Sunteți pe pagina 1din 8



Sumit Singhal, Sr. Product Engineer, Siemens Energy & Automation
Norwood, OH, USA

Electric motor drives variety of applications in a cement manufacturing plant such as kilns,
crushers, ID fans, separators, cooler fans etc. Motor manufacturers serving cement industry
needs are often faced with challenging tasks of designing motors suitable for various operating
conditions and requirements which are not only reliable but also cost competitive. Some of the
drives such as a fan ID drive may be required to operate at speed as low as 50 rpm during
turning gear applications which may last up to several hours. Sleeve bearing electric motors
operating at low speed such as during turning gear operation require careful attention on bearing
design for reliable operations. Safe operation of oil ring lubricated sleeve bearings rely on a
generation of hydrodynamic oil film which separates motor rotor and bearing and prevent metal to
metal contact. Inadequate development of oil film thickness or boundary lubrication may lead to
metal to metal contact between rotor and bearing which can cause bearings to rapidly wear and
fail. Although the cost of bearings is a small part of the motor, its failure may cause costly
equipment damage and expensive downtime. This paper will discuss some of the key aspects of
sleeve bearing design for low speed applications and field practices to avoid bearing failures.

Large electrical machines have been used in the cement industry since the turn of the century. As
cement production has become more complex, so has the equipment and automation systems
that support the manufacturing processes. Electrical motors form the backbone of most of the
processes involved in cement manufacturing plant such as kilns, crushers, ID fans, separators
and cooler fans etc. Reliability of electric motors is important factor for the production and
manufacturing of cement. Motor manufacturers serving cement industry are often faced with
challenging tasks of designing motors suitable for various operating conditions and requirement
which is not only reliable but also cost effective.

Out of the several factors which may cause motor failure and reliability issues in cement plant,
one of the most frustrating and involving is bearing failure. Although the cost of bearings is a
small part of the motor its failure may cause costly equipment damage and expensive downtime.
It is not uncommon for a motor bearing to operate fine during normal operation but fail during
turning gear application on ID Fans. A fan ID drive may be required to operate a de-energized
motor rotor at speeds as low as 50 rpm during turning gear applications which may lasts up to
several hours. Sleeve bearing electric motors operating at low speed, such as during turning gear
operations, require careful attention on bearing design for reliable operations. Sometimes
bearings can be less forgiving at lower speeds than at higher operating speeds. A good
understanding of various operating and ambient conditions, along with possible failure modes,
helps the designer to design reliable bearings. Good design along with regular preventive
maintenance practices can lead to longer bearing and motor life.

In the following sections a quick overview of the basic theory of oil lubricated sleeve bearing
design, various lubrication regimes, key design parameters along with possible failure mode and
recommended field practice is presented.

The nomenclature of oil lubricated sleeve bearing shown in Figure 1. A sleeve bearing consists of
a stationary cylindrical body (sleeve) separated from a rotating shaft by a layer of lubricant.
Operation of oil lubricated sleeve bearings relies on the generation of an oil film between rotating
shaft and stationary bearing babbitt due to hydrodynamic action. In oil lubricated sleeve bearings


Clearance Circle
oil may be supplied to the bearings by gravity feed, external lubrication system or oil rings. Once
the oil is supplied to the bearing and it has a tendency to stick to the shaft due to its viscous
properties. Oil which stick to the shaft is pumped into the clearance between shaft and babbitt by
rotation of the shaft. Due to the hydrodynamic action of the fluid film , fluid pressure is generated
within the clearance to counteract the weight of the shaft thus the fluid film developed lifts the
shaft from the babbitt surface preventing metal to metal contact. There are several key operating
and geometric parameters which influences the generation of reliable oil film such as operating
speed, load, clearance, oil viscosity, surface finish, radius and length of the bearing. Some of the
important parameters involved in the design of oil lubricated sleeve bearings are described below.
A. Sommerfeld number (S)
Is a non-dimensional design parameter which involves the geometrical and operating features of
bearings such as rotational speed, load, oil viscosity, radial clearance, diameter and length of


where =viscosity of lubricant, N =rotor speed, L =length of bearing, D =diameter of bearing,
W =weight of rotor, R=radius of bearing, C=radial clearance between journal and bearing.
B. Eccentricity ratio ()
Is a ratio which gives overall radial clearance used by the shaft journal inside the bearing during
operation. Eccentricity ratio is strongly related to Sommerfeld number as shown in Figure 2.
C. Film thickness parameter ( )
Is a ratio of composite surface roughness of mating surface to minimum film thickness [1].
( )
2 2
bushing journal

h =minimum film thickness,
R =rms surface finish of shaft,
R =rms surface
finish of bushing.

Fig. 1. Schematic of journal bearing

Molecularil y thin
Thick Oil Film
(c) Hydrodynamic Lubrication
(b) MixedRegime
(a) Boundary Lubrication

Fig. 2. Relation between Sommerfeld Number S vs. Eccentricity ratio
In the theory of lubrication there are three different possible regimes of operation for oil lubricated
sleeve bearings [2].
A. Boundary lubrication
In this regime as shown in Figure 3a two mating surfaces are not separated by the lubricant film,
fluid film is not developed and there is considerable asperity contact. Friction of coefficient is
essentially independent of fluid viscosity. Boundary lubrication occurs when the film thickness is
very small, typically less than composite surface roughness ( 1 << ). In this lubrication regime
significant wear damage can be caused to shaft or babbitt due to metal - metal contact. Prolong
operation of bearing on this regime may eventually wipe out bearings.
B. Mixed boundary-hydrodynamic regime
Mixed lubrication regime is a transition zone from boundary lubrication to full film lubrication. In
this regime a partial fluid film is developed between mating surfaces, there is asperity to asperity
contact of peaks as shown in Figure 3b, coefficient of friction is highly dependent on operating
conditions. Prolonged operation of the bearing in this regime with foreign particle or
contamination in the lubricating oil may eventually lead to failure of bearings or journal.
C. Hydrodynamic regime
In full film lubrication regime or so called hydrodynamic lubrication regime the two mating
surfaces are completely separated by the oil film with no asperity contacts as shown in Figure 3c.
Coefficient of friction is viscosity of lubricating oil .Since there is no metal - metal contact there is
no wear of either shaft or bearing babbitt and a bearing can run for an infinite time or not life
limited. The oil film thickness is much greater than composite surface roughness ( 5 > ).

Fig. 3. Regimes of Lubrication
Figure 4 [2] depicts the boundary, mixed and hydrodynamic lubrication regimes in terms of
coefficient of friction and film parameter .While designing bearings, it is imperative to identify
regimes of lubrication for the entire range of operating speeds and ensure that enough film
thickness is developed to separate asperities of shaft and babbitt at all operating speeds.

Sommerfeld Number S


Fig. 4. Variation of friction coefficient with film parameter [2]

It is often the low speed problem that challenges the designer more than high speed bearing
design. The first step is to predict how slow bearing can run and still have full film lubrication. It is
imperative to understand the regimes of lubrication so that reliable bearings can be designed.
Estimation of oil film thickness in hydrodynamic or full film regime has been well understood and
several commercial bearing design codes are available. However bearing design at low speed
operation becomes very sensitive to manufacturing process, ambient conditions and field
operation practices. If not designed properly it is highly likely that bearings are less forgiving at
low speed than at higher speeds. Designers have to do very detailed analysis and use their
experience to estimate film thickness for slow speed bearings such as turning gear applications.
Key parameters which require careful attention during design phase are discussed below.
A. Surface finish
Smooth surfaces are not smooth on an atomic scale. The roughness (surface finish) of machined
surfaces is between 4 in to 125 in. where as typical atomic diameters are between .04 in to
.4 in. Even a well polished surface is rough when examined with a microscope or surface
profilometer.To ensure full film lubrication the film thickness parameter, should exceed 5.
Hence composite surface finish becomes a very important parameter for slow speed bearing
design. Usually motor manufacturers grind, polish and burnish the journal down to 16 in or
better surface finish for special applications but the surface finish may deteriorate over time
during operation cycles in the field. Usually it takes a few seconds to establish full film lubrication
in bearings whenever the machine is started. During that time bearings are either operating under
boundary or mixed lubrication regime. Hence the number of start cycles influence wear rate and
surface finish of the shaft and the bearing. For reliable bearing design the worst case shaft
surface should be chosen to estimate the real life film thickness parameter. From experience a 64
in surface finish for both shaft and bearing has proven to be safe assumption for the estimation
of reliable film thickness.
B. Effect of Viscosity
Selection of correct oil for lubrication of motor bearings sometimes can be very tricky, especially
for a converter fed machine which has a range of operating speeds. Designers have to balance
several factors before making a selection of an optimal oil grade. Some of the deciding factors for
optimum oil grade are:
1) Viscous losses in bearings which directly effects motor efficiency
2) Rotor dynamic damping provided by oil for low vibration at high speeds
3) Development of full film lubrication at all operating speed.
To illustrate, let us consider an example of an induction motor which is operating on VFD with a
speed range from 1800-120 rpm. In this case light turbine oil ISO VG 22, seems to be good
choice for bearings operating at 1800 rpm this gives best efficiency for the motor but does not

0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Temperature C
provide sufficient rotor dynamic damping for low vibration and also may not be good choice for
motors operating on VFD with speed down to 120 rpm where it does not have sufficient viscosity
to develop full film lubrication due to low speed. ISO VG 68 oil may be a good choice, although it
generates higher viscous losses, because it provides good damping at high speeds and have
sufficient viscosity to develop full film lubrication at 120 rpm.

Minimum film thickness is strongly influenced by the operating viscosity of the lubricating oil.
Khonsari et al [1] used following relationship to relate minimum thickness to oil viscosity for an oil
lubricated sleeve bearings.

2 044 1
678 4

. (3)

Oil viscosity decreases rapidly with increasing temperature as shown in Figure 5. A 20
C rise in
temperature can cause oil viscosity to drop by half. For motors operating with a self contained
lubrication system, ambient temperature becomes very a important consideration for the
estimation of oil film thickness. It may influence overall selection of lubrication oil for the

Fig. 5. Variation of viscosity with temperature Fig. 6. Sleeve bearings with oil rings lubrication system

C. Operation speed
As seen from the equation (2) oil film thickness is directly influenced by the speed of operation.
For the same design and load parameters, slower speeds results in thinner oil film thickness.
Another issue at low operating speed is the quantity of oil delivered to the bearings by oil rings in
a self contained lubrication system. In electric motors, most of the oil lubricated sleeve bearings
use oil rings dipped in an oil sump to supply oil to the bearings. During operation oil ring rotates
with the shaft and picks up oil as shown in Figure 6. The lower portion of the oil ring dips into the
oil, as this portion rotates to the top, oil runs down the surface of the shaft. As seen from the
Figure 7 [3] oil delivered by the rings to the bearing increases with increasing shaft speed. If
speed of the shaft is too slow then oil ring will not pick up enough oil to develop full film
lubrication, this issue can be solved by supplying external lubrication system or by supplying
grooved oil rings.
D. Load
Oil film thickness decreases proportionally with increasing load. In the mixed lubrication regime, a
light load creates a smaller coefficient of friction than heavy loads [4]. Hence the load should be
low enough so that an appropriate film thickness can be developed by hydrodynamic lubrication.
A VFD application with lightly loaded bearings should be checked for any oil whirl instabilities at
higher speeds which may lead to catastrophic bearing failures. Projected load on the bearing can
be varied by changing the length and diameter of the bearing. To reduce projected load,
oversized journals sometimes is not a good option as it not only increases material costs but also
lead to higher churning losses in the bearing. Hence bearing should be designed with optimum
projected loads suitable for both high speed application free of instabilities and low speed turning
gear application.
E. Effect of contamination

Many studies have indicated that the proportion of bearing failures due to contaminations of
lubrication oil is very high [5]. These failures are usually caused by debris in the oil which has

Fig. 7. Quantity of oil delivered vs shaft speed [3]
been introduced into the lubrication system during shop manufacture, site installation,
maintenance outage or improper storage. Presence of foreign objects such as weld beads, sand
or fly ash may cause heavy wear to shaft and bearing liner which may lead to bearing failure. The
fact that thinner film thickness is developed at low speeds compared to higher speed, odds of
causing bearing damage at lower speeds is much more than at higher speeds. If the size of the
debris is more than the minimum film thickness then hard debris particle may plough or dig into
the shaft journal or bearing liner causing heavy scoring and wear. A clean lubricating system is
thus crucial to avoid heavy wear at low speeds. To circulate oil and flush out any foreign objects
in the lube it is highly recommended to provide an external flood lubrication system. An external
lubrication or flood lube systems also allows the use of oil filters which can separate debris from
lubricating oil. Oil filters can be very effective in reducing bearing failures due to contamination.

In the design of motors for turning gear application often questions arises how low the speed of
motor can be without a requirement of an oil lift systems for the motor bearings. As discussed in
the above section there are various operating parameters that have to be taken into consideration
to estimate safe operating speed. Lu et al [4] experimental findings provided the following
empirical relation to estimate the lift off speed for full film lubrication.
( )
2 044 1
2 2
678 4

bushing journal

where P =projected load on bearing .Equation (4) can be used to estimate minimum speed at
which full film hydrodynamic lubrication will be developed for given geometric, operating and
ambient parameters.

5500 Hp sleeve bearing motor operating on a variable frequency drive has to be designed to
drive a Kiln ID fan at 450 1200 rpm. The Kiln ID fan will be supplied with a turning gear motor
for cool down. The main motor rotor will be turning at a very slow speed for extended periods of
time. In order to design a turning gear system it is imperative to know how low of a speed, motor
rotor-bearing system can operate for extended hours without hydrostatic jacking lubrication
system requirement.
Solution: Motor bearing specifications:
L =175.7 mm, D =250.0 mm, C =0.304 mm, W =30.0 kN, P =0.68 mPa, oil type =ISO VG 68,
ambient temperature =40.0
C, oil viscosity (@ 55.0
C) =0.027 Pa.s.

In order to compute lowest speed for hydrodynamic lubrication, film thickness parameter =10.
For conservative lift off speed prediction surface finish of 1.62 m is considered for bearing and
journal. Lift off speed
N is computed from equation (4). Equation 4 gives lift off speed of 104
rpm. This is the lowest speed for motor rotor-bearing system at which full film due to
hydrodynamic lubrication will be developed. This is also the lowest safest speed for motor bearing
operation without oil jacking system.



As mentioned in earlier sections this lift off speed is very sensitive to manufacturing, ambient and
lubricating oil. Design matrix in Table 1 shows the variation of lift off speed with different design
parameters. As seen from Table 1, lift off speed calculation is very sensitive to surface finish,
bearing clearances, lubricating oil and film thickness parameter. Detailed parametric analysis has
to be performed to estimate reliable lift off speed of bearings.

In order to design reliable bearings for slow speed applications without oil jacking system it is
imperative to understand regimes of lubrication. Lift off speed which represents the lowest at
which full film hydrodynamic lubrication will prevail is very sensitive to surface finish, bearing
clearances, lubricating oil, ambient and film thickness parameter. In order to design reliable
bearings for slow speed applications, designers are required to perform parametric sensitivity

Recommended field and maintenance practices for reliable operation and lubrication of motor
1) It is imperative to use the lubricating oil recommended by the motor manufacturer. Consult
motor manufacturer before using oil grade different than the motor nameplate.
2) Regular inspection of oil filters should be performed to ensure cleanliness of external
lubricating system or any presence of debris due to bearing wear.
3) Operation of oil rings should be regularly inspected through the bull eye sight glass provided
at top of the bearing housing.
Design Parameter
Lift off
0.4062 26
0.8125 52
finish( m )
1.625 104
Min 79
Nominal 92 Bearing
Max 104
22 274
32 201
46 140
Oil type
68 104
5 52
10 104
20 208
Parameter( )
50 520

4) Bearing operating temperature and vibration should be monitored and recorded continuously.
5) Start the external lubrication system before starting the motor after maintenance operation or
a newly installed motor
6) During maintenance operation it is very important to inspect wear of bearing and journal.
7) Measure and document bearing clearances and surface finish of journal and bearing during
each maintenance operation.
8) During maintenance operations bearing housing and the lubrication system should be
inspected and thoroughly flushed to drive out any contaminant or wear debris.

[1] Khonsari M. M., Booser E R. , Proper Film Thickness key to Bearing Survival, Machine
Design., December 14,2006.
[2] Hamrock, Fundamentals of Fluid Film Lubrication, McGraw-Hill, Inc.
[3] Khonsari, M. M. and Booser, E. R, Applied Tribology Bearing Design and Lubrication, J ohn
Wiley and sons, 2004.
[4] Lu X, Khonsari M. M., On the Lift-off Speed in J ournal Bearings, Tribology Letters, vol 20,
pp 299-305, 2005.
[5] Dufrane K. F, Kannel J . W., McCloskey T. H., Wear of Steam Turbine J ournal Bearings at
Low Operating Speeds, Journal of Lubrication Technology, vol 105, pp 313-317, 1983.