South Africa-based wear control, lubrication and filtration company Filter Focus launched the SmartMon-Oil condition-monitoring sensor onto the South African market last month.
Filter Focus COO Craig FitzGerald tells Engineering News that this in-line unit, which is manufactured by US-based fluid-condition monitoring company Poseidon Systems, is placed between the oil pump and engine.
It detects the condition of the oil in real time, providing information, such as oil quality and the remaining useful life span of oil, for operators on their computers.
“It also detects water contamination, additive depletion, soot levels, incorrect fluid levels and loss of lubricant, all of which can cause equipment failure,” he explains.
The SmartMon-Oil sensor provides information on impedance, moisture content, temperature measurement and fluid monitoring; it also identifies contamination from dust, dirt and water, as well as oil degradation. It further indicates top-up events and when oil changes are due.
The sensor is used in applications such as lubricating systems on diesel and petrol engines, truck transmissions and clutches, aeroplane and helicopter gearboxes, lubricating fluid at machining centres, hydraulic fluid power systems and wind turbine gearboxes, as well as in electrohydrodynamic control fluids used in steam turbines.
FitzGerald notes that diesel- fuelled generator sets are often placed on a 250-hour service schedule. However, Filter Focus was able to prove that, after an hour of service, the oil is no longer fit for use. However, companies will run the generator for the remaining 249 hours according to the service schedule.
Oil is no longer fit for use after one hour of being serviced because mechanics service the engines once they have cooled, which changes the viscosity of the oil.
“When oil is hot, its viscosity is low, which results in the oil running like water when it is drained. Conversely, the viscosity of oil is increased dramatically when it is cooled, resulting in the oil running more like honey and with 20% of the dirtiest oil being left behind in the engine. When new oil is poured into the engine, it mixes with the dirty oil, making the oil unfit for lubrication.
“The SmartMon-Oil sensor will indicate that the oil is contaminated, which can help companies prevent equipment failure,” explains FitzGerald.
Meanwhile, in August, Filter Focus launched US-based fluid storage and handling solutions company Fluid Defense System’s Oil Safe solution. “This system helps simplify maintenance and extends the life of machines, which ensures that the processes used by companies to manufacture products are maintained,” he says.
FitzGerald notes that, typically, oil is stored in drums; however, despite the drums being sealed, they are not completely airtight, which results in the oil being exposed to contaminants, such as dust, in the air. He highlights that while on site visits to mines, he often notices oil drums being stored outside, which exposes the oil to air, dirt and water.
“The Oil Safe system has a lubricant-dispensing station designed to continually circulate oil in drums through a filter, which, in turn, removes the contaminants that may be present in the oil.
“The dispensing station allows for multiple grades of oil to be stored in the same place without running the risk of confusing the different oils, as each oil will be assigned a specific number, colour and symbol. As soon as a certain grade of oil is needed, an operator will activate a three-way valve, which will pump the desired oil into a container, instead of back into the drum,” he explains.
FitzGerald highlights that oil is typically decanted into buckets, resulting in the oil being exposed to contaminants in the environment. The contaminated oil is used in equipment, which he states is “condemning the equipment to failure”.
Further, the Oil Safe solution provides equipment with the same label as the specific oil it requires, helping to prevent cross contamination of lubricants, which occurs often and is a major cause of equipment failure, FitzGerald says, noting that 80% of equipment failure is caused by oil contamination.
The system also has material safety data sheet (MSDS) labelling, which provides reactive measures should the oil spill or an operator come into contact with the oil. An MSDS, stating what the contents are and what an operator needs to do in an emergency, is placed on a drum.
This solution also uses grease guns, which come in pistol- and lever-grip variants, with colour-coded tubes that are loaded into the grease guns. Grease can then be filled into the solid colour tubes, which help identify different greases, notes FitzGerald, adding that Filter Focus supplies contaminant-free grease in cardboard tubes.
The Oil Safe solution also has colour-coded grease nipple dust protectors that are fitted onto the grease zerks, preventing contaminants from being introduced into the bearing through lubrication services.
FitzGerald says that operators often do not know how much grease to apply to equipment. “Unfortunately, they have been taught to apply grease until it starts seeping out of the seals. This causes overlubrication, which is more harmful than underlubrication, as it causes fluid friction and increases the temperature of grease. Increases in temperature causes grease to melt and disperse, leaving equipment without lubrication.
“Companies are using much more grease than necessary, which is problematic, as it results in companies spending more money on lubrication. This, in turn, leads not only to equipment being damaged but also to more money being spent on repairing or replacing it,” he argues.
To prevent this, the Oil Safe grease zerk dust protectors have an indentation with a disc containing a number, which indicates the number of squeezes required from the grease gun to appropriately lubricate the equipment.