KCF Technologies Blog

Mike on Maintenance: Do You Hear That?

In this blog, Mike, our resident vibration expert with considerable experience in maintenance and reliability, gives an example of a common scenario in v-belt driven fans and describes some things to check on once you hear a strange sound coming from your machine.

What’s that odd noise, that ticking sound, coming from your v-belt driven fan? Man, you know the PM crew just changed the drive belts out; it can’t be the belts, so it has to be a fan bearing, right? You better get a shutdown to change the bearing out, and while you’re at it you might as well change both bearings out.

But before you do that, stop and think about it. You weren't there when the PM crew changed the drive belts out.

Did they properly install the belts? 
Did they check for worn sheaves? 
Did they spin the belts on without loosening the motor stretching and breaking the tensile cords?

You get the picture. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t assume that just because someone told you that when you hear “that sound” it will always be worn/failing bearings. I will tell you from 35 years of past experience that less than 10% of the time it is a bearing problem.

If you do everything right, from the fan foundation right up to correct belt tensioning and sheave alignment it eliminates a lot of maybes. Only after you've checked into those possibilities you can start looking into possible bearing faults. Next time you hear that sound, check these simple things before planning to change a bearing and it could save you a lot of time and money in the future.

New Building Commissioning: The Problem Maintenance Engineers Don't Know They Have

KCF Technologies is located in the heart of State College, PA in close proximity to the Penn State University. As a resident here, it's hard to ignore the chain link fences lining the streets while crews construct a new Health and Human Development Building, renovate the Intramural Athletics Building and South Hall Dorms, and complete a massive addition to the Hetzel Student Union Building on campus just a few blocks away. With only a few weeks until classes begin, construction crews and engineering firms are urgently trying to complete deadlined projects before thousands of students return for the fall semester.

This is a scenario happening all across the United States, as universities spend billions to expand their campuses with new, state-of-the-art buildings or to revitalize their outdated buildings. For the lead maintenance engineers in charge of overseeing these expensive building commissioning projects, the process is daunting with critical details often overlooked. One Lead Engineer at Penn State recently told us about a frustrating, reoccurring problem associated with multiple construction projects - watching expensive machines mysteriously fail within days of the bond and warranty expiration.

We've all been there. We purchase a new appliance, for example a refrigerator that carries a 1-year warranty. It always seems the refrigerator conveniently waits one year and one week before breaking. Then, we are stuck with the burden of financing even more money to repair, with manufacturers and installers in the clear.

Fixing a refrigerator is one thing, but what do you do when you're the lead maintenance engineer stuck with repairing components of your university's newly installed multi-million dollar HVAC system? Most universities reach the end of their warranty period with little or no accountability strategies in place to assess machinery health or detect early failures upon startup.  In reality, approximately 30-40% of those new machines will fail due to a variety of factors, and repairs will fall on you, the lead maintenance engineer, not the installer.

So what can universities do to save that repair money? Some universities are becoming proactive, using predictive maintenance strategies to monitor their machines upon startup, well before the warranty expires. With early failures detected, installers can repair potential problems eliminating needless spending that will occur after the bond period. Universities are also accumulating data from different projects to assess and "score" installers to determine which contractors are efficient with their installation efforts. By identifying the best installation partners, lead maintenance engineers can alleviate headaches and cut needless spending.

So the next time you pass a college campus and see those chain link fences and construction cranes, maybe you'll wonder if the maintenance engineers are aware this problem exists....and that there is an easy way to fix it.

Mike on Maintenance: Structural Looseness

We can't wait to introduce you to Mike!

Michael Hoy comes to KCF Technologies from Penn State University. Mike just recently retired from PSU after 35 years of service, most of which was spent in the HVAC-R / Vibration Analysis and PdM Program. Mike was very instrumental in building the Vibration/PdM Program and also implemented a fail-safe type of lubrication identification and greasing frequency program. At KCF Technologies, he is a Maintenance and Reliability Specialist supporting SmartDiagnostics Sentry Service consulting team and KCF sales for universities, pulp and paper industries, power generation, general manufacturing and food and beverage industry.

Mike will be frequently contributing his expertise to a series of blog posts with practical advice for vibration analysts and reliability engineers. To kick off his segment on the blog, here's some quick advice from Mike on structural looseness:

When checking out vibration related issues of a belt driven fan, make sure to pay special attention to what is supporting your fan/motor. Start with machine hold-down bolts, especially on older poured concrete housekeeping pads. Check very closely for any cracks in the concrete. You probably will not see the flaking or cracks if you do not scrape the years of excess lubrication or dirt build up off of the housekeeping pad.

Also, check the pad itself by lifting it from what it is setting on. You may even want to squirt a little water around the pad perimeter if safely possible. If you see water surging or bubbles forming it could indicate looseness. 

If possible, squirt water with the machine in normal operating mode, this way you may see the cracks opening and closing or the pad lifting in real time.

A structurally sound machine starts by having firmly rooted footings/foundation. If you can rule out structural looseness then other things will have to be taken into consideration...

Stay tuned to find out what Mike suggests for other vibration related issues in our next segment!

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