How to master precision maintenance

Sheila Kennedy says advanced technology allows for more-precise inspections, more-strategic corrections.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

Inspections, maintenance and repairs are more exact with new nondestructive testing (NDT) and examination (NDE) solutions and advanced maintenance tools. Users are able to locate flawed and at-risk equipment areas with much greater precision and apply specific, effective corrective actions.

Highly accurate inspections

Vibration and motion in belts, structures, and machines can now be visually depicted with optical vibration monitoring. The OptiVibe data collection system from Allied Reliability Group uses a simple video camera and optical sensors to capture images of vibration in one or more assets and measure the vibrations of every pixel of the images. The data is presented in a Vibragram with color-coding representing the vibration’s intensity.

“The thing that makes OptiVibe so unique from an inspection standpoint is the fact that it can collect literally millions of data points in just a few seconds,” says Andy Page, principal at Allied Reliability Group. “This ability gives us more information about a piece of equipment than we’ve ever had before, and it gives us that essential information in such a short period of time.”

Weld quality inspections have long benefited from ultrasonic phased-array NDT equipment. New developments are making it easier to test cladded pipes and acoustically noisy welds. The combination of dual matrix array (DMA) probes and OmniScan instruments from Olympus allows for improved flaw detection and sizing of difficult-to-penetrate materials.

“With the ability to transmit and receive longitudinal waves in granular materials, the Olympus DMA Probe increases penetration in stainless steel, including austenitic, corrosion-resistant alloys and dissimilar welds,” says Coleman Flanagan, UT/Phased Array Flaw Detector product manager at Olympus. “The DMA probe also provides excellent signal-to-noise ratio.”

Tube and pipe inspections are simplified with today’s video inspection technology. Conco Services Corp. uses video probes in its condenser and heat exchanger tubing inspection services.

Flexible video probes are used in verifying tube cleanliness prior to NDE inspections and to confirm indications found during tube examinations, says Chris Vinkler, general manager of NDE testing at Conco Services. “Flexible video probes can access and record areas in a tube that are not accessible to more-rigid probes as well as perform hard-to-access shell-side tube inspections,” Vinkler says. “They are also used to diagnose the cause of restricted or blocked tubes.”

Refined corrosion monitoring technologies enable more-strategic maintenance. Ultracorr 2, Cosasco’s noninvasive corrosion and erosion monitoring system, improves safety by reducing the need for inspection personnel to perform routine maintenance in hazardous areas. It uses high-resolution measurement technology to acquire metal-loss data quickly so that pre-emptive measures can be taken to ensure safe operations.

Meticulous maintenance execution

Poor lubrication practices are a major cause of premature bearing failures. The Ultraprobe 401 Digital Grease Caddy from UE Systems makes lubricating bearings more precise.

“The Digital Grease Caddy allows for data collection, trending, report generation and the establishment of baselines and equipment condition alarm levels, even to the point of being able to track and trend how much grease is applied by trending the number of pumps of grease and the amount of grease,” says Adrian Messer, U.S. operations manager at UE Systems. “It is a move towards true condition-based lubrication.”

Incorrect alignments caused by imprecise alignment tools can lead to problems with vibration, noise, temperature, coupling, and premature wear. The B.A.T. Laser Belt Alignment Tool System from Alignment Supplies is designed to be more accurate and faster than traditional dot and single laser line methods. The B.A.T. uses dual lasers with GlowLine green laser technology and large TruView targets that make the offset and angularity of the entire sheave face visible. With this tool, users can check the offset and angularity of both sheaves at the same time.

“One company tried the B.A.T. and discovered they needed a 1/4-inch shim on a motor,” says Michael Olszewski, president of Alignment Supplies. “Their dot line method had been showing the alignment was good, so they had been looking elsewhere for the cause of their problems. With the root cause finally detected, they were able to apply the necessary solution.”

To allow astronauts to complete multiple important tasks “with comfort and ease,” Robert Hillan designed a multipurpose precision maintenance tool. NASA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation chose Hillan as the teen-group winner of the Future Engineers 3-D Printing in Space Tool Challenge, and his winning design was 3D-printed on the International Space Station.