Maintaining the machines, components, and parts of any industrial complex or work vehicle is essential to keep it running, and if a turbine, gas compressor, nozzle, or other part becomes worn out, eroded, loose, or otherwise unusable, it can slow down the machine’s efficiency or even bring it grinding to a halt, and this can be inconvenient at the very least and may cost the owner money in lost productivity and maintenance or repair work to get the machine working again. The good news is that many diagnostic tools are available to inspect a machine for routine care or to find the cause of a problem, such as a borescope inspection to investigate a turbine or other machine that may have a problem. Turbines involve moving very fast for hours or days at a time and may be exposed to hot, fast-moving gases or air or salty water, so maintenance is key to keeping them running longer. What are some common types of turbines, and how can work crews keep them in good shape?
Varieties of Turbines
For centuries, turbines of different types have been put to use, with steam turbines serving as time-honored ways to convert fluid flow of liquids or gas into work based on a spinning motion. Coal-fueled, steam powered trains and water vessels are classic example of vehicles that make use of steam turbines, which were also used for electricity generation starting in the 1880s onward. Coal is burned to make fire that boils water, and this water boils into pressurized steam that shoots past turbines and spins them, and this spinning motion creates work that the vehicle uses. Anything from a train speeding along its tracks in the Wild West to the Titanic made use of turbine power in this manner. Nowadays, even more types of turbines may be found in vehicles or industry, such as gas turbines, which have a higher operating temperature than steam turbines do. In fact, a gas turbine will often operate at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to a steam engine’s 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Turbines may also be found in water, such as the ocean or large lakes. Here, however, turbine support and maintenance will involve checking turbine blades for salt particles, which may in turn attract other particles such as dirt. A turbine’s power output may drop by as much as 15% of too much material builds up on it. Finally, a recent innovation in turbine technology is wind turbines, which function together as “wind farms.” These machines work diligently to harness wind power, which rotates the blades and generated electricity, with no by-products whatsoever. This makes wind turbines a popular form of clean, green energy, and this technology has been improved in recent years to become a strong competitor to traditional fossil fuels, alongside solar panels and hydroelectric dams. Windy areas such as the state of Kansas are popular places for these machines, and they can even be placed in shallow ocean water. A large wind farm just off the coast of England, for example, is being built, and it may generate massive amounts of power thanks to turbine technology, and with no pollution to speak of.
Caring for these machines means knowing how to diagnose a problem, and if a work site or company does not have an in-house expert who can use a borescope to inspect the machines, then the manager may hire one who will visit the site and use one to check for the issue. A borescope is a flexible tube with a camera at the end, and it feeds visual data to the user so that the user may view areas that would normally be impossible to inspect, even with a flashlight or a handheld microscope. These devices may also be used for routine inspections to stay ahead of developing issues in turbines, anything from parts coming loose to heat or particles eroding them. If an issue is spotted, a repair professional from that turbine’s manufacturer can be called over to replace or repair anything that needs it.