MECHANICAL THERMOGRAPHY

Thermal Image of mechanical bearing

OVERVIEW

The thermogram shown here is an infrared image of a motor bearing. Infrared inspections of rotating mechanical equipment can detect excess heat caused by increased friction and wear. Some friction induced heating is normal in mechanical systems, but as it increases above typical operating temperatures, this heating can be used as an indicator of wear and be predictive of component failure. Thermal imaging detects this heat to identify problems in their early stages, before catastrophic failure occurs. Early detection provides your maintenance staff the opportunity to take corrective actions to prevent failure and downtime.

Facility managers, plant engineers or anyone responsible for safety, production and equipment maintenance should conduct regular infrared thermographic surveys of their mechanical equipment. When mechanical equipment experiences variations in load, environmental exposure, over/under lubrication or incorrect adjustment of it components, the end result is often increased friction between moving parts of the system. The increased friction causes

localized hot spots which can be pinpointed with our high resolution imager. As with electrical infrared inspection, mechanical infrared is a perfect match between the diagnostic technology of Thermography and the end use application.

A proactive maintenance program can help to control costs through less downtime, eliminating product loss, preventing injuries and reducing inventory for standby spare parts.

Some of the conditions detectable by an infrared mechanical inspection:

  • Misalignment of coupled equipment
  • Over and under lubrication of bearings
  • Over and under tension of belts
  • Excessive friction
  • Defective equipment

Excess heat caused by increased friction is usually the first sign of a future problem. Thermographic imaging will “see” the increased heat finding problems while they are still small and before catastrophic failure happens. With advanced warning of failures, you have an opportunity to take preemptive and corrective action.

DETAIL

Mechanical infrared inspection, as with infrared electrical surveys, is another perfect match between inspection technology and the target application. All mechanical systems and individual pieces of equipment have moving parts and/or fluids. When these elements move, pivot, slide, push, pull, flow or rotate against each other or a surface, there is always some amount of friction created. There are several kinds of friction i.e. Dry friction, Fluid Friction, Lubricated friction and Skin friction, however all types of friction turn the kinetic energy of moment into thermal energy or as commonly stated, friction turns “work into heat”. It is the heat of friction, which the thermal imager can detect.

When energy is applied to make a machine do work, such as using electricity to turn a motor to rotate a pump, any excess friction will convert that electrical energy into heat. Because friction converted the input energy into heat, that energy did not go into “work” to power the pump and the energy has been wasted, dissipated as heat and thereby reducing system efficiency. Reduced system efficiency can be a factor for some companies as they work to decrease their energy usage but perhaps an issue larger than increasing efficiency may be the drag created by friction, which has the negative consequence of causing wear between the moving parts. Excessive wear leads to the premature and often catastrophic failure of moving parts which can be a danger to personnel, damage equipment and can shut down an entire production process. Product loss can occur from catastrophic failure of process equipment, which in turn can delay customer deliveries and revenue. In addition, a catastrophic failure causes the maintenance staff to react in “crises” mode to fix the failure, and unforeseen failures are usually associated with higher inventory costs to have parts on “stand by” to cover the unforeseen repairs.

Because the heat of friction is so easily seen by a thermal imager, Infrared inspections of mechanical systems is a cost effective way to find the excessive heat of friction caused by:

  • Misalignment of coupled equipment
  • Over/under lubrication of bearings
  • Over/under tension of belted systems
  • Excessive friction
  • Defective equipment

Infrared thermal imaging inspections, when used for mechanical inspections can increase safety, prevent downtime, reduce parts inventory and prevent customer delays. All companies can benefit from having an infrared inspection of their mechanical systems as part of any preventative maintenance program.

 

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