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Mechatronics Zone

An Unexpected Failure Mechanism

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Beth Stackpole
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Shake and Bake a best practice?
Beth Stackpole   8/17/2011 9:09:32 AM
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Sorry to hear about your pump, Jon. Aren't the so-called "shake and bake" tests a standard best practice for mechanical parts and assemblies or is that just another example of a no-brainer routine falling through the cracks due to engineering short cuts?

TJ McDermott
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Re: Shake and Bake a best practice?
TJ McDermott   8/17/2011 10:50:59 AM
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Wouldn't it be difficult to determine the life of a component against corrosion in a "shake & bake" test?  How would you accelerate corrosion and still get a meaningful result for component life-time?

 

 

Jon Titus
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Re: Shake and Bake a best practice?
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 10:57:28 AM
Hi, TJ.

People would run special corrosion tests, which many commercial test labs know how to perform.  The "shake-and-bake" tests look for structural weaknesses at various frequencies and g levels, while the environmental temperature tests look for premature electrical and electronic failures as well as failures induced by the stresses and strains created by heating and cooling. --Jon Titus

TJ McDermott
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Re: Shake and Bake a best practice?
TJ McDermott   8/17/2011 11:07:34 AM
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Jon, I understand the difference between vibration, temperature, and corrosion tests, and know there are standards for each.

Applying the results of a vibration and temperature tests are MUCH easier to deciding the life of a component than it is to using the corrosion results.

The specifications for a component will say "up to 50g, 155deg F".  It may even say something about the 20% salt bath immersion for 20 days.

I saw a new sink fixture component corrode away in 5 years on city water when I was a kid.  I think it would be difficult to relate the corrosion test results to city water to come up with an expected lifetime.

Jon Titus
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Re: Shake and Bake a best practice?
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 11:54:10 AM
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Hi, TJ:

I have seen similar failures due to conditions we can't easily test for.  Your sink drain provides a good example, although I'd think the manufacturer--knowing the use conditions--would have tested drains under different water conditions.  Maybe a cheap knock-off manufacturer went for low cost instead of quality. --Jon

Jon Titus
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Not everyone tests products
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 10:45:38 AM
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Hi, Beth.

Those types of tests should be part of a comprehensive testing program, but many small companies lack a strong background in testing or they lack the time and money to have a contract company run them.  Also, when a company custom builds mechatronic equipment, they might not think such tests deserve attention for one-off designs.  Also, I doubt many colleges or universities teach engineers about real-world product or system tests. --Jon

Jon Titus
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NIST Tests Show Carbon Nanotubes Fail Quickly
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 10:53:36 AM
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On a related subject, the US National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) recently published information about the failures of carbon nanotubes used as electrical conductors in microcircuits.  Tests showed failures of the nanotubes after only 40 hours.  Although many researchers have touted the capabilities of these carbon structures to carry high currents, they seem to have problems that deserve more research before companies use them in integrated circuits.  You can read the complete article at: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/tech-beat/tb20110816.cfm#cnt. --Jon Titus

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Corrosion
Dave Palmer   8/17/2011 11:09:36 AM
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Was the pipe carbon steel or stainless steel? I wouldn't expect a galvanic couple between carbon steel and cast iron, but depending on the type of stainless, there could be a significant galvanic couple between stainless and cast iron.  A plastic or rubber isolator between the two could help prevent this. 

Jon Titus
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Re: Corrosion
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 11:59:23 AM
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Hi, Dave.

I didn't install the original pump so I assume the pipe was carbon steel.  I know it wasn't stainless steel.  The pump body was cast iron and we run polyethylene pipe down to the lake.  We thoroughly drained the pipes and the pump at the end of the summer.  Perhaps the pipe-joint compound used by the installer dried up and let water into the pipe-to-pump threads, which caused the rust over the years. --Jon

Greg Stirling
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An Unexpected Failure Mechanism
Greg Stirling   8/17/2011 1:06:20 PM
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Might help to keep the housing filled with water during the offseason - if that is possible.  Oil would work better - however this is drinking water.

I had a similar problem with a pool pump that only runs occasionally to power a fountian.  The iron outlet pipe will oxidize to the point that it restricts flow.

Seems like continuis running pumps suffer less corrosion due to a lack of oxygen and wet/dry cycles.

In this case it is a matter of more expensive stainless steel, zinc, or aluminum housings, or perhaps plastics such as PVC or Nylon

Or the iron housing, with a constant battle against corrosion... 

William K.
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Platinum
Testing for corrosion , can it be done faster?
William K.   8/17/2011 1:17:49 PM
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I have done repair work on a very large range of things, and I have looked at various tests, such as the military salt spray test. 

What I see is that material choice controls the rate of corrosion, and the test can be done at a desk prior to the first physical model. Some steel alloys will corrode very rapidly, and some assemblies will fail due to rust very quickly, simply because of how they are made. Cheap alloys or grades of steel that are cold-worked seem to be the most likely to fail, and if the design does not include a means to keep moisture away from them, they certainly will fail. There is no need to do actual testing to prove that the failure will occur, the determination can be made simply by inspection.

In the case of you pump, Jon, I wonder if the part that failed was threaded into the cast iron, or just pressed in? A threaded in part that failed would potentially allow the mating part to have the remains removed and the connection cleaned up with a pipe tap, and a new fitting installed. Use of a galvanized fitting would probably have extended the sys6tem life many years, even if the rust-failure area were not galvanized. And, of course, a heavy coating of moisture proof sealant would also have improved the lifetime.

Jon Titus
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Re: Testing for corrosion , can it be done faster?
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 4:28:27 PM
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Hi, William.  The pipe threaded into the cast-iron pump body that had a threaded hole.  The plumber used pipe-joint compound when he attached the pipe in the late 1960's.  The threads on the pipe and on the pump housing were gone and all I saw was a rusty mass on the end of the pipe and an uneven hole on the pump.  No threads to clean out.  Sorry I didn't take a photo, but we had a lot going on that day.  There was nothing to salvage.  If I knew of a nearby machine shop, I coulset up and maintain seemed like the better course.  Time will tell. --Jon

William K.
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Platinum
Re: Testing for corrosion , can it be done faster?
William K.   8/17/2011 5:02:05 PM
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Jon, Then the repair method would be to silver-solder in a brass or copper fitting, after a great deal of cleaning up-probably a 3-day soak in an oxalic-acid type of cleaner, such as some radiator flush. That would have left you with a quite durable connection. If you have kept the old pump, you could repair it for when the new one fails.

Jon Titus
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Re: Testing for corrosion , can it be done faster?
Jon Titus   8/17/2011 8:17:00 PM
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I'll let the next generation handle future repairs, William, while I sit and enjoy watching the lake and grandkids.

qwester
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Iron
Re: Rapid testing for corrosion , is 40 years enough?
qwester   8/18/2011 10:03:37 AM
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I cannot understand the concern for a rapid test to predict the life of a low carbon steel - cast iron couple (obviously different metals) in a vibratory (spinning un- balanced rotor) in fresh lake water (high akali metal salt content if hard water) that lasted forty years of two weeks or so wet and fifty or so weeks dry (?) per cycle. Was there an expansion tank in the system to absorb water hammer on shut off (high tensile shock)? I'll bet your new pump won"t do as well. Without knowing more about your actual layout, speculating is vanity.

Jon Titus
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Blogger
Re: Rapid testing for corrosion , is 40 years enough?
Jon Titus   8/18/2011 10:17:19 AM
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I used the pump as an example of an unexpected failure and as a way to introduce the topic of testing.  I would bet, though, that companies that make automobile, aircraft, and ship pumps do subject them to vibration testing. --Jon

qwester
User Rank
Iron
Re: Rapid testing for corrosion , is 40 years enough?
qwester   8/18/2011 11:53:09 AM
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My unstated point was that after forty years in such a complex environment failure should be expected.  Unexpected failure is after one week or even one day.  As time passes failure becomes more likely.  Most failures are due to ignorance of exposure margins, stress or temperature cycles, time, misapplication, etc.  A notable example is our recent national economic collapse brought on by the abused housing market, a trusted source of capital so good that bonds based on home mortgages were rated AAA as a matter of course over scores of years experience until an environment of greed and lax Federal supervision combined with legislative excess and criminal behavior interfered.  Each of the corrosive activities on its own were recognized as dangerous causes of risk of failure.  The barrier to reason was the cognitive dissonance of that degree of collapse.  The predatory banks are protected by the too big to fail provenance dispensed by our collaborative Treasury Department and our similar Securities and Exchange Commission while all home owners are victims of the loss of equity.  If failure of the economy had been expected by the appropriate individuals, investigations would have been conducted to defend against it, much like your stock of repair parts which might have included an entirely new pump, as well.

RichBlish
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Iron
Pump Corrosion - Best Sources for Reliability Info
RichBlish   8/18/2011 5:32:04 PM
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 I am surprised that a junction of steel and cast iron would corrode, but certainly there was a great deal of elapsed time.  If there dissimilar metals were connects, eg brass or copper against steel, galvanic corrosion would occur much faster.

 However, the real reason I wrote this note is that citing MIL 217 is bad advice.  That spec is 40 years old and is flat out wrong regarding the physics.  Conversely, JEDEC JEP122 is up to date and physically correct.

George Kaye
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Silver
How your radar is tuned?
George Kaye   8/18/2011 6:04:39 PM
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While I realize the pump example was a lead-in to the point of the article I wonder if you were a plumber you would have seen this coming?

"I never expected that connection to rust away and fail, because it always seemed solid." "Seemed solid" is key here.

Every time I have to do some plumbing I ask questions. My experience with DIY hot water heater repair and advice from my plumbing store would have had me wondering about cast iron anything. I was about to add a pressure regulator using cast iron fittings from Home Despot and was at my real plumbing house buying a hot water heater because I couldn't get the anode rod out of my current one. The plumbing store told me the cast iron would rust away. Something not on my radar. I switched to brass.

I bought the new HW heater (it's not really a hot water heater, now is it?) and before tearing the old one out I gave the anode rod another try and voila! It came out. I replaced it. Now I have a brand new spare cold water heater waiting in line. Not a bad investment, as the prices have doubled in the last few years. But still wasn't on my radar.

Are anode rods on most peoples radar?

Expect the unexpected.

 

Thinking_J
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Platinum
there are standards for this type of testing
Thinking_J   8/18/2011 7:04:58 PM
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For electronics in aircraft.. it's DO160 (dept of defense #160).. covers 22 different types of environmental issues.

shock, vibration, dust , mildue, lighting, explosive atmosphere, etc....

Generally used for Avation / military products.  I would assume (?) any other similar specifications from CE (or equ) would be similar. Namely, a primary focus (say vibration or shock) and a expected environment (helicopter?) with a specified range expected (amplitude vs frequency limits).

Bottom line for a given application: there are likely limits already established (from a appropriate agency)..

Assuming the manufacturer/designer is paying attention!

As for a pump working 40 years.. how good does it have to be?

 

optimist: glass half full

pessimist: glass half empty

engineer: glass twice the size it is needed to be

 

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