xposing a bearing to an electric current can cause electrical bearing damage. The damage manifests as pits and grooves on the bearings' surface create an uneven surface texture causing additional noise, vibration, and (eventually) complete failure. These outcomes can be costly, often leading to unnecessary downtime and expensive repairs or upgrades.
Although not all bearings are damaged by an electrical current and not all circuits cause bearing damage, there are two situations in which the problem typically occurs: when equipment is grounded incorrectly or when bearings are used in AC/DC motors with variable frequency drives (VFDs).
In the case of improper grounding, the current produced often finds and discharges along the path of least resistance to the ground, which is typically through exposed bearings. With VFDs, the problem is similar—voltage builds up on the motor shaft and is repeatedly discharged into the bearings. This discharge of current is what leads to the formation of fluting or pitting patterns within the bearing, which, in turn, cause equipment malfunction.
One solution to electrical bearing damage is replacing standard bearings with ceramic hybrid bearings. These devices offer greater electrical and temperature insulation properties, which prevents current discharge and makes them ideal for situations involving VFDs or other grounded motors.
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