Elmo Rietschle urges vigilant vacuum pump maintenance to bridge international standards gap
With few international standards surrounding air quality for vacuum pumps, and a growing grey market of economical, low quality replacements, maintenance engineers are being reminded to remain vigilant and pay attention to maintenance schedules as Europe enters late summer.
While stringent health and safety regulations in the US restrict air oil contamination to three milligrams per cubic litre, there are few such rules that apply internationally, or even across EMEA. According to Elmo Rietschle, this means that potential pump failures or inefficiencies could be overlooked, particularly for businesses that do not follow strict maintenance schedules. The risk of pump failure is even more common during late summer, where excess heat has a major impact.
Myles Mander, Elmo Rietschle Distribution Leader EMEA at Elmo Rietschle, a brand of Ingersoll Rand, explained: "Poorly maintained pumps at this time of year often struggle to perform as the ambient temperature increases. Saturated separators can restrict the flow of lubricants, and the pump can run hot, burning the oil. This can result in a reduction in performance and in extreme cases, damage to the pump and costly downtime for essential machinery."
According to Elmo Rietschle, particular attention should be paid to the replacement of oil separators at least every year, or every 2,000 working hours. This not only helps to avoid pump failure, but also improves optimum energy usage, by reducing oil consumption. Over time, the back pressure on a vacuum pump separator can gradually build up as impurities are sucked into the pump and the oil becomes contaminated. This forces the pump to work harder, increasing power consumption and operating temperatures. Both of these factors can lead to clogged oil separators and potentially costly damage.
When it comes to the sourcing of replacement parts, Elmo Rietschle also advises caution, due to the burgeoning grey market for low cost, low quality replacements.
"Mander continued: "Using genuine manufacturer spare components offers a number of performance advantages that simply cannot be replicated by inferior generic parts. For mission-critical items, investing in the right components is crucial to maintaining an efficient and reliable operation. When we take the time to evaluate the costs of unplanned maintenance and downtime, the advantages of higher quality original manufacturer components are abundantly clear as the upfront costs more than justify subsequent savings."
The advice from Elmo Rietschle is to periodically service all vacuum pump equipment, particularly during late summer. Dedicating time to maintaining components or replacing them, where necessary, prevents significant disruption further down the line. The degree of maintenance required will depend heavily on where the equipment is within its lifecycle; while relatively new machines may simply require a standard service or even an oil and separator change, a more in-depth service may be necessary. It is therefore better to understand what exactly is needed, and plan in advance, rather than waiting for faults to occur.
Mander concluded: "In terms of standards and regulations, the vacuum pump market is some way behind that of compressed air products, for example. But this does not mean that maintenance engineers cannot implement their own. By regularly servicing equipment and choosing manufacturer-approved replacement parts, businesses can ensure maximum uptime from their machinery, lowering power consumption and minimising the risks associated with late summer heat."