When a little bolt becomes a big problem: prevented catastrophic equipment failure in a mine

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I already spoke about the holy grail of industrial maintenance – zero downtime hours – and how the cause of failures can sometimes be as trivial as a loosened bolt, which then leads to loss of productive hours and ultimately – financial losses.

But there is one loss that is above all and that nobody wants to risk – injuries and loss of lives. Which is why there should be no compromises when it comes to safety, and all maintenance engineers will unanimously agree with that.

 

australian mine

In an example of an Australian mining operation, loosening (and ultimately breaking off) of the M36 anchor bolts led to collapsing of concrete footings, threatening with the collapse of the jaw crusher equipment frame. The bolts had been locked by a spring washer, which simply couldn’t rise to the challenge of securing the bolts on a piece of equipment subjected to that level of severe vibration and shear forces. The bigger the bolts, the bigger the gap between the threads, which spring washers don’t even begin to tackle. And the bigger the gap, the more impact the vibration has on the assembly.

To permanently solve this problem, Loctite 277 (high strength Threadlocker for large bolts) was used (European equivalent product would be Loctite 270), and with a very simple adjustment, a safe working environment was created.

So in this case, the positive outcome is not measured in saved time or money, but something much more valuable – saved human lives and health.

If you want to learn more about the role that threadlocking plays in proactive maintenance, keep an eye out for one of our webinars.

Or, if you would like to sample Loctite 243 you can now request one from your local Loctite team (select your country at the top navigation on the website).

 

 

Why is Loctite Threadlocker better than Nylon insert

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Unlike a spring washer, a nylon insert does achieve a very close contact with the bolt surface, closing the gap between threads closer than any other mechanical locking device. However, on-torque is required for this and, due to creeping, the gap develops over time, nevertheless.

Additionally, Nylon insert does not in any way contribute to the clamp load, which is the main requirement the threaded assemblies need to ensure (insert link to first article: Mechanics of a threaded fastener & factors that affect its reliability). In very simple words, it merely keeps the nut on the bolt.

Since quite a high force is required to efficiently tighten the nylon insert, galling can very easily occur during tightening, which also complicates the disassembly.

The same issue of expensive, large inventory of different nylon inserts’ sizes that needs to be kept remains, as it does for spring washers.

Liquid Threadlockers from Loctite actually address and resolve all of the mentioned issues, have a look:

 

How to select the right Loctite Threadlocker

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Using a liquid Loctite Threadlocker on your threaded assemblies will certainly increase their reliability and can secure them against vibration practically forever. Naturally, that may not always be what you want, so it’s important to understand the differences between grades and possibilities they offer.

The first thing you need to do is answer 3 main questions:

  • What’s your fastener size?
  • Which is the required strength?
  • How frequently does the machine / device need to be serviced?

Typically, on smaller size fasteners, lower strength grades like Loctite 222 will work well enough regardless of what kind of vibrational loads they may be subjected to. Also, if you have a high servicing frequency requirement, you’ll want to use a lower strength grade as well.

For assemblies that get dismantled for servicing less frequently (and for bolts larger than M6) a medium strength product Loctite 243 is recommended. Loctite 243 is also oil tolerant and has a higher temperature resistance than Loctite 222 (1800C vs. 1500C).

For threaded assemblies that get disassembled very rarely, the recommended product would be Loctite 270.

It’s also possible to secure a threaded assembly that has already been assembled. For this you can use Loctite 290 which is a product with wicking properties and will creep into the assembly and between the already torqued threads.

Loctite threadlockers pick n mix

There can be a few more factors to consider so it’s definitely recommended you look into our recommendation online or contact our technical customer service if you have any concerns.

Why is Loctite Threadlocker better than a spring washer

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Spring washers are one of the most common mechanical devices, used to secure threaded fasteners against self-loosening. The way a spring washer works is that it increases the preload by increasing the contact area, compared to the bolt with no locking device used at all. This will slightly improve the number of cycles it will take for the bolt to loosen, but it will not permanently prevent it. The main reason is that the spring washer doesn’t solve the issue of the gap, free space remaining between the threads of the nut and the bolt. Incredibly enough, there is only about 15% efficient metal to metal contact between the threads. Everything else is empty space that enables plenty of side to side movement for the bolt, which is the main reason for its eventual loosening. On top, being metal itself, a spring washer can cause damage to contact faces and can corrode in place.

Now, when instead of a spring washer you use a few drops of Loctite 243 (or any other Loctite grade that fits the bill – you can find more information on selecting the right product here), the liquid threadlocker completely fills all gaps between threads and prevents any movement of the bolt within the nut. Secured that way, it will be completely vibration proof and stay in place forever – if that’s what you want. If not, the assembly can be easily dismantled with hand tools, for repairs, regular maintenance, any other reason. Although, you will notice that the assembly opens at roughly 25% more torque than tightening torque. Additionally, liquid threadlocker will seal the threads from humidity penetration and in that way prevent corrosion.

One bottle of 50 ml will suffice for about 850 pcs of M10 bolts. And the good news is, whatever the size of your bolts, you don’t need to keep a different Loctite threadlocker on stock for it, as you would have to do with different sizes of spring washers.

Washers vs 243 on scale

Spring washers are not the only mechanical locking solution for the threaded assemblies. There are others, and most of them equally inefficient, but I’ll go into that in some of the following articles.

568 hours of saved unplanned downtime by a tire manufacturer

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Whether they manufacture food, medicines or heavy machinery, maintenance incidents are something that all industries have in common, and something they all want to avoid or at least minimise. Whenever a failure happens outside of the scheduled maintenance window, it isn’t only inconvenient on multiple levels because it disrupts the production, it causes actual financial losses. Sometimes the loss is in damages caused by the failure, and sometimes in the loss of productive time, but both have an easy to calculate financial impact.

Tire manufacturer

To give an example, a major Asian tire manufacturer used to experience 284 maintenance incidents per year, each resulting in average of 2 hours of downtime. It caused 500.000 USD in production losses each year!

And the cause behind the failures was, what most might call – trivial: nuts coming loose close to the tire moulding press.

The nuts kept loosening due to thermal expansion of the material during the machine’s service. Initially, the maintenance team just kept re-torqueing the nuts to correct clamp load but naturally, since they were not secured with anything at all, the incidents just kept repeating.

And the solution was as simple as the cause of the problem was trivial. A few drops of medium strength Threadlocker Loctite 243 on each fastener before torquing it onto the bolt and there were no more incidents occurring.

568 hours of downtime became 568 hours of extra production, resulting in half a million dollars worth of extra output.

If you want to learn more about the role that threadlocking plays in proactive maintenance, keep an eye out for one of our webinars.

Or, if you would like to sample Loctite 243 you can now request one from your local Loctite team (select your country at the top navigation on the website).

Solving maintenance challenges with Loctite Threadlockers

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Many of the most common maintenance issues in industry can be traced back to failures of threaded assemblies. There is most probably not a single piece of industrial machinery out there that doesn’t have something secured on it by screws or bolts, and those can fail in a few ways as I’ve already described in the previous articles. Two most common problems from maintenance perspective are vibrational loosening and corrosion and seizure. And both have the same root cause: unfilled gap between the threads which allows for side to side movement under vibrations and humidity penetration within the assembly.

When that happens outside of the maintenance cycle on industrial machinery, it means several things:

  • Stopping the entire manufacturing process & troubleshooting for failure
  • Most likely scrapping the batch of whatever items were being produced at the time
  • Disrupting other, related processes in manufacturing

All this means waste of time and ultimately money, which is why zero unplanned downtime hours is the holy Grail of every chief of maintenance everywhere.

And none of them want to compromise this goal by something as mundane and silly as a loose screw. And locking them by Loctite Threadlockers is countless times more reliable than using mechanical fastening devices, simply because the liquid threadlocker is the only solution that fills the gaps between threads and removes the root cause to the two main issues in maintenance.

And gap filling by Loctite anaerobics extends to more than just Threadlocking, all of it useful in proactive maintenance. Have a look:

If you would like to sample Loctite 243 you can now request one from your local Loctite team (select your country at the top navigation on the website).

Or if you’re not ready to sample yet, keep an eye on our webinars calendar and join us in one that suits your needs most to find out more about liquid threadlockers first.

Benefits of Loctite Threadlockers

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There are several different methods to address – and try to prevent – the issue of vibrational self-loosening of bolts.

Most of them include the use of additional mechanical devices, to lock the threaded assembly and maintain the desired clamp load.

Double nut increases contact through more thread interface.

Spring washer increases bolt tension through spring action.

Nylon insert creates interference between bolt threads and the nylon insert.

Toothed flanged bolt digs into the surface to provide interference fit.

However, none of these methods tackle the gap existing between the threads of the bolt and the threads of the nut. The gap appears tiny to the naked eye, but it’s still large enough to allow side to side movement of the bolt within the nut caused by operational vibrations. This movement will eventually cause the bolt to loosen, regardless of the mechanical device used to lock it.

gap between threads

The only way to address the issue of gap is to use a liquid Threadlocker which completely fills the gap between the threads, solidifies into a tough thermoset plastic between the two metal surfaces in the absence of air, and in that way prevents any side to side movement. While bolts secured with mechanical fasteners will gradually lose the clamp load after only a few cycles and much before they loosen completely, the bolts secured by Loctite Threadlockers maintain the clamp load throughout (Junkers vibration test).

Washers vs 243 on scale

Apart from being the only efficient way to lock your threaded assemblies (as permanently as you choose to), Loctite Threadlockers also prevent corrosion and galling, increase reliability of your machines, prevent unplanned downtime, increase service life of your end product (in case you’re building them into machinery or devices you’re manufacturing) and minimise costs and complexity of your inventory. For illustration, below picture shows the quantity of spring washers needed to secure 850 pcs of M10 bolts, as opposed to a 50 ml bottle of Loctite 243, which does exactly the same thing, only more efficiently.

Would you like to sample Loctite 243? You can request a sample from your local Loctite team (select your country at the top navigation on the website).

Or if you’re not ready to sample yet, keep an eye on our webinars calendar and join us in one that suits your needs most to find out more about liquid threadlockers first.

Mechanics of a threaded fastener & why threaded assemblies fail

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Being involved in any kind of engineering or mechanical assemblies in general, we often think of threaded fasteners, or as we would call them more colloquially – bolts & screws & nuts – as a rather basic thing and rarely think about how they work and what can make them fail.

Tightening the nut on a bolt stretches the bolt, much like a spring. In technical terms, we’d say it elongates it. Elongation is necessary for creating the clamp load, which results in friction between the two joined parts. More torque results in more elongation and, in turn produces more clamp load.

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There are three further points of friction that are responsible for the bolt to stay elongated:

  • Between the bolt head and the clamped part
  • Between the nut and the part
  • Between the threads of the nut and bolt

There are certain cases where threaded fasteners keep together static assemblies. And in those cases, they’ll hold just fine. But typically, they are also used on many assemblies subjected to load and vibration during the work cycles of the machine or device the assembly is a part of.

Vibration will cause side to side movement of the nut and bolt, which is possible because the threads don’t adhere tightly enough to entirely fill the space between them (no matter how tightly pressed together they seem to the naked eye). Once vibrational stress becomes higher than friction holding the pieces together, the bolt will loosen. It usually takes 50-100 cycles for the threaded assembly to completely fail.

You can see in a very simplified, visual way, what exactly happens in the following animated video.

Apart from vibration, there are several factors that can affect the reliability of a threaded assembly. For example, relaxation in bolt tension can occur due to settling of the nut head and creeping of the gasket. In case of different substrates being joined, variable service temperatures can cause different thermal expansion of the materials, which will affect the fastener performance negatively, too. Finally, the good old corrosion, a well-known enemy of metal assemblies will inevitably happen due to humidity and elevated temperatures. And we all know corrosion is no good whether it’s from the perspective of affecting the functionality of the assembly or making a disassembly harder when repair or maintenance is needed.

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Luckily enough, a lot of these issues can be eliminated by simply making sure the gaps between the threads are fully filled. And liquid Threadlockers are a solution that has been around for almost 70 years now – Loctite being the original among them. Have a look:

As you can see, it extends beyond Threadlocking, but if you want to learn more about Loctite as technology, feel free to visit Loctite online (you can access content in different languages from there).

How energy efficient is your pump?

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In a world of countless ingenious innovations, if there’s one thing we all largely depend on, it’s got to be pumps. Just think about it, our planet is being hit by some nasty weather conditions recently, we’ve had our share of storms, floods, and fires, and water pumps have been our helping hands in all these alarming situations.  If we translate pump usage into industrial environment, you’ll find that the chemical industry alone hugely relies on pumps, averaging 1.25 pumps per employee. So making sure the pump system is a cost-efficient investment, is kind of like taking care that your employees are healthy and safe –  in the long run, it will pay off greatly.

Apart from the importance of the pump longevity itself (in terms of cost of repairs and replacements) another interesting and important fact to have in mind is how the energy-efficient pumps can help reduce the electricity consumption by amazing 4%. Something to have in mind for your pump system if you’re thinking of cutting your carbon footprint.

Studies collected by Europump & Hydraulic Institute show that 85% of each industrial pump costs are due to energy consumption while maintenance costs are only 10%.

There are several ways to improve the energy efficiency of an industrial pump and coating is one of the easiest and most effective ways. The time consumed is much lower versus methods like installation overhaul, impeller trimming etc. and you will also achieve the shortest return on investment (4-12 months) if coating is the selected solution.

Below examples are real business cases where Loctite protective coatings have been used.

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Customer Testimonial 1 – 19,9% energy efficiency increase, 4.55 months payback time

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Customer Testimonial 2 – 12,68% energy efficiency increase, 5.11 months payback time

If you want to find more information on specific protective coating products, feel free to visit our website (select your local language content in the navigation top of the screen).

Partnering with leading global pipeline repair specialist, to combat asset failures

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MRO stands for Maintenance Repair & Overhaul. Repair being the least desired of the three. The usual goal of people looking after maintenance of plants and equipment is to achieve such level of reliability where needs for repair don’t actually occur and all servicing is happening in the pre-scheduled overhaul. And Loctite Adhesives and sealants are often a part of maintenance engineers’ toolboxes in almost every industry you can think of. Their proactive use can reduce & eliminate chronic equipment failures, decrease repetitive daily maintenance activities or increase equipment up-time.

In this continuous quest to prevent chronic failures, Loctite partners with top global maintenance service providers to help industries around the world decrease expenses in their down time.

Recently, such a partnership was established with Hydratight, a global leader in bolted joint solutions and pipeline repairs. For one of their contracts, a repair of a large petrol vessel, Hydratight proposed Loctite Composite-System Pipe Repair as the solution to reduce costs and avoid a plant shutdown. The project was completed within the required schedule and the plant could remain in operation.

The video below shows how this repair works under burst test.

If you would like to see more about this specific Hydratight application itself, please see Timely Vessel Repair at a Petrochem Plant by Hydratight | English | Hydratight

Additionally, the LOCTITE composite repair has been used by major Oil & Gas companies to provide a high performance maintenance solution to pipelines with defects and wall thinning, to avoid the need for full replacement of the steel pipe. The Loctite Composite System Pipe Repair is used at temperatures up to + 130 °C in industries like upstream, downstream Oil & Gas production, refineries and chemical processing plants etc. This proactive maintenance measure allows plant operators to avoid downtime due to leaks and minimize economic losses in conjunction with their ongoing inspection for asset integrity.