Wear particle analysis refers to the careful inspection of particles that show up in lubricant samples of a machine; it helps determine the state of a machine. Wear particle analysis differs from oil analysis because it determines the condition of the machine components, whereas oil analysis is only concerned with the condition of the lubricant.
With oil analysis you can only detect particles between 6 to 10 microns; wear particle analysis can detect particles from 1 to 350 microns. By analyzing the size, shape, concentration, and composition of these particles, it is possible to tell the type of wear, and its point of origin. Wear particle analysis also detects various types of wear, including those caused by: abrasion, corrosion, adhesion, fatigue, sliding and cutting.
By analyzing the size, shape, composition and concentration of particles found in lubricant samples, one can gauge if there is any abnormal wear occurring in a machine. Early detection of wear-related issues is possible with wear particle analysis, and it may reveal issues sooner than with vibration monitoring programs.
Spectroscopy equipment used for wear particle analysis can be very expensive to purchase. Although companies can have an in-house machine to complete wear particle analysis, many opt to outsource it to companies that specialize in these methods; this is usually a more cost-effective option for most companies.
Wear particle analysis can be a very valuable tool in machine monitoring and maintenance programs. It can be coupled with vibration and other monitoring programs to prevent unexpected machine faults and failures.