 psid) outlet (or delivery side) filter designed to capture much smaller particulate matter that can be filtered to less than 5 microns in size, depending on the filter rating used.

Listen to the latest in a series of monthly lubrication-related podcasts with Ken Bannister. The May podcast focuses on the selection of and best practices regarding portable filter carts.

How clean should your oil be?

Oil cleanliness is universally measured using the ISO 4406 cleanliness code rating system. This is a standard that quantifies the number of contaminant particles, 4, 6, and 14 micron in size, that are present in a 1-ml lubricant sample and compares them with a particle concentration range, resulting in an ISO-range number value.

For example, a 19/17/14 lubricant sample value (typical of new oil) translates to the presence of 2,500 to 5,000 particles >4 microns in size, 640 to 1,300 particles >6 microns in size, and 80 to 160 particles >14 microns in size present in the oil sample.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 10.29.48 AM

When new or virgin stock oil is received from the supplier, many sites believe they are receiving a “ready-to-use” product. This is not always the case, as depicted in the table. New oil is typically received around a 19/17/14 ISO cleanliness level that may only be suitable for non-critical gear systems. All other applications will require the oil to be cleaned and polished by passing it through a filtration system prior to use in service.

The table also notes that “In service” oil dirtier than 19/17/14 is unsuitable for any lubrication or hydraulic system. Such oil will require replacement or cleanup using a kidney loop set-up with a portable filter cart.

The number of passes through the filter cart to achieve the appropriate cleanliness level will depend on the “start” and “finish” cleanliness level and the filter types and rating in use. Oil analysis will be required to establish cleanliness levels. Choosing a suitable combination of pump and filter size/type will require consultation with the filter-cart manufacturer who will need to understand your working environment and type/viscosity of oil(s) you use.

The rate of cleanup (speed) will depend on the reservoir size, pump flow rate, and the cleanliness-rating delta. What can be measured immediately is the time to perform one complete filter pass through the cart, as calculated using the following formula:

(Reservoir size x 7)/filter-cart flow rate =  time for a single-pass filtration

Example: 60 gal. x 7/10 gpm = 42 min. for a single-pass filtration (1 x filtration of reservoir capacity)

If the plant’s lubricants are consolidated and cleanliness levels are known, a matrix can be developed to determine how many passes are required to filter to an acceptable cleanliness level.

Best practices

As in all other facets of maintenance, there are a number of best practices associated with the use of portable filter carts:

• Work with the filter cart supplier to determine the right pump and filter choice for your plant requirements.

• To eliminate cross contamination of lubricants, each filter cart must be dedicated to a single lubricant use for transfer and cleaning of lubricants. Pilot the filter cart program with the most-critical and/or most-utilized plant-lubricant type.

• Always clean the unit after each successful transfer operation, paying particular attention to the wand ends and open drip tray under the filters and pump area. Open oil is a dirt attractant and can be transferred unwittingly if the cart and its components are not kept scrupulously clean.

• Unless specified, most filter carts are sold with open-end transfer wands fitted to the delivery and suction hose ends designed to slide easily into the reservoir openings of the donor and recipient reservoirs. In a program designed to filter contaminants from the oil, this type of delivery fitting can allow moisture and dirt contamination into the respective reservoirs during the transfer process. To combat this, and ensure a contamination-free transfer process, fit the filter cart delivery/return hose ends and reservoir fill/drain ports with quick-lock-style couplings. As the reservoir is now airtight, it will also require a quality desiccant-style breather to be fitted and, in the case of larger capacity reservoir, a closed-loop expansion tank.

• Specify kink-resistant flexible suction and delivery hose to prevent pump cavitation. Clear hoses allow a visual reference of the oil flowing through the lines.

• The cart’s electric motor will require access to electricity. Ensure that an electrical outlet is within easy reach of the unit’s electrical cord. If the cord is short in length, consider mounting a retractable electrical cord caddy on the unit with enough cord length to reach the nearest electrical outlet.

• Paint a lined box similar to a lay-down area as close as possible to the oil reservoir that’s to be serviced. This allows a cart to be positioned and used quickly without obstruction, and within reach of its hose and wand assemblies.

• Place the cart on a preventive-maintenance (PM) check program prior to every use to ensure the unit’s filters don’t go into bypass mode from being too dirty.  MT

Contributing editor Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the book Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc. (Innerkip, Ontario), he specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001standards, asset-management systems, and training. Contact him at, or telephone 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“Lubricant Fundamentals: Lubricant Life-Cycle Management”

“Offline Filtration: Key to Establishing and Maintaining Oil Cleanliness”


8:01 pm
April 13, 2017
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Listen Up: Stop Lube-Related Bearing Failures

Ultrasound technology can help reduce bearing and equipment failures associated with improper lubrication procedures.

Ultrasound technology can help reduce bearing and equipment failures associated with improper lubrication procedures.

Regardless of industry sector, lubrication methods are crucial to plant reliability and maintenance efforts. Consider the fact that lube-related failures account for 60% to 80% of premature bearing failures. While lack of lubrication and use of the wrong lubricant for an application have been cited as major causes of such failures, over- and under-lubrication are also harmful. Preventing those last two scenarios is one area where ultrasound technology can play an important role.

— Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

According to UE Systems (Elmsford, NY), by using an ultrasound instrument to listen to a bearing while applying lubricant and then monitor, i.e., watch, the decibel level, a technician can determine when adequate grease has been applied and, just as important, the threshold at which over-lubrication begins.

In short, when bearings aren’t lubricated properly, friction can cause damage and threaten processes. Ultrasound equipment can read the decibel levels of over- and under-lubricated bearings and indicate to maintenance personnel if adjustments are in order. Consistent dB levels let a technician know that the level of lubrication is where it should be.

Experts at UE Systems describe three tiers of acceptable lubrication practices and where ultrasound technology fits into them.

randmGood practice

The baseline lubrication practice is to follow the bearing manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the exact amount of lubrication necessary based on bearing size, speed, and type, and rely on runtime and operating conditions to develop a lubrication schedule. While “good” is a starting place, there is room to improve.

Better practice

The next level uses ultrasound equipment for more exact lubrication procedures. These tools tell maintenance technicians when to stop lubricating a bearing, rather than hoping the schedule is accurate and guessing at bearing condition. Ultrasound can also inform technicians if there are other problems with the bearing, unrelated to lubrication.

Best practice

A best lubrication practice is to combine a frequency schedule and ultrasound tools with data collection and trend analysis. By examining the history of lubrication with dB levels and other sound files, maintenance technicians can begin to predict when bearings may be approaching failure and take preemptive action. Alarm levels can be set to alert technicians when lubrication is approaching dangerously low levels.

The best ultrasound programs allow easy integration of data analysis with probes, listening devices, and lubrication tools. MT

How Ultrasound Technology Works

Air- and structure-borne ultrasound is high-frequency sound that human ears can’t hear. These high-frequency sounds travel through the air or by way of a solid. The ultrasound instrument senses and listens for the high-frequency sound, and then translates it into an audible sound that is heard through the inspector’s headset. The unit of measurement for sound is a decibel (dB) level, which is indicated on the display of the ultrasonic instrument.

Ultrasound can be used in conjunction with (and is supportive of) vibration analysis and other predictive-maintenance approaches. In addition to mechanical inspections of rotating equipment and associated condition-based lubrication programs, applications for ultrasound include detection of compressed air and gas leaks; inspection of energized electrical equipment to detect corona, tracking, and arcing; and inspection of steam traps.

For more ultrasound information and to download a printable infographic on “3 Ways to Incorporate Ultrasound in Lubrication Testing,” visit


7:42 pm
April 13, 2017
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Top Tips For Maintaining Air Compressors

Use these tips to improve air-compressor performance and increase uptime.

Use these tips to improve air-compressor performance and increase uptime.

Air compressors and their output are valuable assets on which countless plants depend for efficient daily operations. Regular attention to and proper management of the health of these critical equipment systems can save time and money in all manufacturing systems.

John Skalka, service manager for Sullair (Chicago) offers several tips for maintaining your site’s air compressors. According to Skalka, following these procedures to help monitor and maintain air-compressor performance can result in reliable equipment and reduced downtime.

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Maintain filters and separators.

Proper maintenance of a compressor’s consumable filters and separator elements will not only help to ensure maximum unit uptime, but also maximize its efficiency and performance.

Air intake and oil-filter maintenance should be conducted every 2,000 hr. Monitor the oil filter for contamination and wear metals, leading indicators that air-end maintenance is required.

Air/oil separator elements should be changed every 8,000 hr., along with compressor fluid. Proper air/oil separator maintenance will ensure oil carryover stays within the manufacturer’s specifications.

Remember that use of OEM service parts and lubricants in compressor maintenance will help ensure optimal equipment performance.

randmSample oil.

Regularly acquiring and analyzing oil samples helps monitor the condition of the compressor lubricant, as well as the unit itself. A robust oil-sampling and monitoring program will alert the user to fluid degradation resulting from increased viscosity, ingestion of chemicals or particulate, and high water content. It can also identify the presence of wear metals, which is a sign of bearing degradation, prior to catastrophic failure.

Oil-condition monitoring makes it possible to change the lubricant only when necessary to maintain peak performance. Samples should be drawn quarterly, during routine service maintenance on a compressor.

Remember to always draw your samples through a clean oil-sample port or from the center of the oil sump. Doing so will ensure that the results are free from particulate contamination.

Keep variable-speed drives clean.

Many of today’s compressors are equipped with a variable-speed drive (VSD) that increases efficiency and reduces energy consumption. While VSDs are electrical components, they are not completely maintenance free.

Most VSDs contain cooling fans and heat sinks that can accumulate dust and dirt during regular operation. Maintenance activities will help them run cooler and prolong their service life.

Eliminate the guesswork.

For plants that are unable to ensure regular compressor maintenance with in-house resources, outside support is available. Check with your local air-compressor sales and service center about plans that allow skilled, factory-trained technicians to routinely service your compressor(s) and related air-system equipment.

Finally, keep in mind that proper maintenance will help you realize years of reliable service from your compressor. MT

Sullair, part of Accudyne Industries (Luxembourg and Dallas, has been developing and manufacturing air compressors since 1965. For more information, visit