Condition monitoring (or, colloquially, CM) is the process of monitoring a parameter of condition in machinery (vibration, temperature etc.), in order to identify a significant change which is indicative of a developing fault. It is a major component of predictive maintenance.
Often visual inspections are considered to form an underlying component of condition monitoring, however this is only true if the inspection results can be measured or critiqued against a documented set of guidelines. For these inspections to be considered condition monitoring, the results and the conditions at the time of observation must be collated to allow for comparative analysis against the previous and future measurements. The act of simply visually inspecting a section of pipework for the presence of cracks or leaks cannot be considered condition monitoring unless quantifiable parameters exist to support the inspection and a relative comparison is made against previous inspections. An act performed in isolation to previous inspections is considered a Condition Assessment, Condition Monitoring activities require that analysis is made comparative to previous data and reports the trending of that comparison.
Performance analysis is where the physical efficiency, performance, or condition is found by comparing actual parameters against an ideal model. Deterioration is typically the cause of difference in the readings. After motors, centrifugal pumps are arguably the most common machines.
Condition monitoring by a simple head-flow test near duty point using repeatable measurements has long been used but could be more widely adopted. An extension of this method can be used to calculate the best time to overhaul a pump based on balancing the cost of overhaul against the increasing energy consumption that occurs as a pump wears.
Aviation gas turbines are also commonly monitored using performance analysis techniques with the original equipment manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce plc routinely monitoring whole fleets of aircraft engines under Long Term Service Agreements (LTSAs) or Total Care packages.
Ultrasound can be used for high-speed and slow-speed mechanical applications and for high-pressure fluid situations. Digital ultrasonic meters measure high frequency signals from bearings and display the result as a dBuV (decibels per microvolt) value.
This value is trended over time and used to predict increases in friction, rubbing, impacting, and other bearing defects. The dBuV value is also used to predict proper intervals for re-lubrication. Ultrasound monitoring, if done properly, is proven to be a great companion technology for vibration analysis.
Headphones allow humans to listen to ultrasound as well. A high pitched 'buzzing sound' in bearings indicates flaws in the contact surfaces, and when partial blockages occur in high pressure fluids the orifice will cause a large amount of ultrasonic noise. Ultrasound is used in the Shock Pulse Method of condition monitoring.
Slight temperature variations across a surface can be discovered with visual inspection and non-destructive testing with thermography. Heat is indicative of failing components, especially degrading electrical contacts and terminations. Thermography can also be successfully applied to high-speed bearings, fluid couplings, conveyor rollers, and storage tank internal build-up.
Using a Scanning Electron Microscope of a carefully taken sample of debris suspended in lubricating oil (taken from filters or magnetic chip detectors). Instruments then reveal the elements contained, their proportions, size and morphology. Using this method, the site, the mechanical failure mechanism and the time to eventual failure may be determined. This is called WDA - Wear Debris Analysis.
Spectrographic oil analysis that tests the chemical composition of the oil can be used to predict failure modes. For example a high silicon content indicates contamination of grit etc., and high iron levels indicate wearing components. Individually, elements give fair indications, but when used together they can very accurately determine failure modes e.g. for internal combustion engines, the presence of iron/alloy, and carbon would indicate worn piston rings.
Wear Debris Detection Sensors are capable of detecting ferrous and non-ferrous wear particles within the lubrication oil giving considerable information about the condition of the measured machinery. By creating and monitoring a trend of what debris is being generated it is possible to detect faults prior to catastrophic failure of rotating equipment such as gearboxes, turbines, etc.
The goal of Condition Monitoring is to spot upcoming equipment failure so maintenance can be proactively scheduled when it is needed - and not before. Asset conditions need to trigger maintenance within a long enough period before failure, so work can be finished before the asset fails or performance falls below the optimal level. Condition based monitoring is performed while the asset is working, this:
Techniques collectively referred to as condition monitoring (CM) have a common objective of indicating the early signs of deterioration or malfunction, and wear trending in structure, plant and machinery through surveillance, testing and analysis.
Highlights problems before they are seen or heard, thus enabling pre-emptive and cost saving actions. Align this with the immediate health and safety concerns condition monitoring proves itself to be an important solution to any company’s needs. Condition monitoring is a critical component in managing and helping reduce issues towards normal operational needs.
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