Analysis Non-Destructive Testing Ultrasound

Use Ultrasonics To Analyze Bearings

EP Editorial Staff | October 1, 2022

Ultrasonic bearing analysis can play a significant role in early detection of bearing deterioration.

Ultrasonic bearing analysis can provide early detection of lubrication, alignment, and out-of-balance issues.

By Robert Switzer, Proactive Technologies International

Ultrasonic analysis is an advanced technology that can provide accurate and early evaluation of bearing conditions, allowing you to detect and act on issues before asset performance deteriorates. Doing so prevents failure and reduces downtime. Here are factors to consider as you evaluate the pros and cons of implementing an ultrasonic bearing-analysis maintenance program.

Be proactive: Consistently analyzing your bearings will generate trend data that will allow you to monitor asset performance and determine when a machine needs attention. Ultrasonic bearing testing can detect early signs of bearing deterioration, allowing you to schedule maintenance or replacement rather than reacting to failure and expensive downtime. 

Understand the difference: Vibration and ultrasonic technologies are both effective tools for monitoring bearing condition. However, ultrasonics operates at a frequency level that is three-times higher than the audible range for humans. As a result, it can detect changing bearing conditions much earlier than vibration analysis. Ultrasonics also can signal bearing issues in an initial reading, without the need to establish a baseline. 

Reduce downtime: A primary reason for bearing failure is improper lubrication. Ultrasonics can detect when bearings have too much or too little lubricant, and when the lubricant quantity is within spec.Maintaining proper lubrication will extend bearing life and reduce downtime.

An example of this was a bearing we tested at a steel mill that has an 18-ft. inside diameter. Analysis indicated that the bearing lubrication was significantly below spec. Further investigation revealed that one of the lubricant lines was broken, preventing the lubricant from reaching the bearing’s moving parts. In addition to lubricant detection, ultrasonic testing can indicate out-of-balance and misalignment. 

Consider an outside service: There are benefits to using an outside service company to perform bearing analysis, rather than performing the work in house. With an outside service company, you get properly trained technicians with the correct level of expertise for the application. Using an outside service will also free considerable time devoted to monitoring bearings, allowing your maintenance professionals to work on larger, more critical issues and/or to further advance your maintenance practices. This helps you move away from a reactive culture toward a predictive/preventive maintenance environment. EP

Robert Switzer is Founder and President of Proactive Technologies International Inc., S. Pasadena, FL (proactivetechnologiesinternational.com). He works in a variety of industries to refine and develop ultrasonic analysis, electrical, and leak-testing programs.

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