When it comes to oil analysis, there are a number of options, from simple inspections to onsite instruments, and from basic test packages to full blown “forensic” lab analysis. But which one’s the best? Which one will provide the earliest detection and the most information to successfully diagnose a failure? The answer is all of them!
The key to oil analysis is to sample from the right place and at the right interval. Depending on the machine, failures can go from incipient to catastrophic in just a few days in the case of high-speed turbo machinery to several months for slower equipment such as industrial gear reducers.
Those running world-class oil analysis programs don’t rely on a single level of diagnostic measurement, but rather use a variety of strategies to ensure that lubrication related failures aren’t missed. Just like a car mechanic has a variety of tools at his or her disposal depending on the issue at hand, the oil analysis toolkit needs an integrated series of options that work together to achieve the desired result.
In Figure 1, we show an integrated oil analysis scheme for a gearbox that combines four different levels of diagnosis: basic inspections, onsite oil analysis, lab analysis, and expert diagnostic testing. Used in conjunction with other predictive maintenance technologies such as vibration analysis, thermography, and ultrasonic measurements, this scheme provides maximum coverage with the lowest total cost. Here’s how it works:
While the scheme and measurement frequencies shown in Figure 1 are appropriate for a gearbox, for other equipment such as compressors or hydraulics the periodicity should be shortened perhaps to daily inspections, bi-weekly onsite testing, and monthly lab analysis. But the same concepts apply: use simple techniques onsite, integrated with quality offsite analysis, to truly reap the benefits that oil analysis can provide.
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