It’s no secret that proper bearing maintenance prevents downtime and saves money, and in fact research shows that running a piece of equipment to the point of failure could cost up to 10 times more than investing in a program of regular maintenance1.
In reality, despite the damming evidence that maintenance pays dividends, we all know that time, resources and labour costs are all factors that determine how thorough a maintenance schedule can be from one year to the next.
So, assuming your bearings have been correctly specified for your application (another massive cause of failure!), here’s a simple list of three money-saving tips to get you started with proper linear bearing maintenance:
- MAKE A SCHEDULE FOR BEARING MAINTENANCE, LUBRICATION AND REPLACEMENT
Bearing maintenance needs to be regular, and that includes lubrication. Proper lubrication is required for rolling element bearings to last, even under light loads.
To achieve the dynamic load capacities listed in the catalogue, your bearings will require the right level of lubrication, applied at the right intervals.
A typical minimum lubrication cycle is once a year or every 100 km of travel, whichever comes first. More frequent lubrication may be required based on application specifics, like the duty cycle, usage, and environment.
Excessive clearances, contaminants, heat and vibrations are all factors that create the need for more frequent lubrication. Another option is lubrication-for-life accessories that provide continuous lubrication for the life of the bearing.
- PLAN YOUR REPLACEMENTS
Planned downtime usually costs less than unplanned downtime, and replacing a fully operational bearing costs less than a breakdown, so replacing linear bearings on schedule before failure makes good business sense. The L-10 life of the bearing can serve as a rough guideline as to when bearing replacement is required. Keep in mind though that, based on its definition, L-10 life means that 90% of bearings will last longer than their L-10 life while 10% will fail before their L-10 life is up. Of course, under difficult environmental conditions or higher than design loads, bearing life will be considerably reduced, so replacement schedules should be adjusted accordingly.
- BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE
You can guarantee that when a bearing fails it will be at the worst moment – like when there’s no spare parts in stock or there isn’t a qualified team member present to perform the change-out.
This extends downtime which means more money down the drain.
To avoid this, invest in training your operatives to proactively spot signs of pending failure. The right training makes it possible to predict oncoming bearing failure so it can be replaced at a much lower cost at a time of your choosing. Make sure you have plenty of bearings in stock too so they are available when you need to quickly deal with an urgent problem or preventative maintenance task.
Preventative maintenance requires regular bearing checks to identify potential signs of failure. Here’s a quick check list:
- Dry-running: Run your finger along the shaft and rail, you should be able to feel a thin film of lubricant
- Contaminants: Check the bearing for corrosion or contaminants
- Environmental changes: Examine the environment to see if it has become more challenging
- Metal fragments: Check the bearings, bearing outer race and shaft or rail for metal fragments
- Clearance: An increase in clearance is sometimes a sign that a bearing is about to fail
- Noise and vibration: Unusual noise or vibration is often an indicator of a bearing problem
Remember to always ask your supplier for support if you discover something unusual during your bearing inspection.
If you want help maintaining your Thomson Linear Bearings, if you’d like to order more stock so you are prepared for an emergency, or if you want to order replacement bearings for your maintenance schedule, I am here to help.