Component Identification and Repair Management Through Ultrasound

by Denver Osthoff, Armstrong World Industries

Armstrong World Industries, a global leader in the design and manufacture of floors, ceilings, and cabinets with 41 plants in 12 countries around the world, has been using the latest ultrasonic technology to identify and repair mechanical systems before failure since 2003.

Now an integral part of all predictive maintenance schedules for seven of Armstrong’s U.S. plants, ultrasound technology has been estimated to have helped save the company thousands of dollars in unnecessary repair, production downtime, and energy loss.

First Attempt At Analyzing Equipment Failure
UE Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of ultrasonic detection equipment introduced this technology to Armstrong in 2003 as part of a corporate initiative to enhance PdM technologies.

While the technology was not greatly understood at first, it was chosen for its ability to accurately, efficiently, and quickly detect potential problem areas while capturing data to analyze and trend over time before full system failure or unnecessary action was taken.

The first attempt to use ultrasound was in an effort to determine bearing testing frequency throughout the plant. When comparing bearings through the data provided by the UE Systems Ultraprobe® pistol-shaped detection equipment, we immediately believed there was a problem with the technology and/or our understanding of how to analyze the data.

The data received from the Ultraprobe was showing one of the bearings tested was in failure mode. Although we received comprehensive training from UE Systems, our on-site mechanic working daily on the system was emphatic that the Ultraprobe detection device was wrong and there was no way this bearing could be failing.

After some debate, the site supervisor made the decision to replace the bearing, even though he was not convinced the data received from the Ultraprobe was correct. After replacing the bearing, we found out that it indeed was failing and would have caused unscheduled and costly downtime had it not been replaced immediately.

This learning experience immediately built trust in the technology and the data – and changed the way we managed our PdM operations forever after.

Going Deeper – Advancing the Technology
After getting increasingly comfortable with ultrasound technology and its ability to detect even the smallest imperfections in bearings, pumps, and other systems throughout several Armstrong plants, we looked to gain additional insight into different loads, speeds and applications.

We began our ultrasound relationship with the Ultraprobe 9000, which offered a complete digital ultrasonic inspection, information storage, and retrieval system that was versatile enough to perform detection on almost any mechanical, electrical, and fluid application.

However, when the Ultraprobe®10,000 was introduced by UE Systems in 2004, we purchased it with the intention of using one system to perform condition analysis, record sounds, and improve storage and data management. With the push of a button, it was now possible to record a sound sample directly into the detection instrument and link it to one of 400 record files stored in the Ultraprobe.

Examples of Ultrasound Technology At Work
A few examples of how ultrasound technology saved us real dollars and improved our efficiency include:

  • 200 hp motor
  • After detecting a problem with the bearing due to excessive lack of lubrication, we scheduled the replacement of the O.B. bearing
  • Cost was $1,287
  • If this had been a catastrophic failure, the cost would have been over $78,000 including parts, labor, crane and plant down time.
  • Total savings were over $76,000

    Pump Replacement of Bearings

  • Ultraprobe detected a bad bearing in one of our pumps.
  • We replaced the bearing for a total of $1,707.
  • If we had let this problem get to failure mode, it would have cost the plant over $86,000.
  • Total savings were over $85,000.

    White Water Pump

  • We were having pump problems and installed a spare.
  • The new pumps Db’s were at 54 initially and the next day rose to 77.
  • This called for a lubricator to add grease but afterwards the Db’s kept fluctuating down and then up.
  • We then purged out the old grease that had become hard and dry from setting up, which allowed the pump to run smoothly.
  • This action saved us a lot of money. Had we not had the Ultraprobe, the bearing would have ceased and without a spare R&R pump, it would have caused us some costly downtime.

    Kraft Pulper – Jack Shaft & Bearing

  • Pulper has a 14 ft vertical jack shaft.
  • We checked the system and the Db’s were going up.
  • We then checked for a new bearing and found the bearing was installed in the late 1970’s.
  • The UE System gave us time to find a different type of bearing that would work and plan for jobs without downtime, saving us a tremendous amount of money and time.

Since purchasing the Ultraprobe 10,000 two years ago, we have not experienced any catastrophic failures. It is obvious this technology has drastically improved our plant efficiencies and has equally saved us more money, time, and energy than we thought possible.

Ultrasound has proven to be one of the most valuable assets our plants, maintenance team, and production organizations own. It has worked well for reducing downtime, costs, and improving overall performance. We would recommend this technology to any other organization in need of safe, accurate, and highly effective PdM programs to improve plant operations and cost savings.

Denver Osthoff has been working in industry for 37 years where his positions have ranged from mechanic to maintenance manager. For the past 10 years, he has worked as a mechanic for Armstrong World Industries.

Armstrong World Industries, Inc., is a global leader in the design and manufacture of floors, ceilings, and cabinets. Founded in 1860, and based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Armstrong has 41 plants in 12 countries and approximately 15,000 employees worldwide. In 2005, Armstrong’s net sales totaled $3.6 billion.

UE Systems is the worldwide leader in the manufacture of ultrasonic detection equipment. For more than 35 years, they have offered cutting edge ultrasound technology supported by hardware, software, numerous workshops and custom training programs that educate and certify plant maintenance and ultrasound technology personnel.

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