How to get to grips with machine vibrations

Vibration analysis is an important part of ensuring that any machinery continues to run as efficiently and effectively as possible but it must be done correctly if it is to accurately assess the health of machinery equipment. By finding any failures that are present before they become the cause of a major headache, maintenance staff can cut down on the amount of unexpected downtime required.

Basically, vibration in motor-based equipment is caused by the movement or oscillation of its inherent components like compressors, pumps and drive motors, as well as bearings, belts and shafts.

Often, noticeable machinery vibration can be a signal that all is not well within the equipment, but sometimes it is nothing to worry about. So, when do you know you if you should act on vibration?

When vibration is troublesome

The vast majority of industrial equipment is manufactured so that it operates smoothly, avoiding vibration for the most part. If vibration is noticed in these devices, it could be a sign that they are starting to degrade, and you will need to correct the problem as soon as possible if you want to avoid any extra damage being caused.

Common causes of machinery vibration

There are a number of things that can cause machines to vibrate, but one of the most common is a ‘heavy spot’ or imbalance in one of the machine’s rotating components. This happens when the unbalanced weight turns around the axis of the equipment, creating a centrifugal force. Machinery errors, dirty fan blades and casting flaws are all possible causes of this problem.

Another reason for vibration is simple wear and tear of the bearings, belts or gears. This is a problem that can, to some extent, be minimised by using a high quality lube by the likes of Fuchs or Q8, and by properly maintained equipment.

A third common cause of machinery vibration is misalignment – a problem that occurs when machine shafts are not in line. This is usually caused when the axes of pump and motor are not in a parallel position. It is an issue that can crop up due to incorrect reassembly, shifting components or simple thermal expansion.

Why you should act quickly

It is important to act to determine the exact problem as soon as you notice vibration as it can cause machinery to rapidly wear, and it can cause a lot of noise pollution, as well as health and safety problems in the work area, which could cause a serious incident.