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Monitoring system detects early damage signs in gears

Monitoring system detects early damage signs in gears A new combined oil and vibration monitoring system enables the early detection of damage to heavy duty, oil-lubricated industrial gears, providing plant operators with a reliable system that prevents unplanned downtime and minimises maintenance, repair and overhaul costs.

Industrial gears and gearboxes are critical to the smooth operation of most production environments and so maintaining these systems is often a high priority. If excess wear or damage is allowed to develop within a gearbox, this could result in secondary damage to other vital plant and machinery, leading to high repair costs, as well as costly production downtime.

The new FAG Wear Debris Monitor from Schaeffler (UK) is designed to solve these issues. This online condition monitoring system is capable of pinpointing the precise location of any damage or wear to gears, bearings and cages within a gearbox or other industrial gear unit. The system is therefore suitable for use in almost every industry sector, including wind power (gearbox drive train), marine (ship propulsion systems), oil and gas (top drives and draw works gearboxes), mining and quarrying (mills and rotary kilns), steel and aluminium (pinion stand gear units), pulp and paper (drying cylinder gears and wire drive roll gears).

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 industrial 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, such as those used on wind turbines. In addition to oil analysis, the FAG Wear Debris Monitor also monitors the vibration behaviour of the machine and its components, including rolling bearings and gear wheels. By installing sensors on the machine or gearbox that needs to be monitored, the new system detects changes in the operating behaviour, 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.

This unique combination of oil and vibration monitoring provided in a single online condition monitoring system, means that users receive earlier warning signs of gear damage than if vibration monitoring is used on its own, or vice versa. After any damage is detected, professional damage analysis is then required in order to determine the possible causes. The results of this work then lead to recommendations or remedial action that will prevent similar damage in the future.

Schaeffler UK is able to provide a wide variety of analysis methods to assist the customer. Endoscopy, for example, is used to determine the full extent or severity of any damage. Video endoscopes enable the internal components of a machine to be inspected, allowing the user to make a diagnosis of the damage based on the viewing of digital photos and video.

By using a special interface, the FAG Wear Debris Monitor can be easily integrated with other online condition monitoring systems from Schaeffler, including the FAG DTECT X1 and FAG ProCheck systems. These condition monitoring systems can be adapted or retrofitted to suit any customer requirements.

"The combined use of FAG oil monitoring products, vibration monitoring products and services from FIS (FAG Industrial Services), provides an efficient, cost-effective method of improving the protection of oil-lubricated gears," comments Christian Meindl of FIS. "By detecting damage early, and by using the wide variety of analysis methods, the operational reliability of gears can be improved significantly, leading to similar improvements in productivity."
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