Most hydraulics users know that fluid contamination leads to problems. It can raise fluid costs, promote premature component failure and cause unscheduled downtime, just to name a few potential headaches.
“Over the past 10 years, the knowledge base has widened and customers are more aware that contamination is important and it influences performance and costs. Today, most realize that it is an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Dan Zoller, group product manager of filter systems at Schroeder Industries, Leetsdale, Pa.
The technology behind contamination control has improved, too. Fifteen years ago users had to send fluid samples to a lab for patch tests with a microscope, explained Zoller. “Today, particulate sensors can mount right into a system or device and measure the ISO code in real time. Users get results immediately, rather than waiting a week for a lab report,” he said.
However, even when companies understand the need for proper contamination control, they get poor results if technicians don’t perform scheduled service or managers cannot measure and track fluid conditions due to a lack of accurate information. The situation can be particularly overwhelming when people managing high-value hydraulic and lubrication systems must oversee many machines in large plants or fleets.
To overcome this problem, Schroeder engineers developed the Asset Management Filtration Station (AMFS), an all-in-one system designed to manage cleanliness in hydraulic and lubrication fluids.
The AMFS is housed on a mobile, wheeled cart for easy positioning right at a vehicle or machine. But unlike basic filtration carts, the AMFS not only cleans fluids, it also measures conditions before and after service and tracks all the data needed for trend analysis and record keeping for every machine.
In operation, the cart connects to a tank or barrel and runs in kidney-loop fashion. To initiate operation, touchscreen commands log the AMFS operator, asset (specific vehicle or machine) being tested, the asset’s hours of operation, and the target ISO Cleanliness Class based on the most sensitive component in the hydraulic system.
The unit includes a particle counter to track fluid cleanliness and a water sensor to measure saturation levels. High-capacity dual filters remove particulates as the fluid circulates, and users can specify a water-absorbing element in the first stage to remove free water from the fluid. Filter ratings (such as 3, 5 or 10 µm) are specified according to application requirements, and 1.5-hp motor/pump provides 5-gpm flow.
Finally, an on-board, ruggedized PC records run time, ISO cleanliness code and water saturation level, and it displays graphical and tabular data in real time. Technicians can transfer the information in a Microsoft Excel file via a USB drive to a desktop or plant-maintenance program. It lets plant and fleet managers track the fluid condition and history for each individual asset, as well as the maintenance practices for every AMFS operator.
The state-of-the-art AMFS brings several benefits to users, said Zoller. ”Clean fluid lasts longer, so it doesn’t need to be replaced as often. And it brings down repair costs because parts last longer due to lower contamination levels. A pump that used to last one year might now last three or four years, thanks to better practices.”
It can also reduce the need for lab samples that may cost $35 each, he explains. For instance, companies sampling a hundred trucks every week might now extend it to once a month. “When costs drop by 75% there are clear advantages,” noted Zoller.
And with better and more-complete information, managers can gravitate from preventive to predictive maintenance. Managers not only want to know fluid conditions when equipment needs servicing, but if it’s changing over time. AMFS-generated data can highlight trends. “If, over a year, a truck is coming in with increasingly dirty fluid, perhaps that’s an indicator that a pump or other component needs repair or replacement. Previously, users would wait until something fails, usually in the field. Now they can act earlier by making intelligent decisions based on the data and prevent unforeseen downtime and expense,” said Zoller.
For all these reasons, the system pays for itself, often in just a matter of months, he added. The AMFS operates at temperatures from -20 to 150° F with fluid viscosities up to 1,000 SUS. Typical users include paper and steel-making plants, power-generation facilities, construction and mining sites, refuse and utility truck fleets, and equipment-rental operations.