Stephan Schnabel (LTU)

Published: 26 March 2014

Monitoring of wear in elasto- hydrodynamic lubricated contacts : Running-in and failure propagation

Elasto-hydrodynamic lubricated (EHL) contacts can be found in various machine elements or systems, like rolling element bearings, cam followers or gear transmissions. The service life of these elements and systems are depending to some extent on the performance of EHL contacts. Today most tribological contacts are lubricated with the same type of lubricant throughout the entire service life. However operating conditions can change over the components service life and the contacts will therefore require different lubricant properties. In order to expend the service life of the component, the lubrication of the tribological contacts has to be optimized based on the current operating conditions. A future vision is to develop machine elements which can adopt to the actual operating condition, so called triboactive systems. A first step of necessary research in order to develop such systems is presented in this work.
In order to enable operation dependent lubrication the mechanism of monitoring techniques and their interaction with different operating conditions have to be investigated. In this work the effect of surface topography, slide to roll ratio and additives on the running-in and the monitoring by contact impedance were studied. Characteristic dependences between the surface parameter Rq and the contact capacitance and between the surface parameter Rz and the contact resistance were found. Further tests with iron oxide (FE3O4) contaminated bearings, monitored by vibration and acoustic emission were carried out. Premature failure due to iron oxide contamination is the most common problem for rolling element bearings operating in mining environment. Thereby the effect of iron oxide contamination on the vibration and acoustic emission monitoring for two different types of greases were investigated. It was found that a simple RMS analysis of the vibration and acoustic emission signals enables the detection of improvements of contaminated contacts by lubrication. Both vibration and acoustic emission from the investigated bearings were reduced by adding extreme pressure additives (EP) to the contaminated contacts.


Monitoring of the lubrication condition is necessary to generate information about the current performance of the tribological contact. However, in order to improve the performance of tribological contacts by changes of the lubricant or additives, the effect of such additives on the lubrication condition and the performance of the tribological contact need to be studied more in detail. The presented running-in tests in this work showed that EP additives are only favourable in the very first stage of running-in. The advantage of EP additives for running-in increases with increased surface roughness and increased slide to roll ratio.


Another advantage of EP additives was observed during the tests with iron oxide contaminants. The use of EP additives reduced the acoustic emissions of the tribological contact by 70% and reduced the increase of surface roughness of the raceways by as much as 60%. Furthermore the tests indicate a lower wear rate for contaminated EHL contacts lubricated with greases containing EP additives in comparison to plain grease without EP additives, in case of iron oxide contaminated EHL contacts.