How to Detect Possible Spring Damage
It’s important to detect spring damage to avoid further trouble. Here’s your detailed guide.
Unceremonial valve failures are indeed the #1 cause of sudden compressor shutdowns and downtimes. This usually results in costly repair, production, and manpower problems. However, the crux of valve failures is valve springs.
Therefore, to prevent costly unscheduled shutdowns of compressors during production, developing better and stronger springs is essential.
Springs used in reciprocating compressors are generally used for controlling the timing of valve functionalities. Since valve motions are rapid accelerations and decelerations, it causes the spring to undergo incredibly high stress. This, in turn, leads to much earlier than expected spring failure and consequent valve failure and compressor shutdown.
Signs of Spring Damage or Failure in Compressors
Therefore, prevention becomes key to avoiding sudden reciprocating compressor shutdowns and downtimes. This starts with detecting the signs of spring damage or failure. Observing these signs will help you quickly determine the next step to take that ensures the continuous operation of the compressor:
- Clunking noises or other unpleasant sounds
- Unexpected vibration
- Corrosion, etc.
Factors That Cause Spring Failures
Some factors can severely impact the performance of springs in your compressor. This could cause spring failure and eventual compressor shutdown. Some of these factors include:
- The temperature that the spring will be subjected to all the time during compressor operation
- Exposure to corrosion or corrosive environment
- Using the wrong material type for making springs, etc.
These three are the major factors behind considerable spring failures in reciprocating compressors. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of them:
1. Operating environment of the spring
The environment within which a spring operates can go a long way in determining the life span of a compressor. But in many cases, manufacturers often ignore the environment in which compressor springs are expected to function optimally. This issue usually occurs during the design stage of the reciprocating compressor.
This is why it is essential for manufacturers to always communicate with the compressor design team. The following information should be available to the design team in order to help them make the best decisions:
- The kinds of fluid or types of materials the compressor spring will likely come in contact with
- The degree to which the environment around the spring can be controlled
- How toxic or non-toxic the environment that surrounds the compressor spring is
- The similarities or differences in the conditions springs in other systems undergo
- Adherence to local laws/safety considerations that may significantly impact the overall performance of the compressor spring
If you anticipate these matters, the issues of compressor spring failures can be eliminated for good or even before it occurs. This, of course, does not rule out the importance of regular preventive maintenance.
For instance, varying temperatures can cause springs to fail without warning. If the temperature around compressor springs is consistently – and extremely – hot, it could warp the component and weaken it. It may also cause the spring to expand when it shouldn’t, leading to compressor problems.
On the other hand, if compressor springs are exposed to subzero temperatures that they can’t withstand, the material used in making the spring may contract. This may instigate brittleness, rigidity, and the appearance of tiny cracks in the spring’s material.
Once again, manufacturers must always communicate or share vital information with design teams about vital components of reciprocating compressors.
2. Using Springs Made from The Wrong Material Type
Since compressor springs are utilized in several industries, there is no one-size-fits-all, highly recommended material for making them.
However, when choosing the material for making compressor springs, care must be taken. If a poor material is used for making a compressor spring that is not suitable for a particular environment or temperature, it could result in considerable spring/valve failure.
For example, music wire is the best material for making small springs since it is durable, strong, and capable of carrying high shock loads. This material cannot be used for making large springs as the latter may fail to perform optimally over time.
Therefore, knowledge of the expected load of a compressor spring is crucial and required, including how often the spring completes one work cycle. This helps make the choice of the right material for making compressor springs easier.
Corrosion is another vital factor to watch out for as it can severely impact compressor springs’ operability. It is always essential to design well-oiled systems that can easily combat corrosion while performing key functions efficiently.
However, corrosion may occur down the road, especially if the operation of the compressor causes or creates adverse environmental conditions.
As mentioned earlier, compressor springs arguably take center stage in every machine’s work cycle. This is why they must perform optimally in conducive environments.
Combatting corrosion is a problem many industries face daily with no end in sight. However, regular preventive maintenance helps detect signs of corrosion so that the necessary measures are put in place.
Getting Springs Replaced or Repaired from a Manufacturer
Nothing gives peace of mind than acquiring springs repaired or replaced by a manufacturer. Springs obtained from manufacturers always meet – and sometimes exceed – OEM Standards.
Moreover, manufacturers already know the type of spring material/spring suitable for your reciprocating compressor. This makes it easier to choose and install instead of running in circles and trying to get aftermarket replacements that may not meet OEM Standards.
The Need for Quality Springs
High-quality springs in compressors go a long way in preventing unscheduled shutdowns. However, not all springs can be used as valve springs.
Springs are made from a wide variety of materials. These materials are chosen based on the type of environment in which the spring is expected to operate. Different environments will, of course, require different spring-making materials.
Valve springs are primarily behind valve failures and eventual shutdown of compressors during operation. This shows that the importance of using strong springs cannot be overstated.
However, even the strongest springs eventually yield to consistent high stress. Spotting and knowing the signs of possible spring failure or the factors that cause them is key in preventing compressor shutdowns and hiccups in productivity.
Regular preventative maintenance, attention to environmental conditions, and cleaning can help avoid spring failure in reciprocating compressors.
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