Q&A: Vibration monitoring in pharmaceutical manufacturing

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Q&A: Vibration monitoring in pharmaceutical manufacturing

Vibration monitoring offers an unrivaled opportunity to maximise the performance of machinery used in pharmaceutical manufacturing. This Q&A reveals what it is and how it can benefit your operations.

What is vibration monitoring?
Vibration monitoring is a highly effective and reliable way of monitoring ongoing machine health, through analysing vibrations from components. It can, for instance, detect if a bearing is beginning to wear, alerting maintenance engineers to a problem and providing them with the information required to take planned action to repair or replace failing and worn components.

How do I do it?
Using vibration sensors (also known as accelerometers). Nowadays they are widely used to monitor vibrations in rotating parts, including bearings, shafts and pulleys. An accelerometer contains a piezoelectric crystal element, which is bonded to a mass. When subjected to an accelerative force, the mass compresses the crystal, and this causes the crystal to produce an electrical signal that is proportional to the force applied. This output is then amplified and conditioned by inbuilt electronics to produce a signal that can be used by higher level data acquisition or control systems either online or offline.

Why should I implement it?
Vibration monitoring can detect faults and machine deterioration before the occurrence of other symptoms, such as heat, sound, and greater electrical consumption. Being aware of an issue then enables maintenance engineers to act to protect equipment from failure. As such, costly machine downtime can be minimised and productivity protected.

Can you provide an example of where it is used in pharmaceutical manufacturing?
One area vibration monitoring is frequently used is in air control. Vibration monitoring helps to ensure that machinery used for air control is carefully maintained and run – preventing a mechanical failure that causes a degradation in air standards, which would result in lost production, potential penalties from late orders and the danger of customer dissatisfaction.

How do I install vibration sensors on my equipment?
Accelerometers should be mounted directly onto a flat, smooth and unpainted machine surface that is free from grease and oil and is larger than the base of the accelerometer itself. The accelerometer should be positioned as close as possible to the source of vibration. If conditions (and product warranties) allow, the preferred mounting technique is to drill and tap a thread directly onto the machine so that an accelerometer with an integral ¼-28UNF, M6 or M8 mounting thread can be screwed into place. This ‘drill and tap’ method can also be used to fix a mounting stud, to which an accelerometer can then be attached. If drilling and tapping is not an option, the next best thing is to attach mounting studs using adhesive.

To learn more about vibration monitoring in pharmaceutical manufacturing, please download our free white paper: Vibration monitoring for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Alternatively, get in touch with our team if you have any questions.

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