Reliability Engineering Snapshot TM

Illustrated Case Studies in the Maintenance Reliability Engineering World of Failure Analysis, Predictive Maintenance, and Non Destructive Evaluation



Machine Design - Case Study No. 138: Journal Thrust Bearing Fretting Damage


Don't ever assume that a journal housing will never have to be replaced and that all that will need to be replaced is the sleeve insert. Many mechanics fall into this bad habit due to inattentiveness. Sometimes it is not a bad habit. It is due to Production demanding the equipment back as soon as possible. Putting a good sleeve bearing insert into a bad journal housing is kind of like spitting into the wind. It is going to come back at you in a way you won't like.View of Thrust Bearing Journal Housing

Most companies don't routinely stock bearing housings in their warehouse. It is too expensive to do this anymore. So most of the time the routine is to simply replace the sleeve bearing insert and everyone becomes insensitized to whatever might be going on with the housing. Unless the housing is visibly broken into pieces most of the time it never gets a closer inspection. There was an occasion where the sleeve bearing insert was replaced twice within a short period of time. The failure frequency on this bearing had been measured in years and now it was measured in months. As the saying goes "three times the charm" someone finally decided to look a little closer at what they were putting their good bearing inserts into, namely the journal housing. The journal housing is shown in the picture to the left. The damaged sleeve bearing insert was removed.

It is pretty obvious in the picture, in the lower left, that there is severe fretting damage on the lower bearing seat. The fretting damage was probably aggravated by two things, increasing degradation due to age, and looseness brought about by spalling of the material. The picture to the lower right shows a closer view of the fret damage. Notice in the lower right hand corner of the picture where it is circled that there is not fret damage. Using the simple rule for stress being inversely proportional to the surface area at a given load it is easy to see that as the fretting damage diminishes the amount of surface area that can carry the load the stress increases.

Close Up View Journal Bearing Seat - Fret Damage Due to Looseness Close Up View Damaged Journal Bearing Seat Due to Fretting From Looseness
The situation spirals out of control because as the stress increases it does not increase uniformly. The stress along the edges of the damaged areas, which are recessed, is a lot higher than the stress further away from the damaged areas. The pictures below illustrate this concept a little better. In the enhanced picture to the lower right the computer found the edges in the picture to the lower left. There's a lot of missing area now isn't there! Try calculating the stress for some of those interior portions that are literally surrounded by missing material. The problem went away after the journal housing was replaced. No small wonder.
Journal Bearing Seat Fret Damage Computer Rendered Line Drawing Illustrating Missing Material
Fretting damage is usually caused by looseness. Well how does one get looseness if the sleeve insert is always torqued up tightly to the correct pressure? It's called old age. Sooner or later that material IS going to fatigue. Once that happens the torque on the sleeve insert can, and will, relax enough until there is looseness. Other signs of looseness, besides fretting damage, can be missing babbitt on the sleeve bearing inserts. Some damage is shown in the pictures below. The picture to the lower right is a close up of the top circled region in the picture to the lower left. When the bearing insert is loose within the journal housing it bounces and so does the oil film. The oil film collapses more times than one would care to imagine. There's a lot of impacting force between the shaft and the babbitt and the babbitt along the edges is particularly susceptible to this type of damage.
Top Half Journal Bearing Sleeve Insert Close Up View Sleeve Bearing Damage Due to Fretting Caused by Looseness
If you see the beginnings of this type of damage you still have some time, but not a lot of time. Go ahead and put the new bearing insert into the damaged journal housing, but you better be ordering a new journal housing and planning on replacing it during the next production outage.


All Pictures and Text Copyright ©: 2003 - 2016 Contact Mr. Adler Adler Engineering LLC of Wyoming USA


Great care has been taken in the compilation of this article. However, no warranty, expressed or implied, including without limitation, warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose, are given in connection with this article or any article archived on this website. Although this information is believed to be accurate by the author, the author cannot guarantee favorable results will be obtained from the use of this article alone. This article is intended for use by persons at their sole discretion and risk. Since the conditions of product or material use are outside of the author's control, the author assumes no liability or obligation in connection with any use of this information. The author is not liable for special, indirect or consequential damages resulting from the use of this material.

No part of this article or any article archived in this website, or any part thereof, may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder R. H. Adler. Nothing contained in this article or any article archived in this website shall be construed as a grant of any right of manufacture, sale, use, or reproduction, in connection with any method, process, apparatus, product, composition, or system, whether or not covered by letters of patent, copyright, or trademark, and nothing contained in this article or any article archived in this website, shall be construed as a defense against any alleged infringement of letters of patent, copyright, or trademark, or as a defense against any liability for such infringement.