As you are aware, a pneumatic system is an interconnection of various components such a compressor, actuators, control valves, and other elements using fluid conductors. The operation of the pneumatic system is affected by the presence of heat, dust, moisture, leaks, loose bolts, and misalignment in the system. Lack of regular maintenance may result in the premature wear of moving parts, the loss of air and associated pressure drops, and increased downtime of pneumatic components. Therefore, a good preventive maintenance program must be in place for removing the undesirable and harmful elements from the system from time to time, and usually as per a checklist. In general, maintenance includes the following closely-related activities: (1) Visual inspection, (2) Servicing, (3) Examination, and (4) Overhaul.
Requirements for Preventive Maintenance
The most general requirements of preventive maintenance are as follows: (1) Know the machine, (2) Understand and follow the best maintenance practices, (3) Compile a maintenance checklist, (4) Follow instruction manual, (5) Ensure safety, and (6) Stock spares.
Concern for Safety
The safety of personnel and equipment should always be kept in mind while carrying out routine maintenance activities. Safety can be built into a pneumatic system by incorporating interlocks, power-failure locks, and an emergency shutdown feature. Though the responsibility of building safety into a machine rests with the manufacturer of the machine, every technician should observe and practice relevant safety regulations. Further, every maintenance technician should make a serious attempt to know the hazards involved in his/her occupation.
Activities for Good Maintenance during the Design Phase
The planning for the good maintenance of a pneumatic system begins right from the design stage of the system. That means, the design must facilitate easy maintenance and the efficient removal of contaminants. Further, it is better to plan and design a pneumatic system with correctly-sized and inherently-safe components for its reliability and long service life.
Activities for Good Maintenance during Installation
Additionally, it is required to install a machine in such a way that there is ample space for the operation and maintenance of the machine. It is also essential to provide adequate lighting and a clean environment. The service indicators must be easily visible, and service points must be accessible without any difficulty.
Maintenance, Troubleshooting and Safety in Pneumatic Systems
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Removal of Heat and Solid Contaminants
It is essential to maintain various conditioning devices, like coolers, filters, dryers, and lubricators, at regular intervals, for the removal of heat and other harmful contaminants. The routine maintenance activities generally include cleaning, visual inspection, running checks, and servicing of filters, lubricators, and coolers. The reason for any abnormal noises in the system should be investigated immediately.
An essential requirement of any pneumatic system is to stop leakage, as expensive leaks cost big money. Application of soapy water or commercially available leak detecting liquids, like aerosol sprays, on suspected joints, might reveal the presence of leaks. An ultrasonic leak detection instrument can also be used to locate leakages.
Mounting of Components / Machines
The mounting bolts of components must be torqued correctly. Further, every prime mover must be perfectly aligned with the associated load part to reduce undue stress on components, seals, and bearings. A maintenance technician should check for any vibration, loose bolts, or misalignment of components in a system.
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