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Advanced Materials Research Vols 44-46 (2008) pp 189-194 Online: 2008-06-12

© (2008) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland


Journal Bearing Wear Monitoring via On-Line Visual Ferrography

T.H Wu1, a, J.H Mao1, b, G.N. Dong1, c, H. Xu 1, d and Y.B. Xie 1, 2, e
Theory of lubrication and bearing institute, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, China
School of Mechanical Engineering; Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China

Keywords: Journal bearing; On-line ferrography; Wear monitoring

Abstract. Wear condition of journal bearing was experimentally monitored with an On-Line Visual
Ferrograph (OLVF) system. The round bearing was made of 45# steel with babbitt alloy bushing and
the bearing journal was made of 45# steel. High stress of the water content of 0%,1%,3% in lubricant,
10 times of a normal load of 2200 N, and the rotating speeds at 500, 1000, 2000 rpm were adopted in
accelerated experiment. A quantitative index of particle coverage area (IPCA) together with wear
debris ferro-image was used to characterize wear degree and wear mechanisms. Three wear stages
with corresponding wear debris ferro-images were identified from IPCA variations characterized by
bathtub curve trend. The first one was running-in stage characterized by the highest wear debris
producing rate and higher large debris content. The second one was normal wear stage characterized
by the lowest wear debris producing rate and small normal debris. The final one was failure initiation
stage characterized by higher wear debris producing rate and higher large debris content. The
corresponding dominant wear mechanisms were micro-ploughing and micro–cutting induced by
rough initial surfaces in the running-in stage, local rub due to vibration in the normal stage, and
fatigue and abrasive wear in the failure initiation stage.

As a key supporting part, journal bearing is very sensitive to its wear status. For most ship craft,
vibration and water leaking are very popular oil failure causes and inevitably aggravate the wear
condition of engine journal bearing. Therefore wear state monitoring of journal bearing is very
important for ship crafts reliability.
Pattern recognition for physical nature is conventional fault diagnosis method in vibration or
temperature monitoring for journal bearings reliability. As one of the most important physical
initiations of exceptions in practical application [1-3], the wear of journal bearing shows two specific
characters. Firstly, initial wear is too light to be reflected by vibration or temperature. Secondly, wear
has an accumulative effect which means wear debris producing rate can be accelerated with wear
progressing. Complex characters of wear introduce difficulties for traditional pattern recognition.
Ferrography is an effective wear monitoring means, and off-line ferrography has been used in wear
state analysis of journal bearings in some industrial applications [4, 5]. However, on-line monitoring
shows more practical meaning for machinery like ship crafts in time and labor saving [6]. And little
effort has been paid in the on-line wear monitoring for journal bearings.
The paper concerns on the performance reliability of diesel engine journal bearing by monitoring
wear state using on-line visual ferrograph (OLVF). Wear degree variations are examined via a
quantitative index and the corresponding wear mechanisms are analyzed via wear debris images.
Additionally, the application validity of OLVF in journal bearing wear monitoring is experimentally

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190 Materials and Product Technologies

Experimental rig. Fig.1 shows the experimental rig with OLVF monitoring system. A main spindle 4
is supported by two rolling bearings 6 and driven by an adjustable-speed motor 1. Two half journal
bearings 9 are assembled on a carefully polished bearing journal with 20 micrometers gap and with a
boring hole 10 through the upper bearing as oil inlet. Two half cast iron bearing blocks 8 are
conformably fitted on the journal bearing with a through hole 10 in the upper block as oil inlet and two
through hole 11 in the lower block as oil outlet. Two oil pumps for lubricant circulation sever
separately as delivering and sucking. The lubricant from the delivering pump 13 passes through the
inlet holes 10 and flows into the bearing clearance. The return lubricant is collected in the lower
bearing block and runs out from the oil outlet 11 by sucking effects. Most of the lubricant from the
pump 15 is sent back to the tank 15 and small amount is sampled by OLVF.
The principle of OLVF is also shown in Fig.1. The return lubricant flow into the sensor by a
controllable oil pump and pass through a carefully designed path in a magnified field. Wear debris is
separated by a magnified field and their images are captured by a CMOS sensor. The images
transmitted into computer are processed automatically and IPCA is given as the result. More detailed
information about OLVF can be found in ref. [7].
1 2 4 5 6 7 8a 9 1 Loa 12 13 15

3 14 11 8b

1-Controllable motor; 2-Connector; 3-Base; 4-Spindle; 5-Rolling bearing house; 6- Rolling bearing;
7- End cap; 8a-Upper bearing bushing; 8b- Lower bearing bushing; 9- Journal bearing;10- Oil inlet;
11-Oil outlet; 12-Restricative valve;13, 14-Oil pump; 15-Oil tank.
Fig.1 Journal bearing experimental rig with OLVF monitoring system

Experimental Samples and Methods. The round bearing made of 45# steel with babbitt alloy
bushing was used and the bearing journal was made of 45# steel. Rust prevention turbine oil specified
for ship crafts was used as lubricant.
High stresses of the water content of 0%,1%,3% in lubricant, 10 times of a normal load of 2200
N, and the rotating speed at 500, 1000, 2000 rpm were adopted in the accelerated experiment. Two
quantitative wear debris content indexes by OLVF were given as LIPCA for large particles and
SIPCA for full particles. And the wear debris ferro-images were saved simultaneously for
examination. The experiment was stopped in the case of IPCA values increasing abruptly after long
running time. And the worn bearing was detached and the wear mechanisms was examined with SEM.
Experimental parameters are list in table 1 and the control parameters of OLVF in table 2.
Advanced Materials Research Vols. 44-46 191

Table 1 Experimental parameters for journal bearing

Load Oil Pressure Oil Flow
Rotating Speed [Rpm] Water Content
[KN] [Mpa] [L/Min]
2.2 500, 1000, 2000 0.1 25 0%, 1%, 3%

Table 2 Control parameters of OLVF

Sampling Frequency
Wear Index Flow rate [Ml/Min] Per hour
Initial Normal
LIPCA 8 800 1 2
SIPCA 6 1200 1 2

A supplemental experiment was carried out to verify the validation of OLVF monitoring effects,
which was believed necessary for its first application in journal bearing.

Results and Discussion

The experiment was stopped at the identification of failure initiation from IPCA variation at 415
running hours. Lubrication condition was changed with water content added to 1% after running 72
hours and to 3% after running 372 hours. Rotation speed was also changed from 500 rpm to 1000 rpm
after running 345hours and increased to 2000 rpm after running 370 hours.
No Water content: 1% Water
250 content:3%
LIPCA 2000

Rotating speed
Rotating speed

Running Normal wear Failure initiation


60 120 180 240 300 360 420
Running hours

Fig.2 Full variations of LIPCA and SIPCA via running hours

Fig.2 shows the full variations of LIPCA and SIPCA via running hours. Clearly, a bathtub curve
trend was identified from the two IPCA variations. Three corresponding stages with three typical
working states of journal bearing were deduced as running-in, normal wear and failure initiation. In
running-in stages, the IPCA showed rapid increasing trend from 21 to 46 and from 50 to 70 and drived
back to stable low values after running about 90 hours. In normal wear stages, relative lower and
stable wear was deduced from the IPCA variations in running time ranging from 90 to 360 hours.
Dramatic fluctuations of IPCA appeared after running 360 hours and became gradually aggravated
with time. Artificially deteriorated experimental conditions of water content and rotating speed
showed definite effects on the wear stages transition.
To get more confirmation, corresponding on-line ferro-images under transmitting light were given
in Fig.3 (a)-(d). Fig.3 (a) and (b) show the ferro-images in the initiation and the development of
running-in stage. Fig.3 (c) and (d) show the ferro-images separately in the normal wear and the failure
initiation stage.
192 Materials and Product Technologies

Debris chain

(a) 29 running hours (b) 86 running hours

Fatigue and
abrasive debris

Normal wear

(c) 245 running hours (d) 374 running hours

Fig.3 Transmitting light ferro-images after different running hours

Initially manufactured rough surfaces were unavoidable even after careful sanding for the bearing
journal and the bushing. Convexes in initial surfaces were high enough to penetrate oil film and
contact each other. The soft convexes of bearing bushing were pressed, deformed and fractured to
form wear debris finally, and on the other hand the hard ones of the bearing journal cut the soft
bearing bushing surface to produce wear debris. So a large number of wear debris was produced in
running-in stage by micro-cutting and micro-fracture mechanisms. The deduction was also supported
by Fig.3(a) and (b). The wear debris quantity in the anaphase of running-in stage (Seen in Fig.3(b))
increased greatly than that in the initiation (Seen in Fig.3(a)). And relative large wear debris
accounted for a large proportion in Fig.3(b ), which meant big wear debris contributed the most to
IPCA in this stage. Such characters consisted with the deduced dominant wear mechanisms.

Cutting groove
Fatigue pit

Fig.4 SEM photo of worn journal bearing surface

Advanced Materials Research Vols. 44-46 193

With the contact surfaces getting smoother, stable oil film became easily formed and the bearing
ran under well lubricated condition. In this normal wear stage, no wear in theory happened except for
local rub due to vibration. So the amount and the size of wear debris were greatly reduced as shown in
Fig.2 and Fig.3 (b) although appended water deteriorates the lubrication condition. In this stage small
wear debris circulated in oil flow and served as three-body abrasive particles. Contact strain was
cumulated and local micro-fatigue crack progressed with the wear process [8]. Consequently, macro
fatigue occurred with the sign of big flake-like wear debris as shown in Fig.3(d) and the spalling
particles aggravated abrasive wear degree. So it was deduced from Fig.2 the failure initiation began
after about 360 running hours. The photo of worn journal bearing surface examined with SEM and the
fatigure pits and cutting grooves as exhibited in Fig.4 also supported the above deduction.
A comprehensive understanding of journal bearing wear pattern has been achieved via OLVF.
However capture ability by ferrogaph has been commonly doubted for weakly magnetic alloys like
babbitt alloy, and the similar analysis has been performed mostly by processing alloy debris with
magnetize liquid [4,5]. Therefore, some verification experiment is necessary for OLVF validity .
Definite concentration oil was prepared with manual particles of the same babbitt alloy with journal
bearing. Particles were separated from the oil by passing through OLVF, and then collected with clean
oil. The main elements of the captured particles were checked with the energy spectrum.
Fig.5 shows the reflecting light ferro-image of captured particles. No chain distribution of particle
was formatted as iron magnetic particle performed. Especially, the single particle oriented its major
axis inclining at an angle with magnetic lines, which agreed with the principle of nonferromagnetic
particle [9].

Particle major

Fig.5 Reflecting light ferro-images of captured particle by OLVF

Fig.6 shows the energy spectrum of the captured particle. High content of Sb and Sn indicated that
the coating babbitt alloy particles of journal bearing could be captured effectively. Consequently, the
above analysis based on OLVF is credible.

Fig.6 Energy spectrum of captured particle by

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Wear state of journal bearing was monitored and analyzed with a new OLVF. IPCA variation and
typical ferro-images were analyzed. A bathtub curve trend of wear debris content was presented,
characterized by three typical stages as: running-in, normal wear, and failure initiation. Further
investigation on corresponding typical ferro-images showed that micro-cutting and ploughing were
dominant mechanisms for running-in stage, dynamitic lubrication for normal wear, and fatigue and
abrasive wear for failure initiation stage. Finally, the validity of OLVF was verified in journal bearing
wear monitoring.

This research work was partly financially supported by a grant from the National High Technology
Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2006AA04Z431).

[1] R. Schouwenaars, V.H. Jacobo and A. Ortiz: Wear Vol. 263 (2007), p.727.
[2] D.D. Massimo and K. Elisabet: Wear Vol. 232 (1999), p.192.
[3] V. Wikstrom, E. Hoglund and R. Larsson: Wear Vol. 162-164(1993), p.996.
[4] S. Xu and Z.W. Qiu: Lubrication Engineering (In Chinese) Vol. 1992(6), p.8.
[5] X.h. Tang; G.P.Chen: Coal Mine Machinery (In Chinese) Vol. 8 (2005), p.143.
[6] Y. Liu, Z. Liu; Y.B. Xie, Z.G. Yao: Jour of Tribo Inter Vol. 33 (2000), p. 829.
[7] T.H. Wu, J.H. Mao, J.T. Wang, et al: submitted to Wear (2008).
[8] Fang L, Liu W M, Du D S, et al. Wear Vol. 256, (2004), p.685.
[9] Q.M. Yang: Wear particle analysis-Atlas and ferrography (China Railway Publications, Beijing
Materials and Product Technologies

Journal Bearing Wear Monitoring via On-Line Visual Ferrography


DOI References
[1] R. Schouwenaars, V.H. Jacobo and A. Ortiz: Wear Vol. 263 (2007), p.727.
[8] Fang L, Liu W M, Du D S, et al. Wear Vol. 256, (2004), p.685.