An oil-film thickness monitoring system capable of providing an early warning of lubrication failure in rolling element bearings has been developed. The system is used to measure the lubricant-film thickness in a conventional deep groove ball bearing (shaft diameter 80 mm, ball diameter 12.7 mm). The measurement system comprises a 50 MHz broadband ultrasonic focused transducer mounted on the static outer raceway of the bearing. Typically the lubricant-films in rolling element bearings are between 0.1-1.0 Î¼m in thickness and so are significantly smaller than the ultrasonic wavelength. A quasistatic spring model is used to calculate oil-film thickness from the measured reflection coefficient data. An accurate triggering system has been developed to enable multiple reflection coefficient measurements to be made as the contact ellipse sweeps over the measurement location. Experiments are described in which the loading conditions and rotational speed are varied. Lubricant-film thickness distributions measured ultrasonically are described and are shown to agree well with the predictions from classical elastohydrodynamic (EHD) lubrication theory, particularly at high radial loads and low rotary speeds. A range of parameters affecting the performance of the measurement are discussed and the limits of operation of the measurement technique defined. Â© 2006 Acoustical Society of America
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