The 5 Essentials of Industrial Gearbox Maintenance

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Gearbox rebuild

Industrial gear box maintenance can be a chore. Removal of the whole gearbox and full inspection can result in hours of downtime on the line and detrimental breaks in production lines. Taking your industrial gearbox out of commission can have repercussions throughout your entire operation. And yet, possibly the only thing worse than gearbox inspections and maintenance, are gearbox repair or rebuilds. Even with 24/7, on-site gearbox repair and rebuild services available who can start work immediately, if an industrial gearbox rebuild or extensive repair is in order, you’re looking at weeks of down time.

To identify any issues before they result in gearbox failure, follow these five tips for prolonging your industrial gearbox’s life:

1. Know your gearbox’s design specifications

Nothing is more guaranteed to result in a need for gearbox repair than using your industrial gearbox in a method outside of its intended application. Manufacturers provide specifications for a reason. If you want to keep your gearbox running strong and long, familiarize yourself with those specifications, particularly both the mechanical and thermal ratings. Then verify that your industrial gearbox isn’t being used beyond the maximum input power recommended.

2. Keep your industrial gearbox clean

Industrial gearboxes are often put to work in dusty or dirty environments. It’s not likely to be possible nor feasible to keep your industrial gearbox in immaculate condition, and you shouldn’t have to to prevent the need for gearbox repair. What you can and should do, however, is try to minimize the effect a dirty working environment can have on your industrial gearbox. Dust and dirt buildup can cause a gearbox to operate at a higher temperature than it should. It can also lead to contamination, a surefire way to find yourself in need of gearbox repair services. To prevent such harmful contamination, regularly dust your gearbox with a cloth or brush to prevent buildup.

3. Keep your industrial gearbox lubricated

Hand in hand with cleanliness is lubrication. Keeping a gearbox lubricated is almost synonymous with keeping it running smooth. This is another time when you should refer back to your manufacturer’s specifications. Before applying any lubrication, ensure that the type, grade, and quantity you use all meet the specifications set out by you gearbox manufacturer. The manufacturer should also have provided you with instructions on when to renew the lubrication of your gearbox.

4. Perform regular vibration analysis

Just as gearboxes often operate in dirty or dusty environments, they also often work in noisy environments. As such, it may not be possible to notice all vibrations or changes in the noise of your gearbox. By performing regular vibration analysis of the internal gears and bearings, you can record or confirm any changes that may have occurred to the internal makeup of your gearbox. Noting and addressing these changes as they occur can help prevent a massive gearbox repair or rebuild.

5. Perform regular inspections and timely maintenance.

It’s important to regularly inspect your industrial gearbox and perform necessary maintenance as the need arises. This may sound rudimentary or like common sense, but it’s surprising how many times an inspection may be skipped or maintenance procrastinated in favor of continuing production. Some of the things you should be looking for during your gearbox inspections include the following:

  • Wear to the gears
    Either remove the inspection covers or use an endoscope to inspect the internal gears for any signs of wear or compromise. Be on the lookout for pitting or spalling, which occurs when the surface of the gear tooth flanks is removed.
  • Contact misalignment
    Check the contacts between the gear teeth. Misalignment of contacts could indicate there’s wearing occurring in the bearings or bearing housings.
  • Increase in backlash
    A dial indicator can be used to check for signs of increased backlash between the gears. Increased backlash can signal wearing on the gear teeth that isn’t visible to the naked eye.
  • Increase in shaft end play
    A dial should be used to check for increased shaft end play or signs, as this could mean there’s wear in the rolling elements, bearings, or bearing housings.

Whatever use your gearbox is put to, from driving a plate rolling machine to tank fabrication, the maintenance requirements remain the same. Following these five tips will help keep your gearbox running long and strong.

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