For many pieces of industrial equipment, premature bearing wear can lead to unscheduled downtime, costly maintenance repairs and lost production.
In order to find a solution capable of extending bearing life, operators must first be able to identify the root cause of component wear and fatigue. While there are numerous operational factors that can contribute to premature bearing wear, one attribute that can be prevented is air entrainment.
Entrained air can cause cavitation, fatigue resulting from rapid pressure changes within the oil film of the bearing. When the pressure is low, tiny bubbles of vapor form. But as the oil film pressure increases, these vapor bubbles collapse, eroding small particles off the bearing surface. Operational factors impacting pressure can also generate abnormal bearing loading and unstable oil flow, leading to more severe cases of cavitation.
To help minimize cavitation and ultimately improve bearing reliability, operators should follow the recommendations outlined below:
- Upgrade to a lubricant with excellent air release properties, which will help reduce the occurrence of entrained air in your oil.
- Ensure the residence time of oil in the sump is long enough for entrained air to escape. Ensuringthat the volume of oil in the system is accurate is also important operating with less than the recommended volume will reduce residence time in the oil sump.
- Work with lubricant experts and OEMs to implement a cohesive, routine maintenance program to investigate oil flow characteristics using pressure and vibration data during operation, as well as an oil filter analysis study to detect wear trends before bearing failure occurs.
"Air Entrainment and Failure Analysis" by, ExxonMobil Technical Help Desk used with permission of the Mobil SHCTM Club (all rights reserved.)