If you come across this, jump on it|
Two tower cranes have toppled over in New York City in the past three months. You likely heard about these fatal incidents because they both made it into the mainstream news.
What you may not be aware of, is how many other incidents involving cranes and aerial access equipment (boom lifts, scissor lifts etc) occur every month - in the United States alone.
I'm a regular contributor to a couple of trade magazines covering the crane and access industries. As part of their editorial content, these magazines publish short summaries of reported incidents involving cranes and access equipment. It's usually at least half a page, sometimes as much as a page.
Every time I read these summaries, I'm quietly shocked at the number of incidents where fatalities or serious injuries occur. I'm not taking a swipe at the safety record of the crane and access industry here. Relative to the sheer number of cranes and aerial access machines working on any given day, week or month, the number of incidents is probably relatively small. But significant none the less.
No, the point I want to make here is the publishers of these magazines provide a valuable service to their readers by reminding them of the every present dangers when operating this type of equipment.
But I suspect the guys that need to be reminded the most - the guys that actually operate cranes and aerial access equipment - aren't widely represented in the readership of these magazines.
And without a regular reminder of the dangers, complacency can creep in. Which is not a good thing. So it is with hydraulics. When working on or around hydraulic equipment there are ever present dangers. It's easy to become complacent. And familiarity breeds contempt - as the saying goes.
For example, an experienced technician using a flow meter to measure case leakage on a piston motor, connects the flow meter and starts the system. Moments later the motor case shatters violently. Turns out, the loading valve on the flow meter was closed. True story.
It's similar to a crane or boom lift tip over: a job that's been done right hundreds of times - then one day it gets done wrong - with grave consequences. Let this technician's nasty surprise serve as a reminder of the potential hazards - particularly when engaging in intervention of hydraulic circuits.
Always be on the look out for complacency - in yourself and others, when working on hydraulic equipment. If you see it, it must be jumped on, stamped out and otherwise expunged. And of course, never ever fiddle with anything you're not familiar with or are unsure about.
When I get questions from members it's not hard to pick the ones who are freakin' clueless and shouldn't be allowed within 100 feet of a piece of hydraulic equipment. Even if I did have time to answer them, it's likely my response - in isolation from everything else - would only move them one step closer to maiming or killing themselves - or somebody else.
But at least they've arrived in the right place. Hopefully they'll hang around me long enough; work at and invest in their hydraulics education - so this never happens.
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Maintenance In Action
How to deal with the high price of oil|
The price of oil sure is defying gravity at the moment. And unlike previous oil shocks, the experts are telling us the days of cheap oil (and gas) are gone forever.
It's kinda fortuitous that during our discussion of the pros and cons of changing from a mineral to a bio-based hydraulic oil in issue #71, my advice to Bill Vogel was to make the switch to bio-based when the supply of cheap mineral oil runs out. Well that point sure does look a lot nearer than it did just a few months ago.
But unless you're the owner of a lot of poorly maintained (read: leaky) hydraulic equipment, the price of gas and diesel is likely hurting your wallet more than the price of hydraulic oil. Regardless, you sure don't want to be shelling out for any more of it than you have to.
So this begs the question: how can you make your hydraulic oil go further; last longer? Here's a few pointers to consider:
Keep it in
The first and most obvious thing is to keep it in the hydraulic system. Those couple of slow leaks that you've been putting off fixing are costing you more per day, week and month every time the oil price lurches up. There's always been a cost associated with leaks. But the economics of not attending to them is changing rapidly.
Keep it cool
There's a lot of good reasons to maintain appropriate and stable operating temperatures. Oil life extension is not the least of them. According to Arrhenius's Law, for every 10 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, the rate of reaction doubles. The chemical reactions we're concerned with in so far as oil life is concerned are oxidation - due to the presence of air; and hydrolysis - due the presence of water. So the hotter the oil, the faster the rate of these reactions - and exponentially so.
By way of illustration, if you pour some cooking oil into a glass, it'll take days, even weeks before it darkens in color - a sign of oxidation. But tip the same amount of cooking oil into a frying pan - which gives the oil a large contact area with air - then heat the bejesus out of it, and the oil will go black in a very short space of time.
Keep it dry
Water too has a number of negative effects on the oil. In so far as oil life is concerned, it can chemically compromise (hydrolyze) the additive package. For example, the antiwear additive ZDDP is prone to instability in the presence of water.
Keep it clean
Unless you've been living in a cave, you know when it comes to hydraulic oil: 'cleanliness is next to Godliness'. But particle contamination also affect oil life. Certain wear metals act as catalysts which increase the rate of oxidation and hydrolysis. Particles can also attach themselves to additives in the oil, resulting in additive depletion when these particles are captured in the system's filters.
So to wring the most out of every drop of your hydraulic oil, keep it in; keep it cool; keep it dry and keep it clean. And ONLY change it when base oil degradation or additive depletion demands it be changed.
It's just good maintenance. And good maintenance is good business.
"Thanks for the great work on the two publications, Insider Secrets to Hydraulics and Preventing Hydraulic Failures. I have been in the hydraulics business for the past 20 years and it's very difficult to find any decent material on hydraulic maintenance, troubleshooting and failure analysis. These two books cover it all in easy to understand language... I conduct hydraulic training courses and plan to purchase copies to distribute to my students to share your practical approach to understanding a not so understandable subject."
Paul W. Craven, Certified Fluid Power Specialist
Motion Industries, Inc.
The next challenge for the maintenance department|
In the next decade and beyond, just having reliable machines won't be enough.
In my column in the May-June 2008 Issue of Machinery Lubrication
I explain why and what to do about it.
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About the Author: Brendan Casey has more than 19 years
experience in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of
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information on reducing the operating cost and increasing
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