Gearboxes play a crucial role in applications ranging from small appliances to high-powered industrial machinery, producing large amounts of torque in hot, humid, and dusty environments. When a gearbox fails, key processes will typically grind to a halt, incurring a significant loss in productivity and profitability. This means that operators must be proactive, identifying potential problems before they occur when there are signs of trouble.
Increasing the longevity of your inline gearbox involves regular preventative maintenance. Keeping a consistent record of key problem indicators such as temperature and vibration while also maintaining a clear and actionable process for responding to gearbox failure to mitigate your productivity.
Here are three essential tips for maintaining your inline gearbox to maximize reliability and service life so that you get the most from your gearbox and decrease downtime.
Keep the Gearbox Cool
Inside a gearbox, gear teeth collide and mesh together at high speeds, producing large amounts of friction that create heat. In particular, inline gearboxes are often subject to heavy stress because of their relatively high-power transmission capability. An overheating gearbox not only causes damage to gears and bearings but can even permanently damage the lubricant and its capacity to reduce friction between gears.
To diagnose an overheating gearbox, monitor the surface temperature regularly. Also, look out for peeling or discoloured exterior paint or a dark colour to the sight glass oil. A burning smell coming from any part of the gearbox signifies that something is amiss, and the problem will need immediate investigation. You can use an infrared thermometer to diagnose and track problem areas without touching the hot surface.
The easiest way to prevent a gearbox from overheating is to ensure that it operates within its rated speed, torque and is always properly lubricated. Random starts, tops, and cyclic loads create heat from friction and risk gear tooth fracture. To ensure that the gearbox is lubricated correctly, always use the lubricant recommended by the manufacturer. Keep it topped up, and regularly check for oil leaks, especially around the shaft seals.
Keep the Gearbox Clean
Dirt, water, dust, and other types of debris can wreak havoc inside your gearbox if they're allowed to enter. Mineral and dust particles quickly wear out and damage gear teeth. Moisture erodes gears and bearings while interfering with the lubricant's properties. It's essential to keep everything except lubricant out of your gearbox.
The two main points of ingress for contaminants are the breather and the shaft seals. Air ventilation enables hot, pressurized air inside the gearbox to escape and cool air from outside to enter, reducing stress on the shaft seals and contributing to cooling. Ensure that ventilation isn't vulnerable to excessive dust, dirt, and humidity, and check the filter periodically for clogging, leading to pressure buildup that ruptures the shaft seals. Oil leaks around the shaft signify that the seal has failed, and the gearbox interior is vulnerable to contaminants.
To prevent problems from developing, operate the gearbox in as clean and dry an environment as possible, free from dust and moisture. Especially in industrial settings, it may not be possible to prevent contaminants from coming into contact with the gearbox completely, but shielding it from direct sources and regularly brushing the gearbox down will go a long way toward keeping it clean and cool.
Reduce Gearbox Vibration
Vibration originating from a gearbox is a sign of damaged gears or bearings, and vibration acting on the gearbox from external sources, such as heavy machinery operating in the vicinity, increases friction between gears and contributes to both gear and bearing failure. To increase the reliability of your gearbox, reduce vibration as much as possible.
It’s crucial to operate your gearbox as far away from loud noise sources as possible and regularly monitor vibration levels. If you detect unusual levels and are unsure about what's causing it, remove the load and operate the gearbox in a noise-free area.
What Causes Gearbox Vibration
A gearbox may vibrate for many reasons, including shaft misalignment, a damaged case, fractured gears, and load imbalance. Shaft play indicates damaged bearings, while increased backlash may indicate worn-out gear teeth. Disassemble and inspect the gearbox for signs of gear damage if shaft rotation is not smooth. If the vibration disappears after the removed load, check that the load is aligned correctly and balanced.
To ensure that you can react to vibration issues on time, regularly check the gearbox's vibration levels and listen for unusual noises during operation, which can signal a problem well before it causes further damage.
Maintaining a reliable and trouble-free gearbox is straightforward as long as you operate it within the ratings specified by the manufacturer and use a regular preventative maintenance program to spot issues and fix them before they cause damage to your vital equipment.