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Pumping up the savings
Pumps are a common presence across industry and a chief source of energy consumption, not to mention a major drain on resources when it comes to repairs and maintenance. However, says Phil Burge, an expert partner can help minimise the causes of pump failure.
There are several causes of premature pump failure, but one of the first things to consider when looking to improve performance is the BEP (Best Efficiency Point). By plotting the head/flow and resistance curves of a pump on a graph, you can identify the BEP, which is at the intersection of these two curves. There is typically a limited point at which any pump can function at optimum efficiency and operating the pump outside this point will shorten its lifespan and result in frequent failures.
There are also factors of particle contamination and of poor water quality to consider. These conditions will exert an adverse effect on pump performance, causing considerable wear and corrosion. This in turn will limit the lifespan of bearings and seals, reduce head and flow and, ultimately, add unwelcome maintenance costs to the already high price of energy consumption.
The good news is that there are some increasingly effective ways to stem the flow of wasted energy and maintenance expenditure, such as condition monitoring. For example, vibration monitoring is a valuable tool that can identify areas of inefficiency that lead to heat, noise and energy losses. Vibration is not easy to detect without a monitoring system in place and often only becomes obvious when components - typically bearings - are already beginning to fail. Measuring vibration can be achieved using small fixed accelerometers or magnetically mounted probes to collect data during operating conditions, so that deterioration can be identified and resolved before problems occur.
Today's leading specialists in plant and machinery maintenance can help you calculate pump performance and draw up an action plan that will use elements such as enhanced components and condition monitoring to make significant changes to your energy consumption. By taking a proactive approach to pump management you can also extend pump life and, through a planned maintenance programme, the virtual elimination of unexpected breakdowns that can prove so costly to productivity.
Condition monitoring techniquesThese integrated solutions do, of course, vary with the needs and goals of each particular facility, but will typically involve the use of appropriate condition monitoring techniques, possible bearing replacement and upgrade, correct choice of seals and the use of the latest lubricants and lubrication systems. By applying integrated pump solutions, customers can avoid the expense of replacing underperforming pumps and enjoy a range of benefits, including reduced vibration levels, lower operating temperatures and increased reliability.
The installation of better bearings that offer higher resistance to wear and damage, and offer high load capabilities, higher speed ratings and improved service life, will benefit both heavy and light duty industrial pumps. For example, by using SKF Explorer class bearings, lubricant consumption, vibration and noise levels are all reduced. Energy efficient double row angular contact ball bearings are now available that correspond in design to two single-row angular contact ball bearings but take up less axial space. Depending on operating conditions, the bearings can save at least 30% of frictional moment compared with standard bearings and in some applications 50% or more, while operating temperatures can be up to 30ºC cooler, depending on the speed.
This improved performance provides additional benefits including longer grease life and extended re-lubrication intervals, further reducing maintenance and running costs. The reduced demand for lubrication is significant because industrial pumps are typically hard to access and inadequate lubricant application is a common cause of premature bearing failure. One way to add further protection beyond the installation of enhanced bearings is to install an automatic lubrication system that enables maximum bearing service life and reduced operating costs.
A pump upgrade service can offer a whole range of benefits, from reduced uptime, performance and service life to enhanced product quality and safety. The term 'energy efficiency' is a familiar one in engineering and most of us are aware of at least some of the potential solutions. However, as the need to establish energy efficiency, not to mention cost-effective business operations, becomes ever more pressing, it may be time to reap the maximum benefit with a plant-wide pump upgrade programme.
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