• The tools, tests, and processes that are used to prevent mechanical failure have evolved significantly throughout the years. This certainly isn’t surprising given that mechanized systems have also evolved quite a bit themselves. Following is a quick look at the different technologies that have been used to predict, identify, mitigate, and prevent these problems over time.

    Oil Analysis

    Oil analysis is among the simplest and oldest prevention strategies used by companies seeking to identify pending problems within their mechanized systems. This technique can be as simple as looking within oil tanks to identify sediments that might indicate excess friction and the significant wear and tear of moving parts. In addition to often being easy and cost-effective to perform, this is an entirely non-destructive and non-invasive method for predicting and preventing problems that might lead to mechanical malfunction.

    Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation

    While oil analysis is certainly a nondestructive diagnostic technique, it remains in its own, distinct category due to its frequency of use within overall condition monitoring. Other forms of nondestructive testing and evaluation (NDE) are considered more advanced and significantly more informative. These include efforts such as electrical infrared inspection, microscopy, thermography, radiography, and electromagnetics among others. NDE methods are used for ensuring reliability and safety, and for promoting maximum performance throughout the lifespan of the tested equipment. In recent times, the advent and introduction of advanced software and hardware has significantly increased the acceptable applications and capabilities of NDE methods.

    Motor-Current Signature Analysis

    One very non-intrusive method for identifying impending mechanical problems is Motor-Current Signature Analysis (MCSA). This system was devised by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study the impact of service degradation and aging on the components used within nuclear power plants. The general idea behind MCSA is that electrical motors that are responsible for driving mechanical loads should be constantly accessible as functional transducers. Motors should be able to detect variations in load, and should convert these changes into variations in electrical current. Recording and studying these changes is helpful for determining the overall condition of the related machines.

    Acoustic Methods

    Tap testing is the absolute cheapest and easiest form of acoustic analysis currently being used. As such, it is also the most frequently employed technique. During these processes, inspectors simply tap the surfaces of tested structures and then analyze the resulting sounds. There is no special equipment needed for these processes, however, the related analysis can be greatly enhanced with recording hardware, and an appropriate reporting software.

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