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Earthmoving

Overview

Machine Condition Monitoring based on oil analysis has become an important, if not mandatory, maintenance practice for the construction, mining, and agricultural industries. Equipment in these industries is frequently exposed to severe environmental and working conditions. An effective oil analysis program will keep important assets in operation by reducing unexpected failures and costly unscheduled downtime.

Challenges

Remote sites

Many sites that use off-road vehicles, like mines, are at remote locations. It can be difficult for them to rely on outside lab analysis to test their oil because it can take weeks to send samples into a lab and receive results. By the time they determine there is a problem with the vehicle, it has been returned to service and could suffer a major breakdown. Testing oil on-site allows them to make instant service decisions and keep their vehicles running.

Harsh environments

Construction and mining equipment operate in conditions that are hard on the components. Just the nature of the work they do exposes the vehicles to substantial amounts of contamination and debris that can cause damage especially to the hydraulics and gears which are sensitive to particulate contamination. Continually monitoring the oil condition can prevent unexpected breakdowns

Oil drains are expensive for large vehicles

By monitoring oil condition with on-site analysis, the maintenance staff can determine if the oil drain interval can be extended safely. Reducing the number of oil drains required per vehicle by even just one time per year can provide significant savings across a fleet of vehicles, especially when it involves the large vehicles used in mining and construction.

Repair costs can be high

Oil analysis can help identify potential problems early – before they become catastrophic and costly repairs. On-site analysis provides the service technicians the information about the vehicle while it is still in the garage so repairs can be made immediately before it goes back out on the road. Large mining and construction equipment can be enormously expensive to repair so catching a slight problem before it becomes a major issue can be a huge cost savings.

Downtime of vehicles impacts service and revenue

When a vehicle is unavailable due to mechanical problems it means it is not available to provide necessary service like in the case of a city transit bus or if it is part of the public works fleet for things like snow removal. For companies like freight haulers or mining equipment it means it will impact the revenue generating service it provides. Oil analysis can help fleet managers to ensure their vehicles will be up and running when they are needed.

Typical Tests – Wear

Particle Count

A high particle count or a rapid increase in particles can foreshadow an imminent failure.

Particle Composition

It is often important to understand the elemental composition of particles to find out where they came from. Optical Emission Spectroscopy gives the user elemental information for up to 32 elements, from Li to Ce (varies with application).

Particle type

The size, shape and opacity of particles is used to determine if they are from cutting wear, sliding wear, fatigue wear, nonmetallic or fibers. This allows operators to determine the type of wear debris, wear mode and potential source from internal machinery components.

Ferrous wear

Ferrous wear measurement is a critical requirement for monitoring machine condition. The high sensitivity magnetometer measures and reports ferrous content in ppm/ml and provides ferrous particle count and size distribution for large ferrous particles.

Chemistry

Total Acid Number (TAN)

TAN is measured to determine the corrosive potential of lubrication oils. If the TAN gets too high the oil can induce corrosion of machine parts and should be changed.

Total Base Number (TBN)

TBN measures the amount of active additive left in a sample of oil. The TBN is useful for people who want to extend their oil usage far beyond the normal range. The TBN of a used oil can aid the user in determining how much reserve additive the oil has left to neutralize acids. The lower the TBN reading, the less active additive the oil has left.

Viscosity

The main function of lubrication oil is to create and maintain a lubrication film between two moving metal surfaces. Ensuring the viscosity is within recommended ranges is one of the most important tests one can run on lube oil.

Oxidation, Nitration, Sulfation

Lubricating oil at elevated temperatures can react with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, as well as sulfur in fuel, to form undesirable by-products that can affect the oil’s viscosity and lead to corrosion or damage of equipment.

Contamination

Fuel Dilution

Fuel dilution in oil is a condition caused by excess, unburned fuel mixing with engine oil in an engine crankcase. Hydrocarbon-based fuel, usually with a lower vapor pressure than the lubricant, has a thinning effect, lowering the oil viscosity. Oil film strength is reduced, increasing the cylinder liner, and bearing wear.

Glycol

Glycol is found in engine coolant. If glycol is found in engine oil it typically indicates there is a leak in the engine that can cause catastrophic damage to the cylinder or cylinder wall.

Soot

Soot is a product of combustion and has always been found in engine oils. Soot can use up an oil’s additives and deposit on vital engine surfaces.

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