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Proactive Maintenance Strategy for Electrically Induced Bearing Damage

Proactive Maintenance Strategy for Electrically Induced Bearing Damage

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Published by: Mohd Asiren Mohd Sharif on May 31, 2010
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Application Paper
Proactive Maintenance Strategy for Electrically Induced Bearing Damage
David Kowal
Motor, Vibration
Not Classified
Proactive Maintenance Strategy for Electrically Induced Bearing Damage
 by David KowalApplication Development Engineer for Computational Systems, Inc. (CSI)
 Unknown to many, a small percentage of machinery component damage can be traced to the passage ofelectrical current through the component (i.e. bearings, couplings, gears, seals). The damage, referred to as EDM(Electrical Discharge Machining), originates from either an electromagnetic source, an electrostatic source, anexternal voltage source, or a combination of the sources. EDM damage occurs more often in variable frequencydrive AC motors and DC motors then other types of machinery, but this kind of damage isn't limited to only thesetypes of equipment.This paper describes checks you can perform to 1) assist in detecting for the existence EDM damage, 2) checkshaft grounding systems to determine their effectiveness, and 3) track down the origin of the voltage source. It isnot the intention of this paper to discuss in any detail the different voltage sources which could result in or thecorrective actions which can be taken to prevent EDM damage.
 Under the best of conditions every bearing has, like any component, a point at which it will eventually fail. Abearing's life, depending on its operation (i.e. number hours in service, number of starts and stops, load, speed,etc.) can vary from 5,000 -100,000 operating hours. Table 1 lists some typical bearing operating hours provided byone bearing manufacturer [1].Machine Operating HoursMachines not fully utilized 8 hours per day: gear drives forgeneral purpose, electric motors for industrial use, rotarycrushers10,000 - 25,000Machines fully utilized 8 hours per day: ventilator fans,conveyor belts, printing equipment, separators and centrifuges20,000 - 30,000Machines for continuous use 24 hours per day: medium sizedelectrical machinery, compressors, pumps, textile machinery40,000 - 50,000Water works machinery, rotary furnaces, propulsion machineryfor ocean-going vessels60,000 - 100,000Large electric machinery, mine pumps and mine ventilatorfans, tunnel bearings for ocean-going vessels~ 100,000Table 1. Typical bearing operating hours.The maximum life of the bearing is reduced when additional factors (e.g. misalignment, imbalance, overloaded
conditions, EDM, etc.) are present.
EDM Damage
 Some machines have been plagued with chronic bearing failures, due to EDM, in less than 250 hours ofoperation. Other machines with EDM damaged bearings may achieve greater hours of operation, but in all casesthe life of the bearing was cut short. One source mentions that one bearing manufacturer suggests that 8% of allelectric motor bearing failures were electrically induced [2]. Another source mentions that 25% of all motor bearingfailures are due to EDM; more specifically, high-frequencies switching [3]. The difference in the two papers couldbe contributed to a difference in motor population considered.Before EDM damage can occur, a voltage potential and a path for current to flow must exist. Shaft voltages, tosome degree, exist on all machines. EDM problems occur either from a decrease in lubrication dielectric or froman increase in the shaft voltages resulting from [4]:
Electromagnetic voltages (i.e. broken rotor bars, turn-to-turn shorts, eccentric rotors, etc.).
Electrostatic voltages (i.e. accumula-tion of charged ions from stem turbines and conveyor belts, AC variablefrequency drive systems, DC drive systems, etc.).
External voltages (i.e. welders, voltages applied to the process, etc.).
Combinations of the above voltages.A path, for current to flow, is the second necessary ingredient for EDM damage to occur. In most cases the path isusually through the bearing. The bearing can be thought of as being two capacitors in series. Like any capacitor, ifenough voltage is applied to one plate (i.e. shaft or bearing inner race) the dielectric (i.e. bearing lubrication) willbreakdown resulting in a path to the second plate (i.e. bearing ball or roller). This in turn results in a path to thethird plate (i.e. shaft or bearing outer race). When the path is created current flows through it. The resulting currentflow creates an electric arc across the plates, thus damaging the bearing's surfaces.
Proactive Maintenance Strategy
 What do you do when you suspect EDM damage? If you suspect bearing damage from EDM, there are questionsyou can ask and checks you can perform assist you in determining whether EDM could be a problem or not and ifso, how to locate the source of the problem.1. Does the machine have a history of either undiagnosed failures or diagnosed failures due to EDM? Somemachines are plagued with repeated bearing failures due to EDM. How long has the machine been service? If themachine has been in service for 15 years, and the problem just started, something may have changed for theEDM problem to occur.2. Look at the past history of other machines of the same type and application. If one machine has problems dueto EDM (depending on the machine, the machine's operation, the machine's environment, etc.) it is likely othermachines of the same type and operation will be susceptible to EDM damage.3. Is the machine in the highest risk group? Machines in the high risk group have been determined to be moresusceptible to EDM damage then other machines [4].
Variable frequency variable speed AC and DC motors
Large frame motors (over 1000 HP)
Motors with a history of unexplained chronic bearing failure or failure due to EDM
Newly installed and rebuilt motors placed into service
Motors with shaft grounding systems installed
Vertical motors.4. Look at the machine's construction. Does the machine have a shaft grounding system and if so, is the shaftgrounding system sealed or open to environmental contamination? Are any of the bearings or the couplinginsulated? Is the bearing lubrication conductive? Are the bearing balls ceramic? Is the motor equipped with aFaraday Shield? Are filters installed in either the power supply or line to reduce problems due to EDM? Depending
on where the failure occurred, knowing these things can help determine the origin of and the failure responsible forthe EDM damage.5. What is the machine driving or being driven by? If the problem is in an AC variable frequency drive motor or DCmotor driving a gearbox, the odds are the EDM problem is from the motor's power supply and not the driven unit.If the problem is in the inboard bearing of a center hung fan being driven by a AC constant speed motor and thefan is moving air saturated with particulate, then the odds are the problem is from the a static charge build up onthe fan. Note: Even though the odds indicate the possible origin of EDM problem, other types of EDM damage canresult in the same failures.6. Is the problem the result of a decrease in dielectric insulation? Is the correct bearing lubrication being used? Isthe bearing lubrication contaminated? Has the bearing lubrication dielectric break-down threshold been reduceddue to misalignment, excessive load, lack of lubrication, etc.? Each bearing lubrication has its own dielectricbreak-down threshold. The breakdown threshold is dependent on the dielectric of the lubrication and distancebetween the plates. If the wrong lubrication is used, the lubrication becomes contaminated, or the distancebetween the plates is reduced then the amount of voltage required to cross the gap is also reduced.7. What was the last thing done to the machine? In one case, a plant replaced the rusted shims from under alltheir gearboxes, with new stainless steel shims. After doing this, they started losing the outboard bearings on theinput shaft of all gearboxes to EDM damage. The gearboxes were being driven by DC motors with both bearingsinsulated. The rusted shims acted like an insulator preventing the flow of current. In some cases the source of theproblem can be traced back to the last thing done to the machine (i.e. x-raying parts on a machine and notdegaussing when finished or using the wrong bearing lubrication).8. One thing you can and should do if the machine's damaged bearing has already been removed, is to visuallyinspect it. Visual inspection of the bearing damage is one of the best ways to identify the type of damage. EDMdamage has four characteristic appearances: 1) fluting, 2) frosting, 3) electric pitting, and 4) electric arc tracks.The washboard looking damage, referred to as flutes, shown in Figure 1 and the symmetrical frosting damage,shown in Figure 2, are probably the easiest to visually identify. I say this only because I don't know of another faultthat will result in damage with this kind of appearance. The best way to confirm EDM damage, for all fourcharacteristics, is through magnification of the damaged area.Figure 1. Bearing outer race with EDM fluting damage.

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