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Title: Source/Author: Product: Technology: Classification: Proactive Maintenance Strategy for Electrically Induced Bearing Damage David Kowal General Motor, Vibration Not Classified Proactive Maintenance Strategy for Electrically Induced Bearing Damage by David Kowal Application Development Engineer for Computational Systems, Inc. (CSI)
Abstract Unknown to many, a small percentage of machinery component damage can be traced to the passage of electrical 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, an external voltage source, or a combination of the sources. EDM damage occurs more often in variable frequency drive AC motors and DC motors then other types of machinery, but this kind of damage isn't limited to only these types of equipment. This paper describes checks you can perform to 1) assist in detecting for the existence EDM damage, 2) check shaft grounding systems to determine their effectiveness, and 3) track down the origin of the voltage source. It is not the intention of this paper to discuss in any detail the different voltage sources which could result in or the corrective actions which can be taken to prevent EDM damage. Introduction Under the best of conditions every bearing has, like any component, a point at which it will eventually fail. A bearing'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 by one bearing manufacturer . Machine Machines not fully utilized 8 hours per day: gear drives for general purpose, electric motors for industrial use, rotary crushers Machines fully utilized 8 hours per day: ventilator fans, conveyor belts, printing equipment, separators and centrifuges Machines for continuous use 24 hours per day: medium sized electrical machinery, compressors, pumps, textile machinery Water works machinery, rotary furnaces, propulsion machinery for ocean-going vessels Large electric machinery, mine pumps and mine ventilator fans, tunnel bearings for ocean-going vessels Table 1. Typical bearing operating hours. The maximum life of the bearing is reduced when additional factors (e.g. misalignment, imbalance, overloaded Operating Hours 10,000 - 25,000
20,000 - 30,000 40,000 - 50,000 60,000 - 100,000 ~ 100,000
conditions, EDM, etc.) are present. EDM Damage Some machines have been plagued with chronic bearing failures, due to EDM, in less than 250 hours of operation. Other machines with EDM damaged bearings may achieve greater hours of operation, but in all cases the life of the bearing was cut short. One source mentions that one bearing manufacturer suggests that 8% of all electric motor bearing failures were electrically induced . Another source mentions that 25% of all motor bearing failures are due to EDM; more specifically, high-frequencies switching . The difference in the two papers could be 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, to some degree, exist on all machines. EDM problems occur either from a decrease in lubrication dielectric or from an increase in the shaft voltages resulting from : • 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 variable frequency 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 is usually through the bearing. The bearing can be thought of as being two capacitors in series. Like any capacitor, if enough voltage is applied to one plate (i.e. shaft or bearing inner race) the dielectric (i.e. bearing lubrication) will breakdown resulting in a path to the second plate (i.e. bearing ball or roller). This in turn results in a path to the third plate (i.e. shaft or bearing outer race). When the path is created current flows through it. The resulting current flow 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 questions you can ask and checks you can perform assist you in determining whether EDM could be a problem or not and if so, 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? Some machines are plagued with repeated bearing failures due to EDM. How long has the machine been service? If the machine has been in service for 15 years, and the problem just started, something may have changed for the EDM problem to occur. 2. Look at the past history of other machines of the same type and application. If one machine has problems due to EDM (depending on the machine, the machine's operation, the machine's environment, etc.) it is likely other machines 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 more susceptible to EDM damage then other machines . • 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 shaft grounding system sealed or open to environmental contamination? Are any of the bearings or the coupling insulated? Is the bearing lubrication conductive? Are the bearing balls ceramic? Is the motor equipped with a Faraday 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 for the EDM damage. 5. What is the machine driving or being driven by? If the problem is in an AC variable frequency drive motor or DC motor 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 the fan is moving air saturated with particulate, then the odds are the problem is from the a static charge build up on the fan. Note: Even though the odds indicate the possible origin of EDM problem, other types of EDM damage can result in the same failures. 6. Is the problem the result of a decrease in dielectric insulation? Is the correct bearing lubrication being used? Is the bearing lubrication contaminated? Has the bearing lubrication dielectric break-down threshold been reduced due to misalignment, excessive load, lack of lubrication, etc.? Each bearing lubrication has its own dielectric break-down threshold. The breakdown threshold is dependent on the dielectric of the lubrication and distance between the plates. If the wrong lubrication is used, the lubrication becomes contaminated, or the distance between 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 all their gearboxes, with new stainless steel shims. After doing this, they started losing the outboard bearings on the input shaft of all gearboxes to EDM damage. The gearboxes were being driven by DC motors with both bearings insulated. The rusted shims acted like an insulator preventing the flow of current. In some cases the source of the problem can be traced back to the last thing done to the machine (i.e. x-raying parts on a machine and not degaussing 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 visually inspect it. Visual inspection of the bearing damage is one of the best ways to identify the type of damage. EDM damage 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 fault that will result in damage with this kind of appearance. The best way to confirm EDM damage, for all four characteristics, is through magnification of the damaged area.
Figure 1. Bearing outer race with EDM fluting damage.
Figure 2. Bearing outer race with EDM frosting damage
9. Check to see if the machine's temperature and noise levels have increased. Increases in these are not necessarily indications of EDM damage, but EDM damage can result in increased levels. Note: There have been reported cases where catastrophic bearing failure occurred before temperature and noise levels increased to noticeable levels. 10. Acquire vibration spectrum data, using at least 800 lines of resolution, at all bearing locations. This includes insulated bearings. One of the worst fluted damaged bearings I have seen was a bearing with its insulation compromised. Typically, in a bearing with fluting damage (see Figure 1) and frosting damage (see Figure 2), you are looking for is a mound of energy with BPFO and/or BPFI sideband spacing. In a previous paper, I stated that the mound of energy appears between 2000 - 4000 Hz (see Figure 3) .
Figure 3. Spectrum plot with mound of energy due to EDM While continued research has substantiated that many machines with this type of EDM damage do exhibit this mound of energy in this range, we have found a few machines which show this characteristic pattern outside this range. On two variable frequency drive AC motors with EDM damage I have seen the energy mound center frequency around 900 Hz on one motor running at 723 RPM and 5600 Hz on the other motor running at 4500 RPM. In both cases this is about 80 times turning speed. On DC motors, which so far most of my work has been on, the energy mound center frequency was around 1000 Hz on a 457 RPM motor and between 2000 Hz and 4000 Hz on motors running between 900 RPM and 1350 RPM. In these cases this is about 130 times turning speed. At this time all of the variables involved in calculating the location of the energy mound center frequency have not been identified yet. In addition to the vibration spectrum data, acquire and look at the vibration waveform in G's. If you have a CSI Model 2120 analyzer, acquire and look at PeakVue® data using a filter setting above the energy mound suspected of being due to EDM. Like temperature and noise levels, these are not necessarily indications of EDM damage. Bearing damage due to EDM can result in increased waveform amplitudes and bearing fault frequencies in the PeakVue® data. 11. Acquire shaft-to-ground voltage and current measurements using a shaft riding probe. You will want to acquire AC RMS voltage and current readings, DC voltage and current readings, and peak voltage readings. The shaft riding probe manufactured by Computational Systems, Inc. or an oscilloscope attached to a shaft riding probe can be used to acquire all of these readings. Note: The CSI shaft riding probe works in conjunction with one their analyzers. A multimeter can be used to acquire the AC RMS voltage and current readings and DC voltage and current readings. It can not be used to acquire the peak voltage readings, since the peak voltage spikes you need
to detect can have very narrow pulse duration's. Peak voltage spiking, which is responsible for most AC variable frequency drive and DC drive bearing failures, occurs too fast to be read by a multimeter. For example, bearing damage may be occurring from 30 V (peak) spikes, but a multimeter may only read 100 millivolts AC RMS. The higher voltage reading should be a concern. Note: The minimum peak voltage spike duration that can be measured will vary from instrument to instrument. WARNING!!! Extreme caution should be used when placing anything near or against a rotating shaft. Exercise extreme care to keep all body parts, clothing, cables, etc. away from the shaft. It is recommended that before you place anything near or against the rotating shaft that you use a strobe light and look at the shaft surface to check for any possible obstructions or hazards, such as a key or key way. The question most often asked with this type of data is, "What voltage and/or current level is damaging?" Depending on whether the voltage source is electromagnetic, electrostatic, or externally supplied, the answer can vary depending on who you ask. NEMA MG 1-1993, Section IV, Part 31 states that bearing failure due to electrical arcing, on motors with frame sizes less than the 500 frame series, can occur if shaft voltages higher than 300 millivolts (peak) are present . One source suggests that peak voltages greater than 3 volts will result in EDM bearing damage . Some have reported peak voltage levels of 50 - 60 volts on motors with EDM damage. Others have reported levels greater than 100 volts (peak) on motors with EDM damage. I have seen levels as small as 2 volts (peak) on motors with and without bearing damage. The amount of voltage required to breakdown the bearing lubrication will vary from machine-to-machine. It has been my experience, the initial levels established in Table 2  are a good starting point for determining voltage and current levels for most machines. RELATIVE SEVERITY GUIDLINES Measurement RMS or DC Voltage (volts) RMS or DC Current (mAmps) Peak Voltage (volts) Table 2. Amplitude severity guidelines for shaft voltages and currents. • TBD - these values are to be determined. • Low - little likelihood of damage sustained. • Questionable - if levels are measured and the machine has a history of chronic problems which could be related, then corrective action should be considered. • High - these levels should be considered unusual and that on-going damage due to EDM between the shaft and ground is probable. On machines with electromagnetic induced voltages you should see increased AC RMS voltage readings. On machines with electrostatic and externally applied voltages you should see higher peak voltage levels. Increased current levels on machines with constant voltage levels could be the result of a low resistance path (e.g. bearing). Shaft-to-ground voltage and current measurements are be useful in 1. measuring shaft voltage and current levels which could potentially result in damage, 2. locating the origin of the voltage source resulting in the damage, 3. checking shaft grounding systems to determine their effectiveness, 4. looking for changes in voltage and current levels which may result from EDM damage or other mechanical faults (i.e. rubs, eccentricity, misalignment, etc.), and 5. establishing baseline levels which can be used in making corrective action decisions on machines, hopefully long before damage occurs. <3 3 - 10 >10 TBD TBD TBD Amplitudes Low <1 Questionable 1-3 High >3
Conclusion Bearing damage resulting from EDM doesn't have to be chronic or remain unexplained. Understanding what voltage sources result in and which machines are more susceptible to EDM damage, knowing what questions to ask, knowing how to identify EDM damage through visual inspection and vibration data, and acquiring shaft-toground voltage and current readings can assist you in combating this phenomena.
PeakVue® is a registered trademark of Computational Systems, Inc. References 1. SKF USA Inc., Mounted Products catalog, publication 610-711, 1997, pg. 11. 2. D. Busse, J. Erdman, R. Kerkman, D. Schlegel, and G. Skibinski, "Characteristics of Shaft Voltage and Bearing Currents," IEEE Industrial Applications Magazine, November/December 1997, pp. 21-32. 3. Annette von Jouanne, and Haoran Zhang, "Bearing Currents: A Major Source of Mechanical Failure for Motors in Adjustable Speed Drive Applications," Turning Point, September 1998, pg. 3 & 7. 4. David Kowal, "Bearing Damage Resulting from Shaft Voltages and Currents,"Reliability Magazine, April 1998, pp. 29-38 or CSI 1997 User Conference, Nashville, TN, October 13 - 17, 1997, pp. 373 - 390. 5. NEMA Motors and Generators Standards Publication, MG 1-1993, Section IV, Part 31. All contents copyright © 1998 - 2006, Computational Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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