FEATURE Drives, Controls & Motors

Static motor testing in preventative

maintenance programmes Chris Robson, Sales Director of electro-mechanical specialist Houghton International, discusses the importance of static motor testing for assessing the full condition of motors


ne of the most common causes of electric motor failure is bearing issues, responsible for over 50% of failures,

followed by electrical insulation faults to 30%. But, while predictive maintenance techniques, such as vibration analysis, are often used to analyse the motor’s health, in comparison little is done to detect signs of insulation deterioration and failure. The problems caused by insulation deterioration can be just as serious as those caused by worn bearings or overheating. As a result, it is just as important to assess the dielectric properties of the insulation to identify and predict early signs of insulation degradation prior to catastrophic failure. To do that, engineers can use dielectric testing, a non-intrusive condition monitoring technique, which can be carried out as part of an inspection or planned overhaul. These tests are designed to assess the condition of a motor’s windings and to diagnose and predict any early signs of deterioration and ageing. As a result, these tests allow operators to schedule repairs ahead of a failure, which can often be very costly and result in unplanned downtime.

Static motor testing To check the motor’s insulation system and give an overall picture of its health, static or offl ine testing is a good option. This is performed while the motor is not running and can be executed on site or in a specialised electric motor repair facility. These tests are routinely carried out to determine the integrity of the windings and demonstrate that a motor is correctly wound and insulated. On-site testing is routinely implemented once or twice a year or during scheduled outages. Recommendations on how often tests are undertaken are based on a range of factors such as criticality, past history, size, repair costs, availability of spares, daily starts and stops, and ease of access, amongst others.

At Houghton International, we use a Baker DX series and 40kV power pack

22 June 2021 | Automation

PP40 tester to apply a wide set of offl ine electrical tests to assess the condition of motors and coil windings. It can fi nd early indications of insulation weakness and faults in windings, between phases, coil-to-coil and in groundwall insulation. The tests can identify if contamination is impacting insulation strength, as well as detect problems with connections such as feed cable insulation weakness, motor imbalances, open or high resistance. We also off er periodic offl ine testing and trending of the motor’s insulation systems, on site or in our workshop, to give an overall picture of motor insulation health. A complete diagnosis of the insulation system also includes a winding resistance test, an IR meg-ohm test, a polarisation test, a step-voltage or high potential test, and a surge test can be carried out using the Baker Tester. For higher-voltage motors, 6kV and above, partial discharge testing can also be used to provide a wider picture of the asset’s health.

Partial discharge

High-voltage equipment often suff ers from partial discharge activity, where localised corona or breakdown discharge can damage insulation, leading to progressive degradation and eventual insulation breakdown. This type of issue would not be detected using standard diagnostic tests and it is even possible for a motor to appear healthy while having high levels

of partial discharge. Compared with other dielectric tests, the diff erentiating character of partial discharge measurements allows localised weak and aged points of the insulation to be identifi ed. Partial-discharge testing and monitoring is particularly important when the asset is critical to the operation of a network; this may be due to the asset’s age, past failures or the fi nancial consequences of a failure. Partial discharge measurements based on IEC 60034-27 standards can be performed on motors and generators either online, during regular load service operation, or offl ine.

All tests should be carried out in

accordance with appropriate standards such as IEEE, IEC and EASA standard AR100-2105, which outlines recommended practices for the repair and therefore the testing of rotating electrical apparatus. Static motor testing enables machinery operators and plant owners to get a full picture of the motor’s health and to make informed decisions about their equipment’s future. Successful testing requires high-quality, calibrated equipment and highly-trained and competent engineers to provide quality results and reduce the downtime of the assets.


Houghton International

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