This blog post begins an 8-part series on vibration analysis written by Dr. Sara McCaslin & Nolan Crowley, Business Development at HECO.
Dr. Sara McCaslin: Sara has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. Sara has also taught materials science, manufacturing, and mechanical system design at the University of Texas at Tyler.
Nolan Crowley: Nolan has BS from Miami University along with extensive field experience with powertrains, electric motors, & vibration issues since 2007.
- Week 1: Vibration Analysis Training: Who’s Doing Your Analysis?
- Week 2: Vibration Analysis Equipment: Sensors and Hardware
- Week 3: Balancing Rotating Equipment: Static vs Dynamic
- Week 4: The Importance of Route-Based Data Acquisition
- Week 5: The Basics of Modal Analysis for Electric Motors and Powertrains
- Week 6: How to Setup Continuous Monitoring Vibration Monitoring
- Week 7: The Place of Motion Amplification in Modern Vibration Analysis
- Week 8: Bidding/Specifying Your Vibration Analysis Program
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Vibration Analysis Training: Who's Doing the Analysis?
You’ve seen people with “Category II vibration analyst” or “Category IV certified vibration analyst” as part of their job title or skills. Does it really have any meaning?
Here’s the short answer: Vibration analysis certification is actually very important. It can make the difference between a total waste of money and valuable insights into your rotating equipment. And those insights can save you money and reduce the downtime of your critical equipment.
Purpose of Vibration Analysis
When data is gathered and evaluated by a trained professional, vibration analysis can provide key information about machine faults, such as
- Electric Motor rotor/stator faults
- Resonance conditions
- Ball/Roller bearing defects
- Loose bolts/broken welds
When vibration data is gathered, it can detect impending machine faults, inform your maintenance program, and reduce the downtime of your rotating equipment. But to achieve this, it needs to be configured and interpreted by someone who knows what they’re doing. And vibration analysis certification is a solid way of interpreting someone’s skill levels.
Vibration Analysis Certification Levels
ISO 18436-2 Vibration Condition Monitoring and Diagnostics is the standard which
“...specifies requirements for the training, relevant experience, and examination of personnel performing condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines using vibration analysis.”
ISO 18436-2 breaks certification into four different levels:
- Category I Analysts can effectively collect vibration data
- Category II Analysts can gather vibration data and analyze common problems
- Category III Analysts can establish and direct PdM programs
- Category IV Analysts can diagnose and solve some of the most complex vibration problems
Let’s look at these levels in more detail. You’ll see how each category builds upon the previous ones in a very logical manner. And keep in mind that in addition to the training and experience there are also certification exams required at each level.
Category I – Vibration Analyst
Analysts in this category can perform a range of single-channel machinery vibration condition monitoring and diagnostic activities. Here are some examples of what they are qualified to do:
- Data acquisition on predetermined routes
- Steady-state testing (performed according to predefined procedures)
- Comparison of readings against pre-established alert settings
This foundational level requires at least 6 months of experience and a minimum of 30 hours of training.
Category II – Vibration Analyst
Category II Vibration Analysts can …
- Perform basic vibration analysis using single-channel instruments (according to established procedures)
- Set-up instruments
- Maintain a database of results.
This level of certification requires at least an additional 12 months of experience and 38 hours of additional training.
Category III – Vibration Analyst
Analysts in this certification level are qualified to …
- Establish, direct, and\or perform programs for condition monitoring as well as diagnostics such as waveform, spectral, and orbit analysis
- Perform minor corrective actions that involve single-plane balancing, operating deflection shapes, and diagnostic testing
Category III vibration analysts must have at least 18 months of additional experience and 38 more hours of training.
Category IV – Vibration Analyst
The highest level vibration analyst is Category IV: they have demonstrated an understanding of the theory behind mechanical vibrations, signal analysis, and advanced vibration analysis techniques. At this level, they are qualified to …
- Direct condition monitoring programs
- Perform major diagnostic efforts
- Perform and recommend design modifications and corrective actions.
This certification category requires at least 2 more years of experience and 64 additional hours of training. This means a total of 5 years of experience and 170 hours of training.
So where do analysts get their certifications from? There are actually several different organizations that offer vibration analysis certification training, including:
Why Certification is Important
Let’s face it: vibration data may be easy enough to gather, but trying to interpret time waveform plots, frequency spectra, and modal analysis is hard without the proper training. These plots can contain so much useful information, but unless someone knows how to correctly turn that data into information then it’s useless. In fact, it can do more harm than good.
Vibration analysis certification demonstrates how much knowledge and experience an analyst has. For example, if you need someone to deal with common vibration issues on the rotating equipment in your facility, you could get someone with a Category II certification. They would know how to install and configure basic vibration sensing equipment and interpret the data involved with common problems.
However, if you are looking to have a PdM (Predictive Maintenance) program for the critical motors at your facility, then you need someone with a Category III certification. On the other hand, let’s say the Category III analyst has run into some issues that are just too complex for them to decipher: that’s when you should look for the services of a Category IV analyst.
Vibration Analysis Services
Some electric motor repair vendors have certified vibration analysts on staff and offer vibration analysis services. They send in their experts to set up your sensors, equipment, and vibration routes as well as interpret the data gathered. And this is a great solution if you don’t have the budget (or need) for full-time vibration analysts on staff.
Going back to the original question: is vibration analysis certification important? The short answer is a resounding yes. It provides information about the level of expertise that an analyst has, and that makes all the difference between saving money and wasting money. When it comes to the complexities of vibration data, you need someone interpreting it that understands what it means and make sound recommendations based on the information it provides.
At HECO, we provide vibration analysis services that can address a variety of issues and situations, such as electrical problems in both AC and DC motors, low-speed machines, resonance, modal analysis of machine structures, and complex problems that require multi-channel analysis. Contact us today to find out how our vibration analysis services can keep your facility “all systems go.”
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