The aim of condition monitoring in a preventative maintenance program is to detect damaged parts early and initiate repairs before the situation worses. For bearings and gearboxes, visual inspections play an important role in detecting damages – however, it is not always possible to assess very component. Endoscopy allows the inspector to view areas that are difficult or impossible to access through other means, such as the inner row of rollers on spherical roller bearings. It is an indespensible part of routine inspections and machine owners and bearing distributors benefit greatly for partnering with an independent 3rd party for these endoscopic inspections.
Certainly, shutting down machinery for preventative maintenance does have its associated costs – however, an unplanned shutdown, perhaps accompanied by severe damage to the machinery, can cost exponentially more through the lost production and the cost of repairs and parts. Performing inspections on a routine basis (or when there is a change in the noise or operational behavior) is essential for saving both time and money in the long run. Endoscopy is an integral part of a comprehensive inspection.
Although gearboxes have strategically located access panels, these do not guarantee the accessibility of every component. While it does occasionally happen that entire sections of the gearbox are all but inaccessible, generally the inner rows of double-rowed bearings (e.g. spherical roller bearings) are the obvious candidates for endoscopy. The outer row of rollers can be accessed from outside the gearbox, but it is typically not possible to look at the inner row without an endoscope.
Why is it important to examine the bearings in detail? If damages are detected early on, it is relatively simple to replace a bearing. If, on the other hand, the bearing fails, it can take the shaft out of alignment and subsequently damage the gears – a far more expensive repair.
Particularly when it comes to bearings, the top companies offer after-sales-services including bearing inspections; however, they will only inspect their own products. If a gearbox uses multiple brands, the owner faces the prospect of multiple shutdowns for a complete inspection. An independent firm, on the other hand, will examine all components of the gearbox and present an unbiased report. This saves the machine owner time and money and gives them peace of mind. For bearing manufacturers and distributors, pairing with an independent inspector to offer these after-sales-services can elevate their customer service to the same level as that of the major manufacturers.
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