Demystifying Failure Modes: Matching Machines and Failure Modes

A Fluke 3561 FC Vibration Sensor installed on an asset on rotating machinery.

The Fluke 810 Vibration Tester locates and identifies the four most common types of mechanical faults and allows for quick and easy assessments of overall machine health.

Many teams make the mistake of starting with a tool that is easy to use and trying to measure everything with that one tool. In the real world, different tools are needed in order to find the many different machine faults that could happen. Additionally, any area in the machine system can have failures, from power in to work out.

Instead of starting their new program with a tool, teams should start with the faults that are troubling their assets and get the right tools that match the expected failure modes. Troubleshooting is a methodical process of finding and fixing problems. Knowing the types of failures your team is most likely to encounter—and their symptoms—will help your team identify them effectively and efficiently.

There is an old saying that goes, “if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” To avoid that limiting mindset, your team needs the proper range of tools for your assets—and for the types of failures they are most likely to experience.

There are three types of tools to address the expected failure modes of the system:

1. Electrical

Type of tool: ScopeMeter and Power Quality

Used to troubleshoot problems in drive and drive output, power distribution, to uncover energy losses, and improve efficiency.

Types of failure tested for:

  1. Electrical harmonics
  2. Distortion
  3. Load studies

Type of tool: Motor and Insulation Tester

Assures safe operation and prolongs life of electrical systems and motors.

What they test for:

  1. Motor speed, torque, power, and efficiency
  2. Motor insulation degradation

2. Mechanical

Type of tool: Vibration and alignment

Best technology for diagnosing mechanical faults in rotating machines and to correct shaft misalignment.

Types of failure tested for:

  1. Imbalance
  2. Looseness
  3. Misalignment
  4. Bearings

3. Thermal

Type of tool: Thermal Cameras

Best technology for finding electrical hot spots in switchgear and motor controllers, and screening process and mechanical assets.

Types of failure tested for:

  1. Fault connections
  2. Overheated bearings
  3. Tank levels