Gearboxes play a critical role in the operations of almost every industry. Often times, gearboxes are not looked at until they fail. Keeping a gearbox clean and dry is crucial to continued operation. Knowing what is going on inside the gearbox can allow organizations to get ahead of failures and take proactive steps to maintaining their assets. Remember:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
The Right Lubrication
Most gearboxes can be used in a wide array of applications and gearbox manufacturers often state a typical working environment when specifying lubrication requirements. Having the right lubrication in gearboxes for your environment can save time and money.
With different viscosities, grades, synthetics, and temperature ranges, it can become very complicated to select the right lubricant. Be sure to review the lubricant’s properties at the expected operating temperature. Just because the oil is expensive, does not mean it is the right fit.
Looking at the lubricant life cycle through oil analysis results can aide in determining if the current selection is fulfilling the expected results.
Price for 5 Gallon Pail Gear Oil: $90-$550
Sight glasses play a crucial function when it comes to gearbox operation. Although passive, a sight glass provides an actual look inside a piece of machinery. Often times, at just a glance, one can tell if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, prior to the equipment failing. With the rather new introduction of 3D sight glasses and improved material being used, sight glasses have increased in the role of machinery reliability.
The traditional flat sight glass has always been an indicator for oil level and potentially oil quality. Often times, these sight glasses were hard to see, and often acted as a place to collect dust and airborne debris. The flat sight glass often required a flashlight to see exactly where the oil level is.
With the 3D or protruding glass, sight lighting more easily passes through the oil allowing for level detection and oil color at a glance.
Additions to the sight glass can include a magnetic plug, corrosion indicator and oil sample port. These additions expand the functionality of the traditional sight glass to more understand the condition of the lubricant in the gearbox.
Humidity, rain, process precipitation can be ways for moisture can enter gearboxes. Moisture can cause corrosion, lubrication breakdown, and reduction of lubricant and asset life.
Desiccant breathers prevent moisture from entering gearboxes by drying any air entering the unit. In addition, moisture that has entered through other means will be dried through the breather as well by means of air exchange, although filtration removal is faster, and preferred.
With options for desiccant breathers nowadays such as HEPA filters and wash-down caps, keeping gearboxes clean and dry from airborne contaminants is becoming more reasonable, even in the harshest environments.
Oil analysis is one of the best ways to find the health of your gearboxes. By understanding what is going on with the lubrication, it can determine if a failure is going to occur. Oil analysis can give you an indicator of up to 12 months prior to a failure, depending on the failure mode.
Selecting the right testing for your application will ensure that the information you get is useful. It can also give a good indicator of lubrication life, remaining additive packages, and abnormal machinery wear.
Oil analysis solutions range from patch tests all the way through online, continuous solutions. In some cases, having a document oil analysis program can even extend life cycle over hauls with regulating authorities.
Typical Laboratory Price: $10-$100
For gearboxes that have infrequent use, preservation steps may be required to extend the life of the asset. Certain steps can aide in the reduction of risk for damage while the asset is idled and exposed to the environment.
In addition to desiccant breathers, mentioned above, preserving additives or dry mist films can be applied to prevent damage during the idle times. An additional method can include filling the gearbox completely with oil to prevent exposure to air.
Additional steps can be taken to ensure preservation. The location should be kept at as constant of a temperature as feasible. This is to prevent moisture formation due to drastic temperature changes. Rotate the equipment on a periodic basis. This keeps gear surfaces from bonding or causing wear patterns while in storage. Choose an area that is free from vibration. If your location is located close to railroad tracks or large moving machinery, this can cause micro-movements in the gearbox inducing wear.
Dry Film Lubricant Price: $300-$500 (5 gallons)
The maintenance of gearboxes is crucial to almost all industries. Taking a proactive approach can not only prevent catastrophic failures and operations disruptions, but it can greatly extend the life of the gearbox. Being proactive does not have to be expensive. It can include small, precise steps to mitigate specific risks that cause failures. For gearboxes, maintaining and understanding lubrication condition is key to ensuring the gearbox is and will continue to operate.
For these solutions and more, Atlas Reliability, LLC can help specify the right solution for your application. Although gearboxes may be produced for multiple applications, the prescribed lubrication specification may not fit your situation.